Released by Attorney-General George Brandis on August 18, 2016, the Commonwealth-funded National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book aims to provide Australian courts with “comprehensive guidance on issues relating to domestic and family violence for judicial officers in all jurisdictions”.
Unfortunately these guidelines constitute a major threat to fundamental rights in Australia, including due process, property rights, and parental rights.
After all, these federal guidelines effectively turn anything that causes anyone displeasure into “domestic violence”. It gives as examples of “domestic violence” ongoing silence, staring, withdrawing affection, or threatening to divorce. These acts now fall within the broader definition of domestic violence, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended the new guidelines.
Boy, is this bloke in trouble.
Arguably, even a raised voice or an extemporaneous gesture may now be sufficient grounds for a claim that “domestic violence” has occurred. This may also encompass such things as “refusing to let you have money”, “giving you negative looks”, or “ignoring your opinion”.
To consider criticising a partner’s appearance or even giving the silent treatment as examples of abuse (leading to successful legal action) is to batter the language. To equate it with violence is simply dishonest; to accuse only men of doing it, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has, is despicable.
Since the understanding of domestic violence that is now being officially promoted by our Federal Government is so radically subjective, it basically means whatever the alleged “victim” claims it means.
This expansive redefinition of “violence” is based on a radical ideology that makes it extremely difficult for anyone to refute the accusation of domestic violence, let alone avoid it. Such a definition seems to encompass virtually every existing conflict between intimate partners.
Of course, this is why family domestic-violence orders are so popular and became a major weapon in the war between divorced or separated couples.
Indeed, a comprehensive study led by Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson reveals that those who had sought and obtained domestic-violence orders (DVOs) referred to “abusive behaviour” as something that was suggested by their lawyers, but the applicants themselves did not in fact entertain this perception during the course of their domestic relationship.
For these reasons, the fact that our Federal Government is taking this action is beyond belief. This is particularly so when considering the extensive disregard of rules of evidence in applications for DVOs and the dire consequences of being (falsely) accused of domestic violence – including the loss of property and/or parental rights.
Dr Augusto Zimmermann is Law Reform Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia; Director of Post Graduate Research and former Associate Dean (Research) at Murdoch University Law School; Professor of Law (adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus; President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA); and Fellow at the International Academy for the Study of the Jurisprudence of the Family.