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Parties Urged to Rally Behind Family Court Bill

Parties Urged to Rally Behind Family Court Bill

Tuesday 20th Feb 2001 Dr Muriel Newman Media Release -- Social Welfare

ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman is urging MPs across the House to tomorrow back her private member’s bill, which would open up the Family Court to public scrutiny.

“I have been overwhelmed by the huge level of public support for my bill,” Dr Muriel Newman said.

“A great number of concerned New Zealanders who have professional and personal interests in the matter have backed the bill.

“Newspaper editors have supported this as a freedom of the press issue. Former Prime Minister and constitutional law expert Sir Geoffrey Palmer has voiced his approval. Even Anita Chan, Chair of the Family Law Section of the Law Society has said she has no objection to the bill being debated by a select committee. Now it is up to MPs to put aside party interests and reflect this level of concern by supporting this bill.

“My Family Court (Openness of Proceedings) Amendment Bill would introduce a presumption of openness into the Family Court in the same way as has successfully occurred in Australia.

“I am not asking for people’s names and personal details to be opened up to media scrutiny – but justice should be seen to be done. By allowing the media – and through them the public – to see and identify the general issues without naming names, I believe we can bring to a halt some of the great injustices currently being delivered by this court.

“In my work in this area I have talked to many parents – devastated at being separated from their children – often after the most tenuous accusations which would not hold up to public scrutiny have been made against them.

“Further, I am convinced that our escalating and shameful rate of child abuse and child homicide is in part due to the fact that many of these issues remain hidden from the public, and that perpetrators are protected from public shame by the secrecy of the court.

“The Family Court operates as a secret society, protecting lawyers and judges, and enabling them to make decisions that often appear to be one-sided and unfair. They should be openly accountable for their decisions and their actions, not sheltered by secrecy.

“By referring this bill to a select committee, MPs will enable these hugely important issues to be widely and publicly discussed so that we may end up with a Family Court which operates openly in the interests of all New Zealanders,” Dr Newman said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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