WEDNESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2019
DEB KNIGHT: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has launched a 12 month inquiry. He joins us now from Canberra. Scott Morrison, Good morning to you.
PRIME MINISTER: Good Morning.
KNIGHT: Is the family law system as it stands in your view broken?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't know if I’d use that phrase but I mean it's always moving, in need of improvements. This isn’t the first time we've looked at these issues, previous governments have, the Howard government did made some important changes and it's timely that the Parliament again looks at this and this will be Senators and Members going around the country and listening to the stories of Australians who are going through, you know it’s one of the most traumatic periods of their life, through family and relationship breakdown so you know the system always needs to be improved and to do that we need to listen carefully to those who have had to live with it. I mean family and relationship breakdown is one of the prime causes of suicide and other terrible things that happen in our community. And when families break down that's always, I mean it breaks my heart, but for that process to be made even more difficult through the system, well we need to make further improvements.
KNIGHT: One of the key criticism centres on the issue of custody of children, is the Family Court unfair to men?
PRIME MINISTER: This isn't about picking sides. I mean you literally do need the wisdom of Solomon in dealing with these issues. They're very vexed, they're very difficult. They're highly emotionally charged. And that's why you know you need to constantly make sure you get the settings of how you're getting information, you're sharing information, between state and federal jurisdictions. And the way evidence is treated, all of this needs to be taken into account. And one area that we're specifically looking at which hasn't really been done before has been looking at the role of grandparents in all of this because they get involved in custody issues, as these issues get more complex it's always timely to look at this. We had the Law Reform Commission report which we've received and we’ll make a response to that. This inquiry doesn't necessarily prevent us from doing that, but at the same time I want to hear from Australians and their stories and it'll be a good opportunity for politicians to just sit there and listen.
KNIGHT: But don't we need to simply take action on that report that you mentioned, the 60 recommendations which you had before you, isn’t more urgent action needed rather than another inquiry? We've had calls for change, three years ago from a parliamentary inquiry as well.
PRIME MINISTER: Well there are recommendations we feel we can and should act on in the meantime, then we will. I mean, we don't agree with necessarily all the recommendations that they've come forward with particularly on the issue of moving the family court to the state level. We don't agree with that, and we're proceeding down our own path on that. So we'll be taking action on that and whether other matters we think we can and should then obviously we wouldn't delay where we think that's urgent and necessary. But that doesn't I think take away from the important opportunity there is for people to come and stand or sit with their elected representatives and share their heartache stories of how this system is impacting on their lives, on their children, on their families, and their ability to move on with their lives when these things happen. I mean this is the absolute definition of human frailty that we're dealing with here and we need to deal with it sensitively and justly.
KNIGHT: Senator Pauline Hanson who we had on the show earlier has lobbied for this for some time she's applauded the inquiry. She's keen to co-chair it. Is that likely?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we will be supporting that, she has been an advocate on this I think for a long time like many members of parliament have, you know I've been a Member of Parliament for 12 years and this would be one of the most frequent issues that is raised with me and my office as a local member, that would be the same I think for pretty much every member if not all, that is a member of our parliament- Senate or House. And so we're all very quite familiar with these issues and so this isn't about parties it's not about politicians, it's about the people who are living with this system and the people who work in this system they do their best. They're dealing with one of the hardest issues to deal with and we want to help them help people in this situation as well.
KNIGHT: Do you expect that Pauline Hanson who's vote you need to get important legislation passed in the Senate will look more favourably at government bills now that you've backed her calls for this?
PRIME MINISTER: I have no idea what she'll do on that front that'll be up to her if she agrees with the bills we're putting forward then, I assume she’ll support them. I mean it doesn't matter what party you come from. If you're interested in trying to address the serious issues faced by people going through the Family Law system, that's what counts. I think that's what Australians would think too.
KNIGHT: Now you're heading to Washington tomorrow. A timely visit given the uncertainty with Iran. President Trump says he is locked and loaded to strike after the bombing of Saudi oil refineries, we’re already part of this U.S. led coalition in the Gulf of Hormuz would Australia offer support for any military action?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it’s very premature and none’s being asked for and the US statement was a statement of capability not necessarily intention. And so I think we have to act cautiously and sensitively in this area. I'm sure it will be one of many issues that get discussed about the geostrategic situation at the moment. More importantly here in Australia what's happening close to our own region in the Indo-Pacific in the partnerships we have with the United States, with our Pacific Island neighbours and how we're working together there to make a peaceful and stable region that we live in and that we do business in and that jobs depend on, one in five jobs depend on trade and our alliance with the United States is foundational to our security interests and the peace and prosperity that we enjoy here in Australia. And so this is an important opportunity. I thank the President for it but I think both he and I know that our relationship goes well beyond what is a very good personal relationship should an outstanding relationship between our nations over a very long time.
KNIGHT: Traditionally you do give a gift to the US president on a trip like this. We've seen in the past some quirky ones, the Northern Territory Chief Minister once gave President Obama an insurance policy against a crocodile attack. Have you got something unique picked out for President Trump this time round?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I have and we’ll unveil that when we’re there but it'll speak to the hundred years of mateship that we've had between Australia and the United States. We've been in many battles together, out there fighting for freedom and liberty all around the world. And it'll be very much reflecting that spirit of mateship supporting each other in so many fields of endeavour particularly on the battlefield, and I think that's something that is also foundational to our relationship.
KNIGHT: Wow, we look forward to seeing what that could be. We look forward to seeing the visit and how it unfolds, Scott Morrison we thank you for your time this morning.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, appreciate it.