Sunday, 11 December 2016

What Are We Going to Do About the Polygamists?

     I was expecting this. A problem which is endemic in Europe has now reached Australia - or has at least been acknowledged here: the Government is financing Muslim polygamy. Last Sunday's newspapers reported how Centrelink is providing spousal benefits to second (and later) wives because it is cheaper than giving them single parent benefits. The husbands are not prosecuted for bigamy because the marriages have not been officially registered. Let me state here, with all due respect (and not much is due): this problem exists simply because the powers that be have lacked the moral courage to nip it in the bud.
     How far up the decision making chain the responsibility goes is not clear. However, Peta Credlin, who was chief of staff for ex-Prime Minister Abbott, and who appears to have been the one who broke the story, claimed that when she heard about this at a briefing, she immediately informed her boss. He then demanded an investigation. However, when he was "rolled" as PM, the investigation stopped.
     As a former public servant, albeit in a different department, I am confident that the decision to grant spousal benefits rather than single parent benefits must have been taken by the upper echelons of Centrelink, rather than their minions. (Indeed, it appears the Department of Human Services actually provides advice to polygamists on their website.) They did so, with or without consulting their Minister, because public servants prefer not to rock the boat. But what would have been the correct response?
    What about refusing to provide either benefit? If the family objected, let them appeal to the AAT - if they have the effrontery to do so. If they didn't like the AAT's decision, or the Government didn't, the case could go to the High Court - without any legal aid, of course. In other words: let the so-and-sos fight for their dirty money. And if they won the initial battle, it would be a simple matter to change the law.
    What about charging the husbands with bigamy? Again, if they win on a technicality, the law can easily be changed.
     All this came about, not only because of lack of moral courage, but because of laws of dubious morality which have been allowed to develop over the years.
     Supporting Parent's Pension: Not so long ago former PM Gillard apologized for "forced adoptions" in the past. Rubbish! Whatever you might think of previous adoption policies, they were a states' responsibility. The only thing the Federal Government did was what it didn't do: it didn't pay to support illegitimate children any more than it did legitimate ones. Everything changed when the Whitlam Government of the 1970s decided to introduce the Supporting Parent's Pension. What a boon to budding Casanovas! No more shotgun weddings, no more paternity suits! The taxpayer would fork the bill while they spread their seed. But originally the pension was lost once the woman started shacking up with a new boyfriend. However, even that requirement was dropped, because hell forbid that any man should have to support a woman and her children just because he is having sex with her! He has to marry the girl before he can be inflicted with that legal responsibility.
     De Facto Relationships:  It was about this time that the tax concessions available to married couples were extended to those who were just living together, without any sort of commitment - even though there was nothing to stop them getting married if they so desired. Eventually, de facto relationships were granted all the rights and benefits of marriages. Successive governments have really had it in for marriage. (I've described elsewhere the scandal of two women being able to claim a War Widow's pension for the same deceased veteran.)
     And now we come to:
     Bigamy: This law can only operate effectively in an environment where monogamy is the universally accepted norm. Problems always arise when one sub-culture refuses to accept that norm. Bigamy is essentially a crime of fraud. Typically, the two spouses are kept ignorant of each other, and the unfortunate second spouse assumes that he or she has all the rights of a genuine marriage.
     Nevertheless, there was never any legal barrier to a man cohabiting with two women with their mutual consent. Indeed, actor Jack Thompson was notorious for doing just that with two sisters for fifteen years, and referring to both as his "wives". But the unmarried "wife" would have no legal status. She had no claim on his estate when he died, or financial support or the use of his property while he was alive. He could kick her out of the house anytime he liked, just as easily as she could leave him. However, although her children were entitled to his financial support, he had no authority over them, for they were illegitimate. (At least, that's how it used to be. When the Government finally gave defactos rights to each other's properties, it insisted this was not a mistresses' charter. But within a few months, a judge forced a widow to divide her inheritance with her husband's ex-mistress.)
    The point is that a woman from our culture who entered such a relationship did so with her eyes open. The same cannot be assumed for the second wife of a Muslim. All too often she is socially isolated, not even fluent in English, and pressured into it by the members of her family and community. Indeed, how many women would choose such an arrangement if they were fully aware of all their options? In Europe, the social isolation of Muslim women, even in monogamous marriages, is a major problem. Under these circumstances, the man who marries her is guilty of fraud, in that he is misleading her that she has the legal rights of a wife. And the Muslim clergyman who performs the religious ceremony, but fails to register it, is guilty of fraud against both her and the Australian people.
     Overseas, another racket is operative: a man legally divorces his wife (this is one of the defects of no fault divorce), then continues to live with her after he legally marries a second. And, of course, the first one still gets benefits from the taxpayer.

How to Rectify It
     (1) Make it illegal to undergo a religious (or even non-religious) wedding ceremony when one is already legally married to someone else - or is otherwise not eligible. Make it a punishable offence for a celebrant, legally authorised or not, to knowingly perform such a ceremony, or to perform any ceremony and not register it. No doubt some Members of Parliament would be unhappy with this, but they could hardly say so openly. The general public is strongly antagonistic to Muslims' refusal to accept our way of life. And not even the proponents of same sex "marriage" would be game enough to support polygamy at this stage.
     (2) Clarify the law that spousal benefits can be paid only to one person at a time, the default being the lawful spouse, and that single parent benefits cannot be paid when the woman is living with a man. Also, single parent benefits can only be paid if the father cannot be located and forced to support his child. Of course, this would meet with even more Parliamentary resistance, because it would impact on the Lotharios of our own community. (That, of course, would not be a bug, but a feature.) But what could they do if the Government stood firm? The general public does not like rorts of the welfare system either.
    (3) No-one has a right to come to Australia so, in order to prevent any growth of the problem, ban further Islamic immigration. I know most of them are decent people, but they don't contribute anything which cannot be met by immigrants from our traditional sources. And at least the latter are unlikely to introduce customs incompatible with our way of life.
     Or else the Government can do what they do in Europe: ignore the problem, and hope the public forgets about it. This would be a very unwise move. Throughout the Western world there is a surge of support for what the establishment calls "populist" politicians. The crunch will eventually come. It would be much better if it comes when the problem is still in its infancy.