Men's Rights Agency - Child Support

Fathers force PM to review child support

By chief political reporter RICHARD McGREGOR
The Australian Friday 17th April, 1988

John Howard has agreed to review child support payments after a backbench campaign on behalf of fathers angry about the present system.

But the Prime Minister protested on Cairns radio yesterday when announcing that the Government was studying changes that he did not know whether he could find a fair system from the wreckage of thousands of broken relationships.

"I find it a very, very difficult social issue, and I have sympathies on both sides of the argument, but I don't think anyone has got the perfect answer because there aren't perfect answers," he said, stressing it was a bipartisan issue.

Mr. Howard said ministers had discussed the issue in Cabinet last week, an indication that the Government might consider new measures in next month's Budget.

Backbenchers are attempting to force further reforms to cut payments, even as parliament debates a Bill introducing extensive changes to child support, which are themselves the product of a lengthy review.

Liberal MP Warren Entsch, whose North Queensland electorate covers Cairns, told The Australian yesterday that backbenchers wanted new ways of assessing the income of parents paying child support.

"These people have no real satisfactory mechanism of getting justice," he said.

People providing child support are overwhelmingly fathers; about 92 per cent of the 440,528 payers are men according to government statistics.

"We are still talking about single mums - they have a difficult time, an naturally they look to the father to make a contribution," Mr Howard said on radio.

He added that if payments to custodial parents were cut, taxpayers would have to step in to make up the difference.

"There are no other choices," he said/

However, he did say he appreciated the problems of people paying child support to a former partner while attempting to provide for a new family.

The present support system sets payments at different levels depending on the number of children and the taxable income of the payee.

Cairns radio interviewer, David McKenzie complained to Mr Howard that one of his former guests, a rodeo rider had been forced to pay child support "after a fleeting indiscretion behind the bar at a local show".

But, Mr. Howard objected to the complaint, saying the welfare of the child was paramount, regardless of how he or she had come into the world.

Mckenzie told The Australian after the interview that the rodeo rider had since fled to Canada to avoid paying.

"He hardly knew this woman's name," he said.

Government officials said the father paying $3000 a week for one child - cited as an example yesterday of the system's injustices - would be earning more than $75,000 annually.

One MP said in last week's parliamentary debate that he received 10 time more complaints about the child support system than about poor service by Telstra.

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