While Tony Abbott was on the hustings during the last election campaign, one of the lesser known commitments he made was to hold a Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Child Support system, if he won office.
Well win he did, but the exact nature of his election commitment was never really made clear. Why was another child support inquiry required? Who exactly was the existing system unfair against? Was it the dads, the mums, the kids, or was it everyone?
Speak to most dads and they will tell you that the Child Support system in this country is seriously flawed, with unrealistically high child support sums being demanded, in many cases in a punitive fashion, from over-stretched fathers who have already lost the house and a significant amount of their assets in divorce proceedings.
These same fathers are then hit by a calculated child support sum that over-inflates the cost of raising children in one household, while completely ignoring the cost of raising children in another.
And for most dads, this is the real issue with child support in this country. Its not about not paying your part of your children’s expenses. It’s not about wanting to see their kids only to reduce the child support you pay. It’s not about denying your ex any child support as a form of revenge or financial abuse. It has nothing to do with these sordid and fanciful notions that seem to exist only in the minds of apparent expert academics, or the always quotable spokespersons for one or another single-mothers group.
However if you attend the current Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Support or read through its daily transcripts, you will see that like all family law inquiries, this has been flooded by the same-old self-proclaimed experts, with the same old claims and demands.
For instance, Relationships Australia has told the inquiry that some parents are insisting on shared custody just so they can avoid paying child support, as if having a child living with you on a shared custody basis is somehow free or void of expenses.
Further to these claims, the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children has told the inquiry that some fathers seek custody of children one day a week, or every second weekend, just to get a 24 per cent “discount’’ on maintenance payments. It is a sad reflection on this advocacy group that that don’t realise that fathers too want to see their children…because they are their children, just like mothers.
“We remain completely unconvinced that 24 per cent discount in child-support payments in exchange for as little as 13 per cent care is fair or equitable,’’ the council’s submission says. “We are concerned that the significant and disproportional outcome is an economic driver, which is contradictory to the ‘best interest of the child’.’’
According to this group, maintaining a child’s bedroom, or a wardrobe of clothes, or a computer, or paying for your child’s weekend activities, and in most cases all of the above, is completely free and without cost, if you happen to be a father.
Listening to the shrill of commentary from the same old voices, this Inquiry, just like Tony Abbott’s commitment prior to the last election, is an exercise in futility, not meant to fix any specific problem. As it tries to be all things to all people, this Inquiry will end up with a eclectic mix of policy suggestions, to the anger of many and dissatisfaction of all, but at the end of the day it would do little to address the genuine concerns of many men, women and children forced to deal with this lumbering government instrument that like most things with government, was a good idea to begin with, but has gone and cannot be fixed by wishy-washy promises from politicians who don’t understand the problem to begin with.