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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2374


Mr SCHULTZ (Hume) (19:10): I regret that I need to rise once again to talk about problems associated with the Child Support Agency. I did extensive research into the Child Support Agency in 2007 and produced a booklet about its problems, but it appears that some of those problems still exist.

Minister O'Connor is aware, from my correspondence with him, of the very serious concerns I am raising in the House tonight regarding notification by the Child Support Agency to a constituent of mine that the constituent is liable for a child support payment of $474.98 per fortnight to a person, identified as 'Amanda', with whom his 16-year-old daughter resides. Amanda is not known to my constituent, not an approved career and not part of his immediate extended family, yet—obviously with the assistance and encouragement of the Child Support Agency—she has forwarded an application for child support for my constituent's daughter Sarah.

A number of questions need to be asked about this issue, including whether this person Amanda is a registered carer, why the biological father has not been given the opportunity by the Child Support Agency to provide appropriate input prior to this decision and how a person not even remotely related to the family is able to circumvent the intent of child support and the Family Assistance Office. The Child Support Agency, by its actions, is encouraging a minor, who may have drug related problems, not only to stay away from her biological father but also to reside with a woman who has no official legal status through the courts as a carer for the child—nor indeed is she a person known to either side of the family. This person, Amanda, has been encouraged by the CSA to seek financial benefit from the biological father for a second time following an unsuccessful application three months ago, which was suddenly terminated.

My constituent sent me a letter and gave me permission to use it. The letter says:

My daughter Sarah appears to be residing with a person who has lodged a case with CSA against myself, and whom I do not know. I was contacted by a person claiming to be from the Child Support Agency almost 3 weeks ago. She advised me that an application by a woman called Amanda had been received and accepted by CSA. I am certain that I was not asked if I was in a position to provide a home for Sarah by this person, nor was it disclosed that a phone assessment was actually taking place. Amanda, whom I have never met, is certainly not a family member, nor any relative of either side of Sarah's family. I find it very irritating and curious to note that a previous application was accepted from this person by CSA only three months ago, but was mysteriously terminated without explanation. I do question stability of this living arrangement, and certainly the motives of the applicant. Nothing has ever been taken to the family law court, and therefore there are no orders compelling this person to provide care for Sarah. Karen Cumberland, Sarah's mother died of alcohol related liver failure two years ago, and therefore I am the sole legal guardian for Sarah.

…   …   …

When Sarah's mother passed away, Sarah broke off all contact … and stayed for a time in the care of her grandparents, though this arrangement was short lived. The refusal regarding contact has never been satisfactorily explained, even when herself and the people that she chose to stay with attended mediation at my insistence in October of 2009. At that time she was staying with her uncle and his wife, who took responsibility for Sarah and who provided bank account details so that I could pay them child support, even though I insisted that Sarah come to live with me, my wife and Amy. Sarah refused this offer, requested that I have no contact with her unless initiated by herself, and stayed with this couple until they split up, and then stayed with the wife. This lasted possibly a little over 12 months. Sarah was asked to leave this arrangement as she had been caught with drugs in her possession.

…   …   …

I can only assume that in the absence of any court orders, Amanda has voluntarily taken Sarah into care, and without my knowledge, has an expectation that I will pay for this even though I have always been able to provide a home for Sarah, and am still in a position to do so. I know nothing of this person, but feel that because both myself and my wife are fulltime employed, and are owning our own home, we are in a good position to care for Sarah whom I consider a run away.

I could go on, but unfortunately time does not allow me to do so. Knowing this organisation in the depth that I do, following research that saw me get 4,000 case studies from across Australia, I think it is about time for any government of any political persuasion to consider a royal commission into the way in which this clandestine— (Time expired)