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Thursday, 9 March 2000
Page: 14277

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) (9:59 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill ensures that Australia is able to fulfil its international obligations in relation to child support and spousal maintenance. In 1994, the Joint Select Committee on Certain Family Law Issues made recommendations about the international enforcement of child support liabilities. Existing international maintenance arrangements rely on slow and cumbersome procedures for the initiation and pursuit of proceedings in foreign courts.

Australia currently has arrangements with a variety of countries in respect of the recognition and enforcement of maintenance liabilities. However, existing international arrangements only provide for the recognition and enforcement of overseas court orders or agreements. That approach is now unsuitable as court orders are being replaced by administrative assessments in many countries. As a result of the proposed changes, administrative assessments of child support which have been issued by overseas authorities will also be enforceable.

By providing for Australia to become a party to three international agreements, new arrangements will be introduced and a number of the recommendations of the joint select committee will be implemented. The agreements oblige each country to provide in its laws for the recognition and enforcement of child support and spousal maintenance liabilities. The amendments in this bill provide for regulations to be made which prescribe for all matters relevant to the recognition and enforcement of such liabilities. The relevant agreements are:

(i) the agreement with New Zealand on child support and spousal maintenance;

(ii) the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Maintenance Liabilities; and

(iii) a new agreement with the USA on the enforcement of family maintenance (support) obligations.

The amendments made by this bill provide for improved arrangements in respect of Australia's international maintenance obligations. I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Martin) adjourned.