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Thursday, 3 June 2010
Page: 5207


Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (1:49 PM) —in reply—I thank those who have contributed to the debate on the Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010 and particularly recognise the previous speaker, the member for Blair, because he has considerable experience in this area. His contribution to the debate has been very valuable, as is his advice on child support and other family law matters.

The bill contains three measures affecting the family assistance law and child support legislation. All measures are largely administrative and are designed to make government systems easier for families. Firstly, the bill includes a measure from the 2009-10 budget that will align care determinations in the child support and family assistance systems. This will simplify administrative decision making, making life easier for separated families. Current rules allow for two different care percentages to be determined for the same child in child support and family assistance. This amendment will provide for a single determination of care that applies across both systems, bringing consistency and reducing administrative complexity.

Secondly, the bill amends the income estimate process under the Child Support Scheme. A number of parents provide an estimate of their income to assist in determining their child support obligations. To make sure that the correct amount of child support has been paid or received when actual income is known, the amount is reconciled against the estimated income. This amendment will align estimate periods with financial years and is intended to avoid inaccurate estimates, which can occur when parents are providing estimates for multiple financial years. It will also allow automatic reconciliation against tax returns, speeding up the reconciliation process. This will also help improve the accuracy of child support calculations to make sure that the correct information is used.

Lastly, the bill contains amendments to the family assistance law to provide greater flexibility in dealing with family tax benefit non-lodger debts. This will amend rules introduced in January this year that allowed for the temporary suspension of fortnightly family tax benefit payments where a person has not lodged their tax return more than 18 months after the end of the financial year. These amendments will give the secretary the discretion to determine that the rules that will apply in special circumstances and to clarify that, where there is no outstanding family tax benefit debt due to the failure to lodge a required tax return, the new provisions will not apply. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.