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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1524


Senator GILES —I refer the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women to last week's announcement by the Minister for Social Security of the Government's strategy for child support reforms. What significance will the proposed child support scheme have for women?


Senator RYAN —I think that there has been general community endorsement of the Government's proposed child maintenance and collection agency proposals. One of the things that the Government hopes to achieve by moving to a formula based on equitable and obligatory payments of child support by those non-custodial parents who can afford to pay such support is an improvement in the standard of living of families where one parent has left. As we know and as we are reminded many times in this chamber, the number of families living below the poverty line has increased dramatically in recent years and the main reason for that is the large number of women who are supporting children and who are forced to live on the pension.

It is now becoming a matter of public knowledge-and it ought to be-that only about 30 per cent of non-custodial parents in Australia pay child support. In other words, at present 70 per cent of non-custodial parents do not pay child support and many of those are in a position to do so. This failure on the part of non-custodial parents to support their children is one of the reasons why there has been an increasing number of women alone with children living in poverty. Our Government hopes that, by introducing a fair, equitable and compulsory form of maintenance payments and by making that maintenance collectable through a maintenance agency, the main beneficiaries will be the children and women who are currently living below the poverty line on pensions.