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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 218

Mr TRUSS (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (5:15 PM) —The government does not support the opposition's amendments to the Child Support Legislation Amendment Bill 1998 . They were proposed when this debate took place previously. We opposed them on that occasion and nothing has happened in the interim to lead us to change that position. We have taken on board some opposition amendments in the early stages of the debate but we do not propose to accept these.

The bill makes the child support scheme more flexible and equitable. It encourages parents to cooperate in finding ways to support their children and at the same time it confirms that the parents have the primary responsibility for the support of their children.

One of the amendments proposed by the opposition is intended to ensure that fringe benefits are counted as income in assessing child support. The government supports the principle of counting fringe benefits in assessing child support payments, but we are not anxious to deal with this matter in isolation. The government proposes to address this issue as part of its wider reform of the fringe benefits tax arrangements. The tax reform package will provide for fringe benefits to be included on group certificates and therefore to be included in income for child support purposes. The necessary legislation is being prepared and is expected to be introduced to the House quite soon.

The second part of the opposition amendments would add a significant reporting burden to parents by requiring them to notify any changes to their income greater than 15 per cent. Changes would have to be notified on a monthly basis. These amendments would add greatly to the reporting burden of the parents with fluctuating incomes, without benefiting the children. Under the current system parents can choose to notify such changes now. The government believes there is no need for a further parliamentary inquiry into the two particular issues raised by the opposition. I referred earlier to the Joint Select Committee on Certain Family Law Issues inquiry which was a very comprehensive inquiry and examined these issues with the benefit of public inquiries and the full joint powers of the houses. The government is in the process of responding to those findings and undertaking whatever consultation is necessary to address those sorts of issues.

The final issue raised by the honourable member for Lilley was that the government sees no merit in duplicating the existing provisions regarding making false and misleading statements. These sorts of statements are already prohibited and we regard the existing safeguards as effective.

The government believes that this bill reflects a balanced approach to the reforms of child support arrangements and we do not support the opposition's amendments. We wish that the bill will have a speedy passage.

Amendments negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.A. Crosio) —The question is that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.