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Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Page: 121

Senator KIRK (6:23 PM) —I rise to speak on the Child Support Legislation Amendment (Reform of the Child Support Scheme—Initial Measures) Bill 2006. There have been a number of speakers on this issue this afternoon, and I have a few comments to make in relation to this. Senator Moore referred to the report that the then House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs released in 2003. As she said, it would be a good idea for all senators to have a look at that report. It is a very important contribution to public debate.

The report I refer to, of course, is Every picture tells a story. It made 29 recommendations that covered the family law process, parenting arrangements and the Child Support Scheme. From that, we have seen some legislation emerge and today we are debating some of that legislation. In February of this year there was a government response given to the report of a task force chaired by Professor Patrick Parkinson, which was released in June of last year. The report made 30 recommendations to overhaul the Child Support Scheme. In its response, the government indicated its intention to adopt most of the ministerial task force recommendations for change and to implement the reforms in a three-stage process commencing in July this year.

Labor welcomes the release of the government’s plans to reform the child support system. As Senator Evans said in his speech a little earlier this afternoon, Labor accepts the need for reform of the child support system. We consider that the report released by Professor Parkinson and his task force provides a strong basis for reform. Labor notes that the government appears to have picked up on most of the recommendations contained in that report. As a consequence, Labor will support much of the government’s package and, as we have today—as we always do!—will approach the debate on all of the changes in a constructive manner. Labor supports encouraging shared parenting and a fair balance in meeting the costs of a child’s care and his or her upbringing. The fact that only half of all non-resident parents meet their child support obligations in full and on time is an issue of grave concern to Labor. On that point, I will conclude my remarks.