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Thursday, 5 April 2001
Page: 26542


Mr SWAN (11:33 AM) —Labor supported seven of the 10 measures in the original bill. Amendments have been made in the Senate, one of which we are discussing now. Unfortunately, I have had only about 20 minutes to look at the proposals that have come back to the House, so I am not going to respond in detail here today. That will occur in another place at a future time. I will not be seeking to divide the House over any of these measures. That may also occur, depending on whether agreement can be reached with the government on these matters, in the upper house at another time.

I would like to put on the record that our side of the House supports reform of the Child Support Scheme, including seven out of the 10 measures. In particular, Labor has supported measures in the legislation that have assisted second families, and it has even put to the government that they should consider separating these important measures from the rest of the bill if we cannot reach agreement on other matters. I would certainly like to restate my support for the principle of shared care. Recent research, for instance, conducted by Henman and Mitchell has thrown a bit more light on this issue. That indicates that, as commonsense would tell us, non-custodial parents do incur additional costs as a result of having contact with their children. What is important about their work is that they show that the costs to both separated parents sharing care are higher than the costs of care for intact families. This means that reform of the Child Support Act, when it seeks only to shift the balance of resources between custodial and non-custodial families, does not really address the problem.

This is one of the sticking points, as the minister is very well aware. We will continue in discussions with the government about all of the contentious measures, including the one before us at the moment. It would certainly be my hope that we could reach agreement in these matters, but that remains to be seen. We reserve our right to amend the bill in the Senate after we have considered in detail the government's latest proposals.

Question resolved in the affirmative.