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Thursday, 19 August 1993
Page: 370

Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (5.33 p.m.) —I support my colleagues on the Joint Select Committee on Certain Family Law Issues in all the things that they have said. I also make special mention of Senator McKiernan, who was the chairman of the Family Law Act inquiry, for the job that he did as chairman, because that set the scene for the committee to really try to get to the nub of the problems with the Family Law Act. I am quite sure that the new committee, under the chairmanship of the Hon. Roger Price, will do the same in getting the Child Support Agency to work just a little better.

  When I first mooted the idea of having an inquiry into the Family Law Act, I said that I wanted an inquiry into the Child Support Agency to run in conjunction with it. But I was told very cleverly and succinctly, if you like, that the Family Court and the Child Support Agency operate under two different administrative areas; one is administered under the Attorney-General's Department and the other comes under the Australian Taxation Office, the Treasurer, the Minister for Finance, et cetera, and all those who deal with the financial side of things. So we never looked at the Child Support Agency in the Family Law Act inquiry.

  Just about every person who attended hearings for the inquiry into the Family Law Act mentioned in some way the concerns, worries and problems that he or she was having with the Child Support Agency. The 150,000 calls that were made on the hotline—I do not know whether 10,000, 5,000 or 100,000 people made calls or whether, for example, there were 10 successive calls from 15,000 people—represents an horrific number of people who attempted to get through. I am sorry and a little concerned that only 700 calls were listened to.

  I commend those members of the committee who took the calls—Kevin Andrews MP; Senator Carr; Marjorie Henzell MP; the Hon. Roger Price MP, the chairman; and Senator Margaret Reid, the deputy chairman—and for the job that they did in ensuring that people had access to members of parliament to say what they think about the Child Support Agency. What people said in that hotline has already been very well canvassed. It is also in the report, which I commend to the Senate.

  The Child Support Agency has caused a lot of concern to people in the community. That is obviously why we are having the inquiry. It is a problem of mammoth proportions; it will not go away and it must be addressed. I am confident that this committee will be able to arrive at recommendations that in some way alleviate some of the present inequities. I commend this interim report to the Senate. It is just the start of what I believe will be quite a long and arduous inquiry. I do not think we will finish it in the time that we are hoping to—the end of next year—but let us hope that when we finish it we will get very good results for the people that are concerned about its issues.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.