The federal government’s independent auditor has flagged an investigation of the $3.5 billion child support system, a move that could provide further ammunition for Pauline Hanson’s claim that the system is unfair to non-custodial parents.
It’s the latest in a push to test the integrity of the child welfare system, which some claim is plagued by rorting by some parents trying to dodge child support payments and some childcare service providers who are blamed for almost $600 million in incorrect government payment claims.
The Australian National Audit Office has listed the child support system as a priority issue for audits for 2016-17 and plans to focus on the arrangements between the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services.
In the weeks following the federal election, Nationals MPs reported to their partyroom that anger over the child support system was a sleeper issue that risked losing voters to One Nation unless major parties started taking notice.
The accuracy and effectiveness of the child support system is based on parents lodging accurate tax returns to give their assessable taxable income,
In 2014-15, about $3.5 billion was transferred between separated parents to support about 1.2 million children.
In the same year, the ATO and Department of Human Services were behind 65,678 enforcement actions on parents’ tax returns to collect an extra $27.4 million in child support payments.
Another 105,202 tax refunds were intercepted to garnishee $121.5 million in child support.
But fathers’ rights groups and One Nation say the child support system must be overhauled and the formula that dictates the amount of child support payments should be reviewed.
The audit will focus on the effectives of the agencies’ enforcement activities, including intercepting tax refunds and reviewing the accuracy of parents’ tax returns.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson said in her maiden speech this month that some parents were left caring and providing for children without any financial help from the other parent, while others refuse to work altogether to avoid the payments.
“The system needs to be balanced, taking in the age of the child on a sliding scale and both parents’ incomes should be taken into account,” Senator Hanson said.
“Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life.”