Pauline Hansons ONE Nation
Date of Release 18th September 1998:
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation believes that safe, secure and happy societies require as a guiding principle, strong functional family units. ONE Nation considers governments should recognise this basic principle and adopt responses that are aimed at long term family stability.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation has recognised the very significant distress suffered by families with children who have been traumatised through divorce. We are concerned for those non - custodial parents who through government mismanagement and ineptitude have been forced to relinquish their rights to parenthood.
Fair treatment for parents and their children will be pursued and realistic outcomes from the tribunals expected. Grandparents and extended families access needs shall be considered as a priority for the child in ensuring that their environments remain stable.
The continued application of outdated cultural values which underlie the perception that the female is the "best primary care giver and decision maker must be challenged. Men are good parents and should be afforded equal opportunity to gain joint custody of their offspring. Currently males seem to be penalised for earning the family income by denying them equal opportunity to become the custodial parent after family breakdown.
The Family Law Court should be abolished and replaced with a Family Tribunal. This would require extensive changes to our Constitution, however the benefits to Australian families would far outweigh any negatives. A Family tribunal would exclude legal interference and eradicate the current adversarial system. The functions and operations of the Child Support Agency will be reviewed and extensive community consultation will be sought. The maintenance formula will be re developed as it is a punitive regime. The formula was identified in 1994 by a Joint Senate Committee as being unrepresentative of Australian conditions.
For a myriad of reasons some relationships will inevitably fail and society must address the families needs and provide supportive services, not the current punitive outcomes as delivered through the courts. Outcomes which have lead inevitably to increased family disputes and in some cases suicide.
Counselling, Support and Relationships
ONE Nation will allocate significant funds towards preventing the breakdown of marriages. In the unfortunate circumstances of irretrievable marriage breakdown, support services will be provided that work towards ensuring amicable arrangements between the aggrieved partners in the best interests of the children. These services will provide support to all immediate family members without regard to sex or age.
Family Law Act
The Family Law Act and Family Law Courts do not provide the environment espoused by Judge Murphy in 1975. The informality of the courts and hope for reconciliation have been lost to expensive legal costs, bitterness and destruction of the belief that justice exists in the Family Law Court. ONE Nation will develop a Family Tribunal Act. This will provide clear guidelines to settlements, access and maintenance issues and be monitored by the same Case Manager from the initial contact to exiting the system.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation believes that a Family Tribunal should be trialed to replace the Family Law Court. This system would remove the legal adversarial system currently employed and assist in a conciliatory process of separation. Savings generated each year from the lessening of the need for legal aid are estimated to total $100M and could be reallocated to pro - actively prevent relationship breakdown through a range of counselling and support services.
A key feature of the family tribunal is no legal representation; a partner will be encouraged to identify a non legal representative for advocacy purposes. The informal hearings are based on trying to mediate decisions between partners speedily. Case Managers will work with and remain with families through the decision making and monitoring process.
The Family Law Court should be replaced by the Supreme Court when necessary with legal aid being provided to both sides on the basis that whoever loses the case will bear the costs. Legal intervention would only be necessary in the case of alleged sexual, emotional or physical abuse charges. Domestic violence or abuse claims that are found to be vexatious or malicious will face the full force of the law. Costs incurred will be deducted from the sale of assets of the partner found liable by the court.
Chief Stipendiary Magistrate Stan Deers, Queenslands most senior magistrate has accused some partners of using domestic violence orders to gain a better position in child custody cases. "Some women will take out a domestic violence order in seeking custody of their children", Courier Mail July 5 1995.
The enforced use of "perjury" to the Family Law Act would prevent the malicious use of false allegations that destroy a persons reputation. It is felt some sole parents falsify charges to gain an advantage in settlements including property, custody, access or child support liability disputes.
The Family Tribunal Composition
Respected members from the local community encompassing health, social and community interest groups will be invited to participate on the family tribunals.
The performance of the Child Support Agency (CSA) was announced recently (CSA Client Profiles Series No 1, June 30 1997) as collecting $1B over a twelve month period. The cost of unemployment benefits for supporting non - custodial parents was $1.163B in the same period, add to this the $200M per annum cost of running the child support scheme and the economic benefits of running this service are questionable. Many non custodial parents are forced to opt out of a badly planned Child Support Scheme by opting out of employment. Successive governments prefer to bandaid the problem rather than address the real issue and restructure the CSA formula.
The Current Formula
The current formula for determining child maintenance has been unchanged since the Child Support Scheme was introduced in 1988. Amounts for income are set aside for both the non - custodial parent (NCP) and the custodial parent (CP) to provide for their own self support. For the NCP this is a single rate of pension $9,219.60 pa. For the CP it is average weekly earnings, currently $38,787.00 pa. Income used in the formula is taxable income. A percentage of the remaining income is used to determine child support, depending on the number of children to be maintained.
Children: Percentage from Wage.
The model was developed by the Department of Social Security based on a study "Costs of Children". The Joint Senate Committee in 1994 reported in its findings no 221.
Research into the costs of children relied on by the Consultative Group may not have been representative of Australian conditions. Whilst this research may have only been used as a starting point, the Joint Committee considers it essential to ensure that this starting point is valid in Australian circumstances. The Joint Committee notes that the major Australian studies in this area, Lee and Lovering not only produce widely divergent results but are also dated and possibly misleading. Whilst the equivalence scale approach used in the Lee study appears to be the preferred method internationally, the Joint Committee has difficulties with both its assumptions and the wide variations in results produced by the studies using this approach. In particular, the Lees studys results in a number of categories appear to be excessive and difficult to justify.
As a result of this finding the Joint Senate Committee made the following recommendation No 116.
The Joint Committee recommends that the Minister for Social Security commissions an independent study into the costs of children to enable a critical evaluation of the current child support formula percentages.
The University of NSW was commissioned to undertake this study and established a Budget Standards Unit. This unit determined that the current maintenance formula was totally inappropriate.
The labour market participation rate for females in Australia has risen from 43.7% in December 1978 to 53.9% in April 1998. Today it is normal for a woman to combine both a career and a family and it is unrealistic to expect a non - custodial partner to maintain a spousal maintenance regime.
Australian political parties seem unwilling to significantly modify the "Lees formula" even though Australia collects the highest level of child support when compared to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The formula is based on the myth that children should be able to enjoy the same standard of living when parents are separated as they did when the family was functionally intact. This is a fallacy as suddenly the non - custodial parents are facing the additional costs of their own living expenses.
The Child Support Access formula should take into account both partners income and overall family position, particularly after property and asset settlement. Each case should be looked at in its own right and not include spousal maintenance. Real costs of granting child access are not currently factored into reducing maintenance payments.
CSA statistics suggests that unemployment among non custodial parents is running at approximately 30% at a time when the national average is approximately 8%. Pauline Hansons ONE Nation has discovered that many non - custodial parents would rather opt for the dole than have their wages taken by the combination of the Australian Taxation Office , the Child Support Scheme, compulsory superannuation, compulsory medicare, and the expenses of earning a living.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation will reject the "Formula" for maintenance payment. A new formula will be developed that takes into account some of the following elements:
The formula would be developed in consultation with all key stakeholders in the field including the community and government sector and also studies conducted recently in this field.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation believes that a schedule of fixed fees should be determined for all children in custodial circumstances. A sliding scale fee which is based on the income of the non - custodial parents is one option being considered.
A family tribunal would ideally consult with parents to develop a schedule of maintenance fees that is agreed by both sides. A minimum schedule would apply but this would take account of the above factors. ONE Nation believes the majority of people want to do the right thing by their children if provided with an environment that is conducive to amicable agreements.
ONE Nation believes that a sensible maintenance regime will result in many unemployed NCP re - entering the work force, with resultant savings in costs associated with: unemployment, loss of self esteem, alcoholism and drug usage. The division that is created between separated parents will also be reduced as NCPs can afford to meet their maintenance payments and CP can feel secure that payments will be forthcoming.
ONE Nation believes amicable family separations that result in joint custody or joint guardianship are the ideal outcome. ONE Nation will strive to provide a family situation where access is made available for all children and extended family, in an attempt to stabilise an otherwise very distressing period in childrens lives.
Department of Social Security and Sole Supporting Parent Benefit
Compulsory counselling reinforces societies values and commitments to the sanctity of marriage and the individuals commitment to work strongly to retain the marriage vows. Counselling for the separating partners will be compulsory before clients receive Sole Supporting Parents (SSP) benefits.
There should be a limited time frame for sole supporting parent benefit. Sole supporting parents will be encouraged to obtain part time work as their last child commences school. This would be subject to job availability, qualifications and opportunity for retraining.
Custodial parents should be encouraged to return to work to assist in supporting their children. SSP benefits should not be used as a benefit that precludes custodial partners from sharing their responsibilities to society to support their own families. Furthermore maintenance schedules should not be designed to entice NCP out of the workforce to avoid the current crippling regimes.
On average 80 days per year are granted to non - custodial parents to have a meaningful relationship with their own children. ONE Nation believes this is inadequate and that good and frequent access with non - custodial parents does decrease some of the ill effects of separation. ONE Nation recognises that the current system of payment through the department of social security forces parents to barter and minimise access rights in order to maintain social security payments.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation will ensure that childrens rights to bond and associate with both parents and their natural grandparents and all family members will be enforced through the family tribunal. Penalties will be imposed for denial of those rights. A custodial partner who denies access of children to the non - custodial partner will face three opportunities to defend this position then be returned to the tribunal for custody arrangements to be reassessed.
Non - custodial parents will have basic access rights, a minimum of fortnightly weekend visits, phone contact 2 or 3 times a week, and half of all school holidays.
Joint Custody allows the parents, in consultation with their children an opportunity to share management and information of their off springs lives in important issues like health, school and recreation.
Research has demonstrated that the more the partners work together towards the upbringing of their children the better the outcome for the child. Joint custody will be the settlement of choice for ONE Nation. For this to be effective parents will need to live in reasonably close location to each other or close to transport networks.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation believes that property settlement should not be weighted towards the custodial parent as any ongoing monetary commitment is addressed through maintenance payments. Property owned prior to the relationship should remain the possession of the individual, not become part of the settlement. Property settlements should be based on a 50 / 50 allocation. Capitalised maintenance is unacceptable.
All children from a second relationship will be treated equally. Non - custodial parents do form new relationships and a maintenance schedule will be developed to ensure that children in subsequent marriages are afforded the same futures as those from a previous relationship.
Family centres are required throughout Australia to manage the family tribunals and associated support services including counselling. Significant savings from Legal Aid costs could be redirected to these services that would include information sessions, advocacy support, document presentation and assistance with self representation, parenting plans, counselling services and life style planning. The Tribunals could follow a country circuit to be accessible to the majority of Australian families in dispute.
These family centres would strive towards working pro - actively with families to avert the destruction of the family unit. Families would be well briefed on the impacts to children of acrimonious separations and the desire to work towards amicable settlements that take account of their childrens best hopes and desires.
ONE Nation will organise forums throughout Australia to identify family needs and identify community solutions that will assist in strengthening and maintaining the family unit.
The Family Tribunals and child support schemes will be designed to be fair and equitable for all concerned.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation recognises that the best support we can give to any family is support that keeps the family unit intact. We also recognise that sometimes relationships do fail and when this happens a responsible society ensures that all parties are respected and supported.
Pauline Hansons ONE Nation wants to ensure that children can bond and associate with both parents, grandparents, and all family members. For a myriad of reasons some marriages do fail and society must identify a forum by which a desirable settlement can be reached amicably. ONE Nation believes this forum is a Family Tribunal operating under an Act that clearly specifies the guidelines for separation, maintenance provisions, settlement provisions and dispute resolution procedures. The Family Tribunal will avoid the formality and adversarial environment of courts of law and be family and user friendly to work towards a conciliatory process of separation.
It is essential in establishing the parameters for Family Tribunals that:
ONE Nation will no longer let children be used as a weapon against another party.
Case Managers will be responsible for arbitrating and monitoring compliance with agreements between parties. The myth that females or non - working parents are the best primary care givers is outdated. This damaging myth will be denounced and corrected by ONE Nation.
It is essential that pre marriage support and advice be given to all prospective couples. Social historians are recording significant impacts on children who are involved in marriage breakdown. Dr Martin Richards who runs the centre for Family Research at Cambridge University has discovered in a long term study that:
Children born of middle class parents in 1958, who were not 16 before their parents divorced:
Taking children of middle and working class parents together, children of divorced parents were:
Dr Richards research found that children whose parents were divorced were on average less emotionally stable, left home earlier, divorced or separated more frequently.
A social historian from the University of Chicago, Barbara Whitehead (1993) found that nationally more than 70% of all juveniles in State Reform Institutions came from fatherless homes.
These findings demonstrate the importance that must be placed on helping to keep families intact and children supported through separation. The separation process must be a conciliatory process and supported by all levels of community, government and legal bureaucracies.
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