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Dunne: Key changes needed to Care of Children Bill

Media Statement For immediate release Wednesday, 11 June, 2003

Dunne: Key changes needed to Care of Children Bill

United Future leader Peter Dunne today signalled that the Care of Children Bill needed key changes or the party won't back its passage through Parliament.

"There are some good points in this legislation, but there are some very real problems that must be fixed, or we simply won't support it. We will be seeking the backing of other parties to remove those flaws," Mr Dunne said.

Key among the flaws, he said, was the wide open definition of fatherhood in Section 17 (2): "Clearly, this is a problem. Dads are dads."

He also pointed to guardianship provisions that meant that after, for instance, just a month in a relationship with a custodial parent, someone could be appointed as guardian of a child.

"This is quite ludicrous. It takes you three years in a relationship to get your partner's sofa under the Property (Relationships) Act, and yet there is no time set before you get a role so pivotal in a child's life that you can change its direction forever.

"United Future will be pushing for a period of three years before someone can take up that kind serious commitment in a child's life," he said.

Points in the Bill that are supported by United Future include:

* The focus on responsibilities not rights

* Priority given to the child's needs not parental rights - particularly when parents separate and take new partners

* Child's opinion is important and included in the process

* The age to which one remains under the care of a guardian cut from 20 to 18, in keeping with other legislation

* Biological father automatically becomes a guardian if he lives with the child's mother anytime from conception to birth. And even if he does not, he has the right to apply to Family Court to be appointed a guardian.

"There is merit in this Bill, but the bottom line is that we won't back it without substantial changes," Mr Dunne said.


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