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Celebrating Families - 5 September 2006

Celebrating Families
Judith Collins Family and Welfare Spokeswoman
5 September 2006

Working Hard for Families

A Quarter of a billion dollars is owed by New Zealand parents living in Australia.

Financially supporting their children in New Zealand is a foreign concept to some ex-pat Kiwis living in Australia. What’s worse is the Labour Government seems to be doing little to regain over a quarter of a billion dollars owed by these Australian-based New Zealanders in child support.

As of June this year a staggering $281,913,850 was owed by New Zealanders in Australia in child support and related penalties. This figure has almost quadrupled since 2003, when $73,207,549 was owed. Why is the Government letting them get away with such child neglect, forcing taxpayers to support their children? For some reason, people about to leave New Zealand can be stopped at the border for unpaid parking fines but not for unpaid child support.

The Government formed a reciprocal child support collection agreement with Australia in 2000, but so far Labour has not fulfilled promises to try harder and collect outstanding debts. Another point of concern is more recovered money going to the Government, and less to custodial parents. As of June this year 51% of collected child support from Australia went to the Government compared to 48% to the custodian. Rewind to 2003 when 70% went to the custodial parent, and only 30% to the Government. What has changed in three years that the Government receives a larger share of an already diminishing pie? The custodial parents who receive money from the liable parent are not receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit. These are the sole parents who raise their children, work for a living and have to be two parents instead of one because the other parent has decided that they want to skip overseas. Labour’s response has been pathetic. I just don’t understand why waving them goodbye at the airport is considered an adequate response.

Nappies are a thoughtful present for new parents.

For each born baby the world is blessed to be given another treasure, adding to the myriad of good society can offer. So it’s appropriate the South Auckland Maternity Care Limited (SAMCL) have launched a campaign to give mothers a pack of nappies for every baby looked after by an independent midwife. What a wonderful and highly practical initiative! As a mother, I understand the mountainous amounts of paperwork and pamphlets new mums receive on caring for newborns. Pamphlets have their place but there is nothing like practical help.

The City of Manukau Education Trust (COMET) has produced two discussion papers on Intergenerational Family Learning. They are worth reading. Here is a sample, “Child poverty is invariably a reflection of the economic status of the adult or adults in the family. The Competent Children, Competent Learners study tells us that the educational achievement level of the mother will be reflected in the educational achievement of the children within the family. The relationship of children’s educational achievement and adult under-achievement suggests that intergenerational learning should receive close policy attention.” This reminds me of my late mother’s advice. If we want well educated children, first educate their mothers. This is why schools that continue educating young mothers are so important. Leaving school at 15 for a life on a benefit is a life of poverty not only for many young mothers but for their children and grandchildren.


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