7 May 2010
Non-paying mums will be spied on
By Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent
Mothers who do not have custody of their children and avoid paying child support to custodian fathers will be hounded and spied on at the same rate as men, as new figures reveal 20.9 per cent, or 21,028 out of 100,762 female payers, have debts.
The figures have emerged after Lone Fathers Association of Australia president Barry Williams complained to the government that as the number of fathers taking custody of their children had risen, the government was still targeting only men for avoiding paying for their kids.
"They have now assured me they will be pursuing women as much as men," he said.
"The minister wrote me a letter to reassure me."
But while women are avoiding paying their child support in large numbers, fathers are doing worse.
The percentage of men in arrears out of the total number who pay is 33.5 per cent, or 219,064 out of 654,745.
The Child Support Agency's chief operating officer, Bill Lodge, said it treated everyone equally.
"The CSA takes non-compliance very seriously, and we have a comprehensive and robust compliance program, including optical surveillance, which is not gender-based," Mr Lodge said.
"The CSA's role is to support separated parents to transfer payments for the benefit of their children.
"Most people, including mothers who are payers, do the right thing and pay their child support in full and on time.
"We use optical surveillance where there is serious non-compliance.
"This is determined on the specifics of the case under investigation and is not gender-based.
"The Child Support Agency investigates both men and women under its comprehensive and robust compliance program."
Minister for Human Services Chris Bowen said there was no discrimination in the way the CSA administered the child support program.
"Gender is irrelevant in relation to parents supporting their children," Mr Bowen said.
"The government fully expects parents to meet their obligations, whether they are mothers or fathers."
There has been a steady increase in the number of mothers paying child support to fathers.
In June 2007, 82,034 - or 10.9 per cent - of parents paying child support were mothers.