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  • Fathers hit plan to spy on deadbeats
  • By Patricia Karvelas
  • The Australian
  • 20/06/2006 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 61 articles in 2006 )
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MEN'S groups have condemned a government plan to spy on as many as 70,000 fathers suspected of avoiding child support payments, saying it would be an assault on their human rights.

Lone Fathers Association president Barry Williams said the Government's focus on fathers revealed that it was biased against men.

"I think it's an infringement on human rights. If parents get behind in their payments, they don't deserve to have spies on them," he said.

"The Child Support Agency and the Government should not be gender specific; 8 per cent of child-support payers are women, and a big percentage of them are not paying their child support payments.

"The Government is going to turn more men against them doing this."

But Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said the crackdown would apply to any parent who did not meet their child support obligations, including women.

He said there were between 40,000 and 70,000 fathers reporting no income but not claiming any welfare payments and that the spies were needed to ensure "deadbeat dads" did not "rip off their own children, their own flesh and blood".

"So it only begs the (question) how they claim they live when they have no income and therefore they claim they are unable to help with the costs of raising their own children," he said.

About 120 new staff will be recruited specifically to watch suspect parents and gather video data on their lifestyles.

"If people are claiming to have no money or are not paying what they are required to pay, yet are living lavish lifestyles, then certain questions need to be answered and we'll make sure those questions are answered," Mr Hockey said.

The Government will use the evidence to prosecute the negligent parents.

"It can be used to take the individual to court and to lift the veil from which they seek to hide," Mr Hockey said.

The minister admitted there was a possibility that the privacy of some fathers might be inadvertently impinged.

"You can't always get it right," he said.

"There are 1.2 million cases out there and there are around 700,000 fathers. Every single case we deal with is different." But he said privacy was no excuse for fathers rigging the system.

"No stone will be left unturned in our attempt to recover some of the assets and some of the income that should rightfully go to pay for the raising of the child."

Labor's human services spokesman, Kelvin Thomson, said that while a crackdown was necessary, the Government had to ensure it got it right.

"We are concerned about Minister Hockey's admission that he won't always get it right," Mr Thomson said.

"He must make every effort to get it right, especially when using highly intrusive detection methods such as covert video surveillance."

The Child Support Agency said there had been many cases of non-residential parents hiding their income.

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