Peter Dunne has finally announced proposed changes to the child support regime in order to make it fairer. He admits that “on something as contentious and as emotionally charged as child support… it is not about trying to please people. It is about creating a system that people feel is fundamentally fair, and crucially, that they feel is for the benefit of their children. If we get those two factors through to people, then we have succeeded, and I believe we are doing that here.”
Aside from the obvious contradiction there (‘not trying to please people… but about creating a system that people feel is fundamentally fair’: in my experience, people are pleased with a fair system, and not with one that isn’t), I don’t think anyone would disagree with the sentiment. As Revenue spokesman, I get many e-mails from people who believe they are being ‘ripped off’ by a discriminatory child support regime.
Three points I would make however:
1. Two and a half years ago Dunne said he would complete a review of the system in 6 months. What took him so long?
2. Dunne’s IRD is undertaking a round of redundancies (16 front line staff in Napier alone) and yet they are about to restructure the child support system… Does that mean ‘more with less’? Give me a break.!
3. Most importantly, Dunne has said that the changes to the system will be in legislation introduced to Parliament in the next few months. There are only four sitting weeks left this term. This is incredibly important legislation because over 200,000 NZ children rely on child support payments. I hope like hell this isn’t something that Dunne and the Nats are planning to introduce under urgency.
I am not saying there doesn’t need to be changes to the child support system, because there quite obviously does (of the approximately $2b in child support debt, under $200m is actually principle). But any legislation reforming the child support system needs to go through the proper parliamentary process; e.g. public select committee where all NZers can have their say.
The real shame of all this: if Dunne had done what he said he would do, then we would have had this whole system reformed months ago. Wonder why he hasn’t…