Media release: Travel Bans Help Recover Child Support Debts
The Hon Michael Keenan MP
Record numbers of parents are being stopped at Australian air and sea ports and prevented from travelling overseas due to outstanding child support debts.
In the first 10 months of this financial year, Departure Prohibition Orders (DPO’s) resulted in 358 people – or more than one a day - being stopped at a departure gate where they were given the choice to either pay up or turn back.
The number stopped eclipses the previous record of 333 people who were prevented from leaving Australia during all of last financial year.
This year has also seen a record amount of money recovered from parents who wanted their travel bans lifted, with $10.4 million repaid in the past 10 months.
The previous record of $9.9 million was set last financial year.
DPO’s are an effective tool that have been used since 2001 to encourage thousands of parents to meet their obligations to support their children.
If a parent can afford to take an overseas holiday, the Turnbull Government believes they can and should be made to pay what they owe. The welfare of their children should be their first priority, not getting a tan on a beach in Bali.
Many of those hit with a DPO this year had debts worth tens of thousands of dollars and had repeatedly ignored attempts by the Department of Human Services to get them to voluntarily enter into a repayment plan.
Late last year, approximately $350,000 was recovered from one parent who repaid the entire amount in a single lump-sum after they were stopped at an airport and prevented from flying.
Once the money was paid, the DPO was lifted and they were free to travel.
Another parent paid $60,000 on the spot after their travel plans were interrupted.
In a third case, a parent who resides overseas and had returned briefly to Australia was prevented from leaving until they agreed to pay $30,000.
What those examples demonstrate is that parents often have the means to pay, but are deliberately choosing to shirk their obligations.
It’s fortunate though that the overwhelmingly majority of parents in the Child Support Scheme always do the right thing by paying in full and on time.
Although the Government collects the money, it is then transferred to the parent who is entitled to receive the funds.
In 2016-17, the Department facilitated the transfer of $3.5 billion to support about 1.2 million children.
As well as DPO’s, the Government has other measures in its arsenal to force parents to meet their obligations. These include taking them to court and garnisheeing tax refunds.