I have a theory. There are two types of people who enter politics. One: those who will chatter the narrative, tow the line and collect a juicy pay check, while sitting back in their comfy swivel chair.
The others hit a wall of personal experience in life where they feel driven to at least try to affect change.
The first are the much-criticised elite. Polished politicians in ivory towers who don’t have a clue about real life.
The second aren’t sitting in major political parties.
They know how the real world works, they’ve been burnt by corrupt systems, seen friends suicide or reach the absolute brink, and they know that lives are being lost because of the way the country is being run.
Paycheck politicians vs The Hunger Games.
When I wrote for The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, that vulnerable fathers are calling for reforms to the Child Support Agency (CSA) I was inundated with messages. Positive thanks merged with desperate pleas of ‘What next?” “What can we do?” “Does anyone in politics even care?”
Interestingly, one political party did get in touch with me the day after the Daily Telegraph piece ran.
Correspondence confirmed that Senator Brian Burston of One Nation spoke on these issues last month in the federal senate.
“The Australian government is repeatedly attacking its citizens as if it were waging war on them,” said Burston in his speech to the senate. “I wish I could tell you it was for a good reason, but I am at a loss as to why any government would embark on a strategy to seemingly attack its own citizens.
“It is not because of bad laws. The legislation in the examples I will quote today is actually quite good. The problem arises when the culture of government organisations is such that the legislation is not applied fairly and without favour – or with the other party’s best interests at heart… It is cavalier.
It is inaccurate. The error rate of the letters is near 100%. It is corrupt. How do you fix it? Close it down and start again. New organisation. New people. New relationship.”
Words of passion, from a place of experience.
“There is a wealth of information and experience on these issues resident in this office,” I was told.
And that’s what I mean about politicians with purpose versus those spinning in their comfy swivel chairs.
“One of the staff here is the longest single continuous payer of child support in Australia – 1983 till now with at least 18 months to go (4-5 years more if you listen to the CSA). Last month he received nine letters from CSA advising how much he had to pay in child support. Each of them had a different amount and all were sent while there was a “change of assessment” on foot.”
We discuss CSA at length. “Either they are incompetent or dishonest,” says the One Nation insider.
“Which do you think it is,” I ask?
“Both,” comes the reply.
To the hundreds of people who got in touch after the Daily Telegraph piece begging for action, it is important to know that CSA is very much on the agenda.
Everyone has been silent for too long.
And afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.
I’m not a fan of “afraid”.
Discussions last night included this horrifying anecdote which I think sums up the militant, blinkered fools currently spinning on comfy swivel chairs:
“In a meeting with Bronwyn Bishop, her chief of staff and three senior offices of the CSA in 2011, Bronwyn Bishop asked the CSA officers, “What happens when you get a new case?” The response, “Well we sit down and decide which of the parents we are going to support and which one we are going to persecute.” Bronwyn asked the woman to repeat what she said and it was repeated. The guy asked, “Why not support both?” which received howls of laughter from the CSA officers.”
One person’s howl of laughter is another nail in the coffin of hope in a person’s life.
How dare they?
In correspondence, the Minister’s office has told a CSA payee that legislation is “only a framework” and the CSA has their own “departmental policies” which are not published.
Those “departmental policies” allow the CSA to change the child’s date of birth to extend the period attracting child support.
This was exposed at the last parliamentary enquiry when an original letter was tabled to the enquiry.
What happens next?
“One Nation is committed to reform of the Family Law system in Australia,” I am told. “There are a number of people involved, including lawyers and others with experience. So, I guess that answers your question about whether the senator will speak on this issue again. It is almost guaranteed. Exactly when is uncertain, but the issue is constantly being worked on.”
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