Open letter: errant father appeals for support

A father, who acknowledges his failings up front, wonders why Australia’s most childish government agency continues to be commercially naïve while exercising unbridled power over individuals without legal charge, hearing or conviction. Keith Bettison tells his story…

Open letter: errant father appeals for support

9 May 2012

To whom it may concern,

I intend to describe, in as unbiased and objective way as I can, my dealings with the CSA over the last 15 years or so.

Firstly, I wish to fully acknowledge my short-fallings as a father and my errant, evasive approach when dealing with this institution. My son is 21 and allegedly I currently owe the CSA an amount in excess of $86,000. This, of course, includes penalties and is based only on their supposition of what I have earned over this period. I hope that, having read this narrative, you may be able to appreciate why I and many other fathers in Australia are, in the interest of self-preservation, compelled to avoid contact with this institution.

Before I continue; to the best of my knowledge the acronym CSA translates to Child Support Agency. I intend to demonstrate that the actual support of a child [in my experience] is the very last article on this woefully ineffectual department’s agenda.

I have been extremely vague with the information I provide to the CSA: I hope that I can demonstrate a tangible argument for my disinclination to be overly forthright. I’ll take this early opportunity to describe some of my recent interactions. Hopefully this confirms my notion that the CSA is preposterously powerful. Over the years they have consistently demonstrated the ability to manipulate my civil and probably human rights. They can effect my life to a far greater degree than the legal system, the police and the Australian Taxation Office combined. All without court hearings, mediation, consultation, audit and certainly without criminal conviction.

This dispute started in 1996; after a period of unemployment I was working at a car dealership in Sydney. From memory, I was probably earning around $700 per week.  After about six months the CSA garnisheed this amount down to $110 per week [net]. At the time I was single and living in rented accommodation. I was certain that this had to be a miscalculation and contacted their Sydney office. During my one and only mediation session I was told [by an obviously ‘New Australian’ struggling with her English] that the CSA had calculated that an adult, single male could live in Sydney on $110 per week. I vehemently disputed this ‘fact’ and was informed that this calculation/decision was irrevocable. I tried to substantiate my point with some basic math.

Let us assume that the average Australian works five days a week. I feel that we can presume that having had ones salary reduced to $110 [per week] that the Jaguar would have to go back to the finance company. I think therefore, it would be reasonable to allow $8 per day for public transport.

This leaves one with $70. If I purchase one portion of hot chips per day and say two loaves of bread per week I could live [eat] for about $25 per week, leaving $45. As I am working I need to be relatively hygienic, so I’ll budget for $15 per week for soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving gear and shampoo etc, leaving $30. If I budget for four haircuts per year [say $40] and an annual clothing/shoe allowance of $220 this accounts for a further $5/week

I now have $25 per week for accommodation, utilities [it would be handy to have a phone] and medical expenses etc. Bearing in mind the fact that this is the Child Support Agency, how much of this money should I allocate to spending quality time with my child? …the child they were claiming to support?

I honestly believe that it is impossible to survive on $110. The general manager of the business I was working for had accompanied me to this meeting and protested that I was a good employee with a very promising future at the dealership. He, like many, many other employers, is absolutely sick of having good employees forced to leave by the CSA.

Stating the obvious, I explained that having quit I wouldn’t be in a position to pay them anything. This observation was met with little more than a shrug of the shoulders and a “thanks for coming”. This process repeated itself for the next seven or eight years: I’d get a job – and after about six months – the CSA’s ‘Targeted Enforcement Division’ would pillage my income for a couple of weeks and I’d be forced to move on.

During a recent conversation with the CSA I asked how much they had collected from me over the preceding 16 years. They couldn’t be certain, “about $6000” was their estimate. When I pointed that during this mediation process I had offered $70 per week, the result would have been, with little further effort on their behalf, accumulating about $58,000. Almost a ten-fold improvement on their performance; this was met with another [verbal] shrug of the shoulders and dismissed as inconsequential. I am certainly not the only errant father to have ended up under the auspices of ‘Targeted Enforcement’ I’m sure that there are hundreds of us.

My two biggest points of contention are:

  1. Due to the dogmatic, single-minded and ineffective methods employed by these unimaginative (expletive deleted – ed.) morons, they have succeeded in collecting around 10% of what I would have joyfully paid. Plus, they wouldn’t have had to tie up the undoubtedly costly resources of the Targeted Enforcement Division. They could have simply deducted it from my bank. They had no trouble deducting $3000 [I’ll explain this ‘deduction’ presently] so $70 would have been an undemanding task, to say the least.

 

  1. However, what really gives me the absolute (expletive deleted – ed.) shits is that, having wasted all that effort and tax payers money, having forbidden me from seeing my parents [explanation to follow] and ensuring that I had no chance of a sustainable career they have no idea, no concern and no interest in how the child support payment is spent by the recipient parent. And I quote: “It’s no concern of mine if the money is spent on gambling, drugs or alcohol.”

Multiply the amount of money that these wholly ineffectual techniques fail to collect by the number of us subjected to the influence of targetted enforcement and it must be entirely self-evident that this company of fools go real close to being the shittiest performers amongst all government departments.

I have digressed. Back to more recent encounters. In 2008 I was in Tasmania, helping a mate. I had borrowed $3000 from my mother to help me through a lean period. One Friday night at about 6pm I went to the ATM for cash, for food etc over the upcoming weekend. My request was declined ‘due to insufficient funds’ I knew this was a mistake on the bank’s behalf [the three grand was still in my account]. However, there was little I could do – including eat! – until Monday. I contacted the bank first thing Monday and was informed that the account was empty and they could not explain why. I found out on Tuesday that the CSA had without warning, or consultation, completely emptied my account. I called them, explaining that this was not only a loan but was all I the money I had. To cut a long and heated conversation short, they said it was ‘tough shit and while I was on the phone when can you pay the other eighty-odd thousand?’ At this stage they didn’t know what bills I had to pay, if I had other dependants or any other pressing commitments other than the need to feed myself.

All this coincided nicely with my son’s near-fatal accident. He was in a critical condition, in a coma in Sydney. I was in Launceston and – thanks to the CSA – had absolutely no chance of getting to the hospital. I had to rely on constant calls from a friend to keep me up to date with his condition. That must be the epitome of absolute excellence in contemporary CHILD SUPPORT.

For the past six years or so the CSA have imposed a DPO [Departure Prohibition Order] on my passport. The consequence of this is that I am not allowed to leave Australia. About three years ago [2009] I approached the CSA requesting a temporary release. I have elderly parents who both live alone. I have not seen my parents for 10 years. My mother has chronic rheumatoid arthritis; a condition she has endured for almost 20 years. At this time my father had severely broken his ankle, following a fall. It had been pinned and plated. He was in pain, distressed and virtually house-bound. Neither could drive, both required frequent hospital and GP attendance. Having obtained medical certificates and documentation from both specialists and GPs supporting the fact that an extended visit by myself [say three to six months] would be extremely beneficial for them both, I forwarded the information to the CSA. They replied about six weeks later. In their opinion [I wasn’t informed whether it was based on professional medical advice or thrashed out round the water cooler], my parents’ conditions were not severe enough to warrant the consideration of the DPO being suspended. I was given the option of paying the eighty-six grand for the return of my autonomy.

I can guarantee that every single time I contact the CSA I get this bullying thrown in my face. “You know we’ll never lift the DPO until you pay us off” is the general tenor of the conversation. How can a department of seemingly unqualified clerks and administrators possibly have powers that exceed those of the courts, the state police, the federal police, probably the ATO and even the all conquering bureaus of Customs and Excise, etc?

There other points and issues that I feel need to be addressed. In all my dealings with the CSA I have found them to be reticent, at the very least. It seems utterly outrageous to me that this institution has the authority to virtually bankrupt any individual at will. It is equally infuriating that the CSA have the sanction to impose a DPO on a person solely based on what they claim is outstanding. I’ll reiterate: having never been taken to court and certainly never convicted or even audited, the CSA have canceled my passport and been able to deplete my funds.

In my opinion Australia has one of the best police forces in the world. For the most part dedicated, highly trained and professional individuals. Unlike the faceless bastards of the CSA, the police carry out their vocation in the glare of the public eye and under the excessive scrutiny of the tabloid media. How on earth can a dimwitted collection of clerks wield greater power, with less [if any] accoountability than our police?

And – given this nauseatingly disproportionate capability – they seem to operate unbridled, anonymous and entirely autonomously.

The CSA currently purloin 17% of my weekly gross. On three recent occasions I have offered $70 per week until retirement, which equates to about $58,000…once again requiring minimal effort on their behalf. For the third time, today [Wednesday 8 May 2012] they have declined. I cannot afford to pay 33% extra ‘tax’ per week. Earlier I spoke to the CSA’s Matthew [surname withheld by Matthew] and explained that once again I will be handing in my notice and disappearing.

It has taken the CSA about four years to find me: $70 x 208 weeks equals another $14,560 that I would have contributed.

So, once more, they will collect a few hundred dollars in favor of nearly $60,000. Matthew’s only salient contribution to this conversation was “You know we still have the DPO?” That was when I told him to (expletive deleted – ed.) and hung up.

I’ve been at this current job for a year now; I like it and I’m good at it. I’m reliable and effective. It’s a relatively small business but I’m not the first employee they have lost due to the CSA.

Like many other errant fathers, it’s not that I don’t want to pay. I’d happily pay a sustainable amount, an amount that [other than the penalties] would easily service my debt. I work hard and I’m not working for (“virtually nothing” – ed.) just to appease the CSA.

Thank you for reading my story. If you can help change the unbridled, excessive, unquestionable power of the CSA, for me and thousands of other fathers, please do so.

 

Keith Bettison
Australia

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8 Comments

  1. Keith my dear friend,

    I feel your pain. I am that just like you had nearly 15 year of experience with this corrupt, unlawful, inhuman and debilitating system that at best treats fathers like walking wallets.

    At this time I am too tired to write my own story, as I have just had yet another bout with them, but I shall soon get well again, so please watch this space.

    In the meantime I must answer to the one him who calls himself chrisw.

    I have had a short dealing with a Chris at the CSA. Would that be you, I wonder, because your tone sounds so familiar. Oh well, never mind about you Chris.

    Next is Womp, to whom I would like to shortly say the following: if you thought that delivering accurate information to the CSA is treated adequately then take the following.

    I have recently had my Australian bank account emptied to the last cent, without even being aware that I have had any debt. The CSA had my exact address, but never wrote one letter. So why would they do this? Because at some stage a number of years ago, the CSA had made a decision that even if my official Tax Return showed a nil income, I was eligible to pay $200 per week! Why? Because I was not at on Centerlink’s Newstart !? And here goes the big surprise: I could NOT be on Newstart, because I am an Australian citizen living in France! I believe that I could not (legally) have received Centerlink payments.

    Little do the CSA care that I am today sustained by a social pension in France that is barely enough to pay me the rent and buy me food.

    Chris, Womp, and all you holly saints that dehumanise fathers. Please do not litter this area no more. Go leave your droppings elsewhere.

    As for me and my personal experiences dealing with everything that has to do with the Australian Family Law and above all with the so called Child Support Agency, all I can say is that they have at all times made me feel sick beyond any limit.

    Teodor
  2. Well how do you expect the CSA to be able to work out the correct amount to take from your wage unless you give them the correct information? What choice do CSA have but to guess or estimate your income if they have no other information from you, so in my view this debt was caused by yourself and no one else. If you had stayed at the job you enjoyed and just paid the 17% they required, then you wouldn’t be in this position, even better take responsibility for caring for the child for half the week, and you wouldn’t have to pay anything.

    chrisw
  3. Another side of another story

    Comment on: Open letter: errant father appeals for support


    You obviously either work for the child support agency or are one of those pathetic parents that have wrongfully gotten custody of a child, and more than likely live of the system.

    Let me tell you my story…

    My eldest son I returned home from a diving holiday in Vanuatu. On my return I discovered my house was emptied out (furniture, refrigerator, etc – almost everything), as was my bank account (containing a large sum of money). My youngest son (1 year old) had disappeared along with my wife.

    Later I found out out that my wife was having an affair with a gym instructor (from my gym). The wife then placed a restraining order on me, to stay clear of her and my son. Funny part was I appeared in court to contest the order: brought up the affair during the hearing. It was hilarious to see the look of embarrassment on her face, the smirk on the magistrate; the look of disgust on her boyfriend (I believe their relationship ended shortly after). Anyway I think that was the only thing that made me feel a little better about the whole situation.

    Thereafter, "of course" it went to court (property settlement), the wife absolutely lied her backside off. I therefore at the hearing lost 75% of the assets plus the money she had siphoned out of the account prior to departing, which in total equated to my losing 91% of all the assets. Little did I know, she had also been siphoning money out of the accounts for a period of two years prior to absconding. I found this out later when recovering all the bank statements, which I believe she was at the time hiding. I was extremely disappointed; angry at myself for not keeping an eye on this. However "she was my wife – I thought I could trust her". I can only recite something Forest Gump once said…Stupid Is As Stupid Does!!

    Anyway let’s get to the child support part. During the court proceedings no matter how cheated and ripped off I was feeling, I offered to pay the child support as part of the property settlement. She refused and pressed for completion of the property settlement. There you have it, I lost 91% plus the cash she had siphoned out of the accounts in accumulated savings during the two years.

    Straight after the settlement, lo and behold she was at the child support agency claiming – you guessed it – "child support". Now at this stage I still had my business: during the court proceedings, she changed her mind about making claim to the business, because she had also drawn funds from the company. This would have been accounted for, and deducted from her settlement payout.

    However child support, those self righteous bastards, decided that deducting money from my personal income was not enough, they wanted more… They decided that the turnover of my company would be equated into the child support payments (which is illegal, as a company is a separate entity; pays its own taxes, in my opinion).

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, they refused to take no for answer. Therefore, after losing my home and basically everything I had ever worked for, being constantly hounded by child support, and not being able to see my son since her holiness departed, I left that place I use to call home (Australia).

    Today I still have not seen my son. He is now 8 years old.

    The current Australian judicial and child support system only adds to ruining families and people’s lives.

    – Fair Go, Middle East

    fair go
  4. My sympathies are completely with you but honestly do you really think that what you are asking for here is right? Well I can’t say what this may lead to but in any case my best wishes to you for fighting this battle.

    Deanes
  5. Well said WOMP. To hell with the bastard and if it takes freedom-hating, Hairy Legged Lesbians, brandishing the myth of ‘deadbeat dads’ to do it, SO BE IT!

    No sympathy for someone who weakly feels unable to battle the system. How dare he cop out under tyrannical treatment from a godless parasite social feeder like the C$A! How dare he think that the gummt and erudite, eloquent social champions like you can’t just strip away his rights as a man and the father!

    Now that he’s left with only $100 bucks to live on he won’t dare question your majestic authority or the gummt’s inalienable right to crush anyone they choose again now will he?! It’s about time that champions of humanity and compassion like yourself unleash the full fury of the corporate gummt’s hell-fury on nonsense like parental alienation and the father’s executorial and unalienable authority. That’ll show him!!

    When will this country start to follow your example and start summary execution for any father whom dares question the might of the C$A, the wisely disguised “family” courts and the truly insightful like yourself. Maybe you’ll tell us yourself how you’re going to fix it personally? Let me guess… TAKE ALL HIS MONEY and let him think that it’s a privilege to live on our fair, justice-filled streets! Or BETTER YET! Put him in prison DEBTOR’S PRISON (!) and listen to him whine when he can’t get a job to pay for the mounting bill – helped of course by the fact that in your wisdom you fiddled it (no-one ever said it had to be based on genuine figures!).

    What can I say after such wisdom, WOMP? You de Man.

    Frieda Peoples
  6. So, you have evaded your obligations, quit paying jobs, several times gone into hiding, refused to give accurate information, refused to give any information. Essentially, abandoned your child until he is now an adult. And, we are supposed to feel sorry for you?

    Yeah, that won´t be happening.

    Womp
  7. My partner and I can empathise with your situation in dealing with Child Care related agencies. We are currently trying to fight the unfair, corrupt, biased foster care system. My partner has worked in Government areas for 20yrs but he says that he has NEVER come across such corrupt staff/agencies as is the Child Protection system. Good luck with your battle mate, don’t know when any of it will end for us.

    claudia

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