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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Dr EVATT (Hunter) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I think that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is pressing this point beyond any possibility of danger. The situation dealt with in the proposed amendment concerns an attempt to effect a reconciliation between the parties. That is correct, is it not?

Sir Garfield Barwick - Yes.

Dr EVATT - There is a fairly close analogy to that in the practice of the courts where parties are endeavouring to effect a settlement or reconciliation. Usually, such an attempt is made with legal advisers, but sometimes it is not. Practically as a rule, the occasion is regarded as privileged because evidence as to the negotiations to effect a reconciliation is not admitted by the court. People are thus encouraged to speak frankly. I cannot imagine a minister of religion in that situation subsequently revealing information of an apparently detrimental character which he heard in the course of the attempt to come to an agreement. I think it is quite beyond all probability to try to legislate for cases of that kind.

The whole trend in the courts, to-day, with regard to conversations of a confidential character - speaking in the popular sense - is to exclude evidence of such conversations. The medical man has not that privilege, but there are circumstances in which the privilege might be given to him. I do not think that a special provision is required to exclude from evidence discussion of a confidential nature. In other words, it is not necessary to try to escape something which, by hypothesis, is really impossible.

Mr Killen - Could circumstances come about in which one party would virtually demand it?

Dr EVATT - One could perhaps imagine an extreme case, but I think it is beyond all practical experience that that kind of case would occur. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said, it would be the duty of a priest of the Catholic Church never to disclose information. I think that the tendency is for the courts to extend this situation to whatever ordinary human nature would regard as confidential. I suggest to the honorable member for Moreton that he should not press his point at this stage. It is a precaution which I think is really unnecessary. I do not think the situation would arise in which the prejudice which the honorable member, quite rightly, is trying to prevent, would occur.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Clause 18 - (1.) Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, a marriage that takes place after the commencement of this Act is void where -

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