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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - We have been taking it for granted that Western Australia is the only place where a guilty party can obtain a divorce on the ground of separation. As I stated when dealing with another clause, legislation was brought down in South Australia to provide as a ground for divorce separation of five years under a court order. When that legislation was debated the objection was raised that the person who was the guilty party when the court order was obtained would be able to get a divorce. Despite all that, the legislation was passed and is in force at the present time. That is why I regard this paragraph, from the point of view of South Australia, as probably the most desirable part of the bill. As I said earlier to-day, if this ground is taken out of the bill, so far as we in South Australia are concerned, this Parliament will cut the throat of the bill. In that event, the bill will not be worth anything to us because it will not have in it one of the main grounds for divorce that we in South Australia have put into our matrimonial legislation.

When we were discussing the previous bill that was broughtin by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), I think honorable members will recollect my saying at the time that if the ground of separation was cut out of the bill I would not be prepared to accept the bill. I hope that this ground will be retained. Another honorable member referred recently to the decent people in the community who are incompatible but are not prepared to go to the court to obtain a separation order. Again, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) stated just now, honorable members have to realize that it is not only the man who commits adultery, or who knocks his wife about who makes her 'life a misery. Right throughout the communitythere are decent people - both husbands and wives - who just cannot get on together. They cannot live together.

In reference to the statement that has been made that there is no call for a provision such as this,I should like to read a letter which I received from the League of Women Voters of South Australia. It was addressed to me, and I presume the same letter was sent to other honorable members. It is only a short letter and reads -

We have studied the script of the proposed Uniform Divorce Bill, and consider it an excellent piece of legislation.

As you know, we have always advocated a uniform divorce law for Australia, and we trust that you will give this measure your full support.

I have had letters from other women's organizations. They are not the ordinary women's political organizations, but other organizations which wrote in a similar manner asking that I support this legislation.

I also received a letter to-day from a man in New South Wales. He is a very earnest man and he makes no bones about my making public what he has told me. He writes -

I would appreciate your action if you would acquaint other honorable members of my particular case.

The letter isdated 12th November; that is last Thursday. I am not going to read the letter right through. He looks upon his case as one of the worst cases that could be found. He says -

I am sorry to say I have not lived with my wife (or even seen her) since 1943 (16 years). She lives with her daughter (now married). It was a mother and daughter complex that eventually split my home asunder irrespective of untold acts which caused dissension in the home over the years despite all my efforts to combat same to keep the home intact.

He goes on -

I am a T.P.I. soldier of World War I, aged 64, married 1923 (1 daughter and 2 sons) all married. Incidentally my wife's actions have also brought about a position whereby the two sons are also estranged from their mother result of her own actions.

There is only one ray of hope for my future happiness and the attention necessary for health reasons, especially as the years progress, and that is that the clause inthe bill (5 year period, etc.) is not deleted.If it is deleted from the bill, I will be doomed for the rest of my days which would be most unjust in my case. If there had been sincerityof purpose bymy spouse, the present position would not exist to-day. ; if I had been the guilty person I would in that case deserve the consequences, but such is not the case. I was denied peace and happiness in my home.

Sir, itis incredible that a man who loved his home (andwho worked hard over many years to obtain) finds himself in the position (brought about by his wife's actions) where he has to eke out the rest of his days in the position prevailing to-day, and is unable to re-adjust his position, while his wife lives with her married daughter (in comparative luxury compared to mine).

Here is an actual case of a man who is prepared to go before a tribunal and state that what he has said in that letter is correct. He says in effect that if this bill is not passed he will have no hope. There is more interesting matter in the letter that I do not desire to read. The letter does show that there are people in every State who are in need of a provision such as this. I repeat that this ground is most necessary, because in my own State in particular many cases similar to the one I have mentioned have come to my notice during the last 20 or 25 years.

Every now and then cases are brought to my attention of persons similarly situated to the person who wrote the letter I have just read. I have in mind a man who was a great worker for the Central Methodist Mission inAdelaide. He was living apart from his wife. They had reached the stage at which they could not get along together. They wereutterly incompatible. They had partedcompany, but he was providing money and keeping her. He was prepared to continue to do so, but, he said, " We will never come together again. We have had twelve or fifteen years apart, and I am prepared to continue to contribute to her support." This is in keeping with the AttorneyGeneral's suggestion that proper provision should be made in such cases. This man said to me, "As I am getting older I do not wish to continue to live alone, but I am not prepared to live with another woman unless I can marry' her."

We have heard the suggestion that people should not be allowed to obtain divorces except on grounds of matrimonial offences. Many of us have been brought up to believe that marriages should be carried on, almost at any cost. But there are many other persons who do not have such beliefs, and when we find a couple who cannot possibly get along together, what are we going to say to them? The Attorney-General referred to-night to the letter circulated by the Anglican bishops. When I read that letter my reaction to it was this -

THE CHAIRMAN- Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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