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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1961

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Minister for Trade)(6.35) —Mr Deputy Speaker--

Mr Cadman —I wonder whether the Minister is seeking to close the debate on this clause?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Les Johnson) —Not necessarily.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I do not want to close the debate although I was a bit anxious to complete the debate this evening. I appreciate what the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) and the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) have said. I will just look at the drafting and at the Family Law Amendment Bill. Section 15 of the Act now provides for parties to seek counselling. I do not know what the objection is once that is the position. The honourable member for Mitchell has moved proposed new section 15A which states:

A party to a marriage who is living separately . . .

They do not have to be separated under section 15 to get counselling. That is the first thing. They can seek it now. The honourable member says that once they are separated they may or they may not get counselling. In sub-clause (2) the honourable member has put another proviso to which there is no objection, but it only applies where there are dependent children. So all the other matters do not relate to sub-clause (1). They relate only to sub-clause (2). In the terms of the overriding position of dependent children, honourable members will find in all matters relating to dissolution of marriage, the Court has to be satisfied as to what arrangements are being made about the children. This follows. Once there are children arrangements have to be made by the Court. The judge takes a keen interest in the welfare of the children. He sees to all the other provisions, including the wishes of the child. I do not see where there is any gap in what the honourable member is intending to do.

The matter that I will advert to now-but it is not really directly in front of us-is the amendment the honourable member proposes to move later to clause 21, that says that such a notice of separation has been filed. Perhaps it could be filed at any time. We then put an additional barrier on that proviso that not until 12 months after the lapsing of the filing of notice can the dissolution take place. We get a situation where the parties have been separated say for 11 months-as advocated by the honourable member-and can file a notice which would effectively create a barrier of two years.

Mr Cadman —No.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I do not mind if the honourable member disagrees. I think this is the interpretation. I cannot advert to it because it is an amendment to clause 21. It makes a special provision for a party where a notice has been filed and that is that a period of not less than 12 months has elapsed since the filing of the notice. We will not argue too much about it. What I am trying to say to the honourable member is that under the existing provisions, under section 15, a party can seek counselling. It is there. I do not see the difference. I do not see why there is so much unnecessary objection to the provision. The idea is that everybody should seek counselling if the parties want it. That is intelligent. It does not always achieve success because the parties are the prime movers in the operation. If they do not achieve success they will not abide by any decisions. The issue is with the court. We are talking about dependent children. The real issue is that the judge has to be satisfied about the children. The question of custody, maintenance and all these matters are germane to the actual dissolution. This cannot in any way be avoided by what the honourable member thinks is a gap in the legislation.