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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I think that these clauses constitute some of the most important in the bill. Part II. of the bill is generally acceptable; but there is a feeling that the Minister, having encouraged high hopes of generous Commonwealth assistance to marriage guidance councils, has now decided to limit to some extent what he proposed to do.

Sir Garfield Barwick - That is not correct. You were not here when I made my explanation.

Mr CALWELL - I accept what the Minister says, but I think that he should specifically answer the contention regarding the substitution of the words " the major " for the words " a substantial " in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.). If the amendment is accepted sub-clause (2.) will read -

The Attorney-General may approve any such organization as a marriage guidance organization where he is satisfied that -

(b)   marriage guidance constitutes or will constitute the whole or the major part of its activities.

The representatives of four organizations in Melbourne, speaking for their family welfare services, claim that the high hopes held out are not likely to be realized. They claim that the substitution of the words " the major " for the words " a substantial " in that paragraph will serve to exclude from Commonwealth recognition organizations a substantial amount of whose activities are concerned with marriage guidance, but which provide other services constituting half, or more than half, of the total amount of work that they do. Admittedly, the Minister made a statement in reply to that, but I should like to put the names of those people on the record. The representatives, and the organizations that they represent, whom I have mentioned, are: David Scott, Director of Social Services, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, 67 Brunswick-street, Fitzroy; Reverend Father E. G. Perkins, Director, Catholic Family Welfare Bureau, 406 Albert-street, East Melbourne; Leonard J. Tierney, Director of Social Work and Research, Citizens' Welfare Service, 62 Victoriaparade, East Melbourne; and Mrs. J. Borthwick, Director, Red Cross Welfare Service, 114 Flinders-street, Melbourne. Three of the signatories to the written criticism of the marriage guidance provisions of the bill have their offices in the electorate of Melbourne, which I have the honour to represent here.

I should like to direct the attention of the Minister, if he has not already seen it. but he probably has, to an analysis of the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959 by the National Catholic Welfare Committee. That committee also made an analysis of the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1957, which was introduced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). It may help this committee of the House, and it may help persons who are not members of Parliament, to know that this committee said in its analysis -

The decision of the Government to support financially those organizations whose fundamental aim is " to maintain marriage and to protect the family " will be regarded generally as a major move in the right direction. However, while the provisions in the bill are in no way restrictive, the Minister indicated that it was the intention of the Government to limit its financial help to assistance with the costs of training and administration. This follows the English pattern, but, unless there is greater flexibility here, it is likely that the help given will be insufficient to expand the existing over-taxed services to meet the ever-increasing need and desire for guidance in marriage problems not only in the capital cities but also in provincial areas.

My fear is that the Minister, who proposes to act very cautiously in this regard, may be missing some opportunities to repair some marriages which at the present time are threatened with breaking down. If the Minister does not mind my saying so, I think he should be more precise as to his intentions. He should make up his mind now as to how far he will go, and not leave it to time and circumstances to decide just how far the Government can help, because I regard this as a very vital part of the bill, since I am entirely in support of what the Minister proposed to do. Indeed the very title of the bill - the Matrimonial Causes Bill - shows that the main purpose the Minister had in mind was to prevent a breakdown in marriages, and I feel that training ought to proceed immediately. While we are waiting for people to be trained we should make full use of all available agencies, and even if in some cases mistakes will be made we cannot wait for perfection, and it is better to try something, and fail, than to attempt nothing at all. I am not so sure that because of their devotion to the work and to the cause of preserving marriages voluntary workers will not in many ways be much more suitable than people who will accept the work as an occupation or calling. I am glad that the Minister agrees with me in that regard, since he is nodding his head. I shall quote further from this report, Sir. The National Catholic Welfare Committee said further in its analysis -

The Minister considered that "the work will best be done by those who, as well as being trained, have a sense of vocation and who, to a large extent, volunteer their good offices in this very skilful and sympathetic task".

I hope that that sentiment will be accepted by everybody. The committee went on further to say -

In this, as in other fields of social welfare, there is need for both the volunteer, part-time person and the professional full-time worker. Both require training, but not necessarily at the same level.

I ask the Minister to engage the services of those people, full-time and part-time, and whether a person be a volunteer or a parttime worker, or a professional and fulltime worker.

I do not want to refer to the number of divorces that have occurred, and the number that might have been prevented had this particular organization been in existence over the years. This portion of the bill makes the bill even more acceptable than the previous bill which it supersedes.

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