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Wednesday, 18 November 1959


Mr STEWART (Lang) .- Whilst I appreciate that the grounds set out here are also covered in clauses 45 and 46, this is one clause of the bill by which, we are entitled to claim, we are making divorce available to people who, at the time of their marriage, possibly had some idea that these disabilities were in existence.


Sir Garfield Barwick - No, that is the point. They must not have known of them at the time of the marriage.


Mr STEWART - I fail to see how anybody could marry a person of unsound mind and at the time of marriage not realize that the other party to the marriage was of unsound mind, unless that person was of unsound mind himself or herself. I also feel that this provision rather throws the field open. If I marry some one of unsound mind knowing full well that she is of unsound mind it would be relatively easy for me, once I decide to get rid of her, to deny in court that I knew at the time of marriage that that condition existed. In any case, what is the purpose of getting married? To procreate the race, or because one person is attracted by another person?


Mr Duthie - To reduce your income tax.


Mr STEWART - That is hardly worth while bothering about under the present Government, which allows a man a deduction of only £143 for his wife. If I am of sound mind and contract a marriage with a person of unsound mind surely there must be some attraction to the partner in the first place, whether it be sexual, physical or intellectual. Then, if I get tired of that woman, under this proposal I can claim she is mentally defective or of unsound mind. If that can be proved I am entitled to a divorce. Surely if we enter into a marriage and are of sound mind at the time of entering into it, we must beprepared to accept the responsibilities we have taken unto ourselves instead of being able to walk out of the marriage virtually when it suits us.


Sir Garfield Barwick - No, no. If the honorable member reads clause 46 he will see that it covers that position completely.


Mr STEWART - I quite appreciate that clause 46 provides that the petitioner must satisfy the court that at the time of the marriage he or she was ignorant of the fact constituting the ground, that the petition was filed not later than twelve months after the date of the marriage, and that marital intercourse has not taken place with the consent of the petitioner since he or she discovered the existence of the facts. Let me put it this way: If I am the sort of person who intends to get rid of my wife, even though I knew at the time I married her that she was of unsound mind, there is not one thing in heaven or earth that will prevent me from swearing in court that I have meta11 the provisions of clause 46. For the life of me I cannot see how any person could be stupid enough to contract a marriage with a person falling within two or three of the categories mentioned in the clause without being aware at the time of the marriage that that was the case.







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