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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), for the reasons set out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I believe the reduction of the desertion period from three years to two is another step in making divorce easier, which is something to which I am personally opposed. I cannot understand why the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has set aside the law that operates in every State except Tasmania. In addition to the fact that the three-years' period has worked satisfactorily in all the other States, we have also the opinion of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce to the effect that the period should not be less than three years. If anything justifies my suggestion that a royal commission should be held before passing this legislation, it is the discussion that has taken place on this paragraph. In Great Britain, a royal commission inquired extensively into all aspects of divorce and particularly into the ground contained in paragraph (b) which we are now discussing. After a full consideration, it recommended that the period should be three years. Yet here to-day, despite the fact that a period of three years is provided in each State, except the smallest State, we find that the Government is acting arbitrarily to force through a provision to reduce it to two years.

I received from the Church of England Archbishop of Sydney a few days ago some correspondence on this legislation. Included in it was a statement on the proposed changes in the divorce laws, dated June, 1959. It contained the following passage: -

The Bishops of Australia who met at Brisbane recently have issued the following statement concerning the proposed Matrimonial Causes Bill which is to be brought before the Federal Parliament at its next session.

Whereas the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Australia have not yet had sufficient time to consider the Matrimonial Causes Bill in toto they are prepared to make the following considered comments.

Statements on various aspects of the bill then follow, and, referring to the ground with which we are now dealing, it said -

The Bishops deplore every provision which would make divorce easier than it is at present, and they draw attention to the danger of the following clauses: -

Then are listed a number of clauses, and amongst them is clause 27 (b), which permits divorce after desertion for a period of only two years. The statement concluded -

These, and other provisions, in the proposed bill are to receive careful study both by the Bishops and by church lawyers.

There the Anglican Bishops of Australia place on record their views on this clause which reduces the period from three years to two years and say that they regard it as a contributing factor to easier divorce. When all is said and done, with marriage as with every other vocation there is a period of trial and tribulation for each partner. If divorce is made easier in this way, the number of divorces will increase. If we contribute to this result by reducing the period for desertion, as this clause proposes to do, we will be acting against the good name of Parliament and of democracy generally. The clause we are discussing is a further illustration of the fallacy of rushing this bill through simply because the Parliament is to be dissolved so that the new Governor-General may open the Parliament next year. This bill has farreaching implications. Many aspects of it are most contentious and require full discussion.

I regret that the Attorney-General has seen fit to go outside the law existing in each State, except one, and in Great Britain and other countries, except those where divorce is exceedingly easy. I hope, therefore, that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton is carried. Far be it from me to support, with any measure of goodwill, anything that he may put forward in this Parliament, but for once I am glad to commend him for the amendment. He has moved something worth while supporting, and I hope that he continues along that road. As an expression of my earnest goodwill and in the hope that he will continue to show earnest goodwill, I intend to support the amendment so that it may prevent this divorce legislation from incorporating a provision which will make divorce easier for those who might seek to sidestep their marriage obligations.

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