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Wednesday, 18 November 1959


Mr CLEAVER (Swan) .- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has laid down quite a vital challenge to other members of the committee on this provision. Like the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) I feel that the comments made by the honorable member for Macquarie call for a reply. I am quite sure that in what he said the honorable member for Macquarie has indicated more clearly to me than he has done even in his other contributions to the debate on this bill how mixed up he is in his outlook. He spoke on this particular provision as though everybody unfortunate enough to have a spouse who had been kept in an asylum for five years or longer was being compelled to sue for a divorce. I entirely disagree with him on that, and I am sure that many other honorable members do.

I want to say that the honorable member for Macquarie is not the only one who admires the splendid example of love which has lasted over a long term of years, displayed by a partner whose spouse has been ill, either mentally ill or otherwise. Any one with any quality of humanity will admire love of that kind. But we are not compelling people to divorce their partners because of their incarceration in mental institutions for a long period. I feel that I should ask the honorable member for

Macquarie whether he has ever had to bear the heavy burden of visiting a relative or a friend who has been in a mental institution for a long term. I say to him: Have you, my good friend, gone year after year to visit such a person? Have you observed the strain that is laid upon a husband or wife who has had to spend years in continual visiting of that kind?

What we are doing here is the very humane thing that the honorable member for Macquarie has been trying to stress. We are telling a husband or wife whose spouse, after perhaps a happy marriage, has been in such an institution for five years, and after a doctor has certified that the spouse is incurable even by modern medical science, that he or she may divorce that spouse. But we are only permitting that to happen after five years of the incarceration of the spouse in a mental institution, when the partner outside has been left perhaps with children to care for, and has come to realize that the spouse in the institution might indeed as well be dead. We are saying to a person in those circumstances, " If you want to seek a divorce, here is a ground to make it possible ".


Mr Mackinnon - And they do not have to seek a divorce.


Mr CLEAVER - Exactly! There is no suggestion here that they are to be compelled. There is no sort of compulsion in the provision. In fact, that applies to all the grounds provided for in the bill. They will be there to be used according to circumstances when people so desire. We will still admire the husband or wife who does not want to take advantage of this provision. But if a husband or wife does desire a divorce under the circumstances covered by this paragraph, here is the humane provision, in this enlightened uniform matrimonial causes bill - which we hope will become law - which will be available to such a person. Having said that, primarily for the benefit of the honorable member for Macquarie, I think I have made it quite clear why I will be voting for the clause as it stands.







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