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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- We have heard some gratuitous theology and theories of the Church in connexion with this matter. One does not need to subscribe to the view that one's church is entirely under one's hat, and confined by the boundaries of one's own hat-band, to realize that one cannot legally require of people who have spouses confined in mental institutions the heroic virtue that many such people do display by repeatedly visiting and standing by, for many years, those unfortunate persons afflicted with mental illness.

That is not, however, the particular aspect that interests me at the moment. The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said earlier that there were court conventions governing the interpretation of " unsound mind ". I am not going to vote against this clause, but there is this particular aspect that concerns me. If a person is completely and totally insane, he would not know what his partner in marriage was doing outside. He would not know whether he was being divorced or not, and so would not be affected. But there are many cases of unsoundness of mind in which a person is not completely unaware of things that happen externally. I am thinking now of a particular case in which a spouse, in this case the husband, displayed the heroic virtue I mentioned previously by continuing to visit his wife in a Western Australian lunatic asylum, and of how much his visits every week-end meant to her. In other words, she could still comprehend that he was her husband, and she could still appreciate the fact that he cared for her.

I am concerned about such cases, in which the afflicted persons are battling for recovery, suffering from an unsoundness of mind although still appreciating what is going on. Their chances of recovery could be seriously affected if they were divorced. I do not say that the Minister can do anything about this, but I think we ought to remember it, and not regard this provision as a facile solution of what is a very difficult problem. The Minister says he is conversant with the convention regarding unsoundness of mind because the courts are constantly following it. Those of us who are not constantly associated with courts are still a little mystified.

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