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Wednesday, 18 November 1959


Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) (2:29 AM) . I most vigorously oppose the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). This is one of 56 amendments and is intended to correct the ill-considered proposals presented to the Parliament by the Attorney-General. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), who has just resumed his seat, said that if marriages are hopelessly broken, they should be terminated. But who is to determine when marriage has broken down? The matter is to be left to the court. We all know that in these situations invariably there is an innocent party, although sometimes both parties are responsible for the situation. The proposal of the Attorney- General provides, among other things, for divorce where the parties to the marriage "have lived apart continuously for a period of not less than five years and where there is no reasonable likelihood of cohabitation being resumed. Only one person can create that situation. One person only can make that situation possible and therefore in such a situation there will always be an innocent party.

Let us think of the type of innocent person involved. I visualize a mother. I have noticed a reluctance on the part of those who support the Attorney-General to face up to the responsibility of the damage to the children of a union of this kind where the mother is trying to care for her children and maintain an air of respectability in a suburb or country town. She wants to maintain her married state. She wants her children to have a father. She wants to feel that she belongs in every way to society. She also has an intense longing in Tier heart and a hope that eventually she will be united with her husband. That being so, I think it would be manifestly unjust and an intolerable situation if that woman could be divorced while she still yearns for the day when she may be united with her husband from whom she has become separated.

There is another important aspect which I suggest should not be dismissed lightly and that is the religion of the woman. On religious grounds she may not want to be divorced. Because of her teaching - what she learnt at school or at her mother's knee - she may feel that divorce is wrong and that she should preserve the union at all costs. Is it right that the law of the land should be invoked to divorce her? The Attorney-General said that the law would come down on the side of the public good, lt is true that he has introduced certain amendments with respect to financial settlements. He has made arrangements so that in the event of a woman making a contribution to her husband's fortune and later becoming separated and divorced from him, some financial adjustments will be made. While that is commendable and most desirable, there is something perhaps even more valuable - the fact that that woman treasures beyond anything else her married state and the fact that she is the mother of children.

I join with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in voicing a vigorous protest against the manner in which this paragraph has been brought to the Parliament. At 1.30 o'clock this morning the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), after making a useful contribution to the debate - one that was helpful to the AttorneyGeneral - suggested that honorable members, after a hard day, were fatigued. He said that in order to enable honorable members to give fair and reasonable consideration to legislation, it was a fit and proper time to report progress. The AttorneyGeneral refused to accept that suggestion. I now put it to the honorable gentleman, in the presence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that now is a time when this debate should be interrupted and progress be reported so that those honorable members who desire to speak to-morrow will have an opportunity to do so.

Before I rose to speak this morning quite a number of other honorable members were seeking to express their views on this paragraph. Because of the lateness of the hour it was not my desire to rise, but I felt compelled, because of my deep feeling on this matter, to express myself. This matter has not only agitated a few honorable members and caused them to apply themselves with unusual diligence to the consideration of it but has also aroused the feelings of great numbers of people in our community. Who are we to brush aside and disregard the points of view of the bishops of the Church of England? Who are we to disregard the viewpoint of the Catholic Church or the opinions expressed by such people as the Reverend Gordon Powell and the Reverend Alan Walker? Are we in this rarified atmosphere of Canberra unaware of the feeling of the masses? Surely these are important things.

Look at the amendments that have been introduced during this debate. I feel that all we are doing is providing a lawyer's honeymoon. The honorable member for Wentworth directed attention-


Mr Bury - I did not. I kept quiet.


Mr LUCHETTI - The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) rightly directed attention to the fact that Parliament was vacating this field and was handing it over to the courts. There has been in this Parliament what to me is an extraordinary condition of mind where honorable members feel that they can produce some half-baked piece of legislation, important as this one is, and leave it to a judge and a court to determine, trusting implicitly and confidently in the wisdom of the judge to interpret opinions that have not been clearly expressed in this place. That is not good enough for me. I believe we have a responsibility to write the law. We must see that the law is sound. If this Parliament for the first time in its history is to write a divorce law for the whole of the people of Australia, that should not be done in a fashion such as this.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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