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Thursday, 19 November 1959


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) .- Mr. Chairman,I have spoken on several clauses of this bill, but I did not speak on paragraph (m) of this clause last night, because I knew that a lot of other honorable members wanted to discuss it. I felt that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in particular, as well as several other honorable members, had probably expressed my point of view better than 1 could have expressed it myself. I make no apology for speaking on any of the remaining clauses in this bill if I feel that we are not doing the right thing or that amendments should be made.


Mr Duthie - Nobody is stopping the honorable member from doing that.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - I do not care what criticism is aimed at me. I am prepared to come here at 12.30 p.m., after having sat up until 3 a.m., in order to put forward points of view that I consider to be right.


Mr Duthie - No one is stopping you.


Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - No.

But criticism has been levelled at the honorable member for Mackellar for putting forward this amendment. He has proposed this amendment because, as was pointed out very clearly last night, clause 27 (m) is a new, if not a novel provision in our law, and with all the precautions which the Attorney-General, wisely, and after a great deal of thought put into this bill - that is, after clause 27 (m) was first drafted - - he found that a lot of injustices could occur, and he has tried to hedge the provision around with as many safeguards as possible. It is still admitted that we are reversing what has been enshrined in our law for a long time, and that, as a result, an innocent person might be dealt with unjustly.

As the honorable member for Hume said, the principle observed in the past has been that it is better for several criminals to escape rather than that injustice should be done to one innocent person. It has been admitted that, under this bill, injustice could still occur. The honorable member for Mackellar is not trying to wipe out everything that was put into the bill last night. I understand that he is trying to have inserted an amendment which will prevent injustice from occurring if the innocent person does not desire a divorce. I think that is perfectly reasonable. It is a major point. For that reason I support the proposed amendment and I shall support the subsequent amendment if we fail on the first one.

I have been many long years in Parliament. It is true that this bill of 116 clauses was introduced at a late stage of the session, and that it was debated until 3 o'clock this morning. But I have debated bills through three continuous all-night sittings.

I protested at the start of the debate about the time available for discussion. I do not propose to go on protesting because although the Attorney-General originally declared that he did not expect to get the bill through the Parliament this session, apparently it is now vital that it should go through. But please allow honorable members the right, on a bill such as this, to say what they believe and to move the amendments that they think should be moved.

I think that the honorable member for Mackellar is absolutely right in his proposed amendment. Maybe it does not cover the subject fully. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that he voted according to his conscience. So do other people. But in a matter as complicated as this, neither the lawyers nor the bishops are necessarily right and when an independent royal commission has come down so solidly in favour of a certain point I, for one, believe that we should take proper notice of its view. Some honorable members maybe feel so confident on the question already that they do not consider it necessary to consult other people's opinions. I am not criticizing them for that. But I say that in clause 27 (m) something new is established and if the honorable member for Mackellar or anybody else proposes an amendment to ensure that no innocent person shall be put in a false position, I shall support it.







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