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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) .- First, I should like to thank the Attorney-General for what he said to me this morning as we left the chamber for lunch. Some of us were rubbing the sleep out of our eyes this morning, and inclined to be a bit short. If my reply to the Attorney-General's remark sounded at all in conformity with the tired mood of most of us, I apologize if he took it in the wrong way. I certainly do not think that the Attorney-General actually meant his remark about the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) early this morning to be taken to mean what some of us may have taken it to mean. All of us would like to see this debate brought back to the same level that it was on last night. Not for a very long time in this chamber have I heard a better debate than last night's. Incidentally, I can assure the Attorney-General and everybody else that in speaking on this amendment, honorable members are not trying to delay the passage of the bill or defeat the forms of the House.

As I understand the position, in some instances clause 27 (m) could easily lead to what could be referred to under the broad term of " divorce by consent " after five years' separation of a married couple. I do not know whether divorce by consent is the right term, but honorable members will understand what I mean. On the other hand, as the honorable member for Mackellar has pointed out, there is a big principle involved which, although it may not apply very often, we feel contains an -implication which should be guarded against. I refer to divorce by compulsion; in other words, if two people who cannot get on, separate, under 27 (m) the party who left the marital home could sue for a divorce. This could be divorce by compulsion, the innocent party being forced into court and, under the paragraph as it stands, "be divorced against his or her wishes. "Whether or not what the honorable member for Mackellar has drafted is correct I do not know, but I understand that it is to protect against the occurrence of such cases that he has moved the amendment. I think that irrespective of what people feel - and they are quite entitled to their own opinions - the amendment is backed by the opinion of 15 of the members of the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce in the United Kingdom. I do not know whether the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) wishes to take any notice of that. He is just as capable, perhaps more capable than I am, of forming an opinion; but I certainly feel that the subject is controversial, difficult and involved, and we should take very great care when we are introducing a new principle into divorce law.

The United Kingdom Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce was a very competent body which represented a large cross-section of some of the most intelligent people in England, and its recommendations showed that it came to the same decision as is involved in the amendment. So I ask the honorable members not to feel that I and other honorable members are hammering at this point - as some people seem to think - just to keep the debate going. A very big principle is involved and, that being so, I propose to support the honorable member for Mackellar in spite of what the Attorney-General thinks about the amendment.

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