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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- Mr. Speaker,I am sorry that I cannot support all the sentiments that have been expressed at this stage of the bill. Only time will tell whether or not this is a good measure. I am still opposed to the obnoxious provisions against which I voted earlier.

I, too, commend the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) for bringing to the attention of this House the leading article in to-day's issue of the Sydney " Daily Telegraph ", which is quite in keeping with the low standard of journalism set by that newspaper. If ever there was evidence of the need for the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to maintain that provision of this measure which forbids the reporting of certain aspects of divorce proceedings, we have seen it in the leading article referred to by the honorable member for Lang.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I commend, naturally, the diligence, study and thought that the AttorneyGeneral and, possibly, the honorable mee. ber for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) have put into this bill. At the same time, I must say that I personally felt, on many occasions, that the Attorney-General was most unwise and unjust in implying that Opposition members, and some Government supporters, who opposed certain provisions of the bill did so purely on religious grounds. On many occasions, the Minister, who is a man of great legal eminence, dealt in a flippant manner with the objections of the honorable members concerned.

Mr Wight - That is not right.

Mr DALY - Those that will may speak for themselves. To me, the Minister's attitude was personally insulting, and I would not be a true Labour man if I were not prepared to say that his attitude detracted a lot from the credit due to him for his work on this measure. His reflections from time to time on the Churches of various denominations were commented upon by leading churchmen of most denominations, according to reports in to-day's issue of the Sydney " Daily Mirror ".

I think that these things should be said. A lot of the good things that the Minister has done have been mentioned, and it is as well to know that there is another side to the picture. I do not say these things with any intention of reflecting on him personally.

Mr Wight - Of course not.

Mr DALY - No. I think that a man of the legal eminence attained by the AttorneyGeneral could well have given at least a little credit to those who opposed the measure for their adherence to their personal opinions. As the honorable member for Lang has said, it is quite easy to sit with 80 or 90, but it needs a little more courage and conviction to sit with the minority.

Mr Wight - Why did not the honorable member sit with one side or the other more often?

Mr DALY - I am interested to hear the interjections from the opposite side of the chamber. They are the only audible comments that we have heard from their originators during the consideration of this momentous bill. They would do well to listen to what 1 am saying instead of trying to talk me down. That, I remind you, Sir, is not exactly an easy task.

I feel that I should say to the AttorneyGeneral the things that I have just said. Last night, 1 had occasion to clash with him because I thought his remarks were downright insulting and unjust to the honorable members at whom they were directed. When all is said and done, there is wide scope for differences of opinion in respect of the issues involved in this measure. We have seen that there are many conflicting opinions, and, where legal opinion is opposed to that of the layman, on many occasions the approach of the lawyer is to dismiss the layman as one who knows nothing of the law in the opinion that the lawyer's views should prevail. This sort of thing does not do the Attorney-General or any other lawyer credit. For my part, I consider that it was wrong of the Attorney-General to attribute f to honorable members who criticized provisions of this bill motives that were entirely false.

Let me say, also, that I have experienced for the first time in this Parliament the taking of what is known as a free vote. If what we have witnessed during the consideration of this bill is an indication of what a free vote really means, I hope that this will be the last occasion on which we shall ever see a free vote in this Parliament. The only party which really treated the matter as one for a free vote was the Australian Labour Party, and Labour members voted in that spirit. I exclude from that criticism a very few Government supporters. When the major vote was taken - that on the motion to refer the bill to a select committee - only one Government supporter crossed to this side of the chamber to support the proposal. T am a tolerant individual and attribute to others the most worthy motives and the best of intentions, but it seems to me well nigh impossible that 70 or 71 out of a group of about 75 members really thought exactly the same way about this measure. I point out that only a handful of members from that side of the chamber crossed to the other side in order to exercise their right to vote freely on the issue in committee. I know that many more members from the Government side of the chamber would have crossed to this side had they not been dragooned into voting against their wishes.

Mr Wight - No.

Mr DALY - If I were put on oath, I would name the individuals who were approached. I know that members on both the Opposition side and the Government side of the chamber were approached in an endeavour to get them to vote in a certain way. I can name them, and I should do so if I were required to do it before any inquiry appointed to consider this matter. I know full well the attempts that were made to get some Government supporters to vote in a certain way on this issue regardless of their personal views although a free vote was allegedly to be allowed. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated in this chamber the other night, clearly and distinctly, that Government supporters were expected to stand behind the Attorney-General and build up his prestige by supporting this measure regardless of their own personal opinions. I say to the House frankly that I should be prepared to go on oath and name the members who were dragooned into voting against their convictions in what was supposed to be a free vote.

If what we have seen during the consideration of this bill amounts to free voting, I hope that never again in this Parliament shall we see what is called " a free vote", and that we all shall stand or fall as party men on any issue, because only if we do that shall we see a clear statement of a party's attitude. That would be preferable to the sort of dragooning that has occurred during the consideration of this measure. I know that these things are not palatable to the Government, whose supporters know that I am speaking the truth on this great issue.

Mr McMahon - The honorable member knows that he is not.

Mr DALY - I am speaking the truth on this great issue. I am not concerned about the flippant interjections of those opposite who have taken very little, if any, part in this debate. But I cannot let the great commendation of this measure pass without making these comments. I am not unmindful of the fact that this so-called perfect bill was accepted by some members of this Parliament as a perfect bill before the Attorney-General foreshadowed 56 amendments to it. Yet their opinion did not change when the 56 amendments were brought forward so, on that basis, they were not very good judges in the first place.

First, I commend the honorable member for Lang for criticizing the editorial in the " Daily Telegraph " which was designed to promote in the community feelings which are undesirable in any country. Secondly, I give the Attorney-General little credit for the slurs and insinuations that he made concerning certain members who exercised what was supposed to be a free vote.

Mr Chresby - What are you doing?

Mr DALY - I am answering the criticism. There was supposed to be a free vote; yet certain responsible members of the Parliament sought to dragoon certain other members into voting against their convictions in order that the bill could go through with a minimum of delay. If that is the basis upon which legislation is to be put through this Parliament when a free vote is allowed, I hope that never again will we see what is known as " a free vote " in this place. Members will be called upon to line up before a vote is taken in this chamber and people throughout the country will know that the voting here is in accordance with the majority decision of their party.

I hope that the bill will prove successful because it means much to many people in this country. It will mean happiness or unhappiness as the case may be. I hope that it will work effectively and well, but in conclusion let me place on record again that I am opposed to the obnoxious provision of the bill against which I voted.

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