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Thursday, 3 December 1959

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) .- The members of the Senate deserve the gratitude of this House for their critical examination of the bill and of the clause we are now considering. They debated the bill generally, and this clause specifically at very great length. I want to say, however, that the amendment proposed does not make a good bill out of a bad bill. The bill remains fundamentally a bad bill.

I support the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in respect of this clause. I think it would be wise to accept the decision of the Senate which, acting as a house of review - protecting State interests in some respects, and perhaps neglecting them in other respects - considered this matter carefully. I think that the exclusion from the bill of the provision that recurrent attacks of insanity and epilepsy shall be grounds for nullity has much to commend it. I think that there should be a responsibility on those who are about to enter the state of matrimony, to realize that matrimony is a serious business, and, for Christian people, generally a lifetime arrangement. It is a question of people trying to make the best of the arrangement.

One would think that couples contemplating matrimony would certainly give consideration to the health of the opposite party before agreeing to an engagement or entering the state of matrimony. There is an old saying, " Marry in haste and repent at leisure ". It is, of course, very true, and this amendment attempts to impress it firmly on the minds of those about to marry. It says that if a person is prepared to enter into a union with some one who has recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy, he is taking on a contract that cannot be dissolved at a minute's notice. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has dealt with the matter of epilepsy, and has pointed out, quite rightly, that with new medical techniques epilepsy can be treated to-day, and therefore should not receive serious consideration in this legislation as a ground for divorce.

I regret, however, that the AttorneyGeneral has not accepted the amendment of the Senate in a more gracious manner. He has made the suggestion that perhaps he will review this matter in the New Year, and that amending legislation may be introduced. Let me say that if the Minister does introduce amending legislation, then perhaps a large number of the members of this Parliament will be pleased to take the opportunity to discuss the various features of the matrimonial causes legislation. While the Attorney-General may seek an amendment with respect to this matter, other honorable members in this place will be glad to consider other aspects of the legislation, and to try to amend it to bring it nearer to the heart's desire of a considerable number of people outside the Parliament, and to bring it into harmony with the viewpoints of those people, who would very much have liked to express their opinions on many features of the legislation. I can only hope that on this occasion what the Senate has done will be accepted graciously by the AttorneyGeneral and the Government, and that the Senate will be paid the respect to which it is entitled as a house of review.

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