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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- This is plainly a matter of opinion, on which one will come down flatly on one side or the other. I do not suppose that the arguments expressed by the protagonists on one side will greatly influence the protagonists on the other side, but I want to say that I am very warmly in favour of the proposal contained in the clause for the minimum permissible age to be eighteen for males and sixteen for females. My friend from Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has referred us to the Status of Women Commission and the inquiries that that body has made. I should like to put to him that surely in this matter our first responsibility is to determine what we in this country think is best for this country. If we are to base our judgment in relation to domestic matters on what is the consensus of opinion throughout the world, where would we end up?

Mr Haylen - Excuse me, but the Commission on the Status of Women took a consensus, including the Australian age from our laws - which was sixteen years of age - and reached an average, which is fifteen years of age.

Mr KILLEN - I am conscious of that, but there may be other proposals which some other world organization might consider and make a judgment upon. Surely, we are not obliged to accept the finding of that particular organization. We are dealing with an Australian problem in an Australian climate. I suppose a rough analogy would be that simply because in some parts of the world people travel on camels there is no need for us to adopt that means of transport. I do not like travelling on a camel, and I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes would not like that mode of travel. What people elsewhere do is no concern of ours when we are dealing with our marriage laws. In some States the old minimum ages were fourteen and twelve respectively, and surely it is open to every member of the Parlia ment to judge that marriage at such ages inevitably produces tragedies in the lives of many people.

The Attorney-General has referred to what I should imagine would be the latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician- those for 1959. The honorable member for Parkes is asking us to accept his amendment which, on those figures would involve 245 girls aged fifteen. At the moment I do not see the figure in relation to boys, but there it is. Two hundred and forty-five girls were married in 1959 when they were fifteen years of age. Let us look at the position in other parts of the world. In Belgium the minimum marriageable age for a male is eighteen years and in Portugal the minimum is eighteen for a male and sixteen for females. In the country which - I hope the honorable member for Parkes will accept this as a cynical observation - is the spiritual and political home of the honorable member - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - 28 of the republics have a minimum age of eighteen years for both parties.

The honorable member has put to us the proposition that because of the findings of the Commission on the Status of Women we should automatically adopt the recommended age here. I want to put a contrary view to the honorable gentleman by saying that the overwhelming consensus of opinion - or what in fact exists - throughout the world to-day would indicate a tendency to raise the minimum permissible age for marriage and not lower it.

There are two sets of protagonists in this matter. I do not think we will go very far towards convincing each other very much one way or the other. It is a matter of opinion and environment. I have stated my opinion.

The CHAIRMAN - As the two amendments are to the same clause, is it the pleasure of the committee to take them together? There being no dissentient voice, that course will be followed.

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