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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I am glad that this is being treated as a non-party measure because I think the Parliament functions at its best in dealing with matters of this sort when honorable members are not bound by loyalty to party decisions. I find myself in the unusual position of having to speak against my colleague the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and my Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). I am free to do so; but I do not want anybody to think that I am opposing him only because of the novelty of the experience.

Mr Whitlam - Is this a council for membership control?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, it is not a council for membership control; but with great respect to my two colleagues at the table, I think fifteen years is too young for either a boy or a girl to be permitted to enter into what is a pretty serious business. In entering into marriage, boys and girls have to decide that they will join some other person in matrimony and, when the marriage is unhappy, remain shackled to that person for the rest of their days. That is hell on earth.

Mr Haylen - Not under the AttorneyGeneral's uniform divorce legislation.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The AttorneyGeneral's Matrimonial Causes Act is an excellent piece of legislation and will do much to relieve the unhappiness of persons who are suffering the pangs of a virtual hell on earth because of their matrimonial circumstances. However, the divorce legislation does not permit persons in such circumstances to get out of marriage simply by looking towards the sun and saying, " I divorce thee ", three times. They have to go through a complicated procedure and have the dissolution of their marriage endorsed by the courts.

The Matrimonial Causes Act provides that when a dissolution of a marriage is granted, the court shall - not may - impose on one of the parties concerned an obligation to see that the other party is properly maintained. In most cases, especially when there are children, that involves considerable expense. The process of getting a divorce is costly, and it is even more costly to maintain a former partner. For that reason, we should exercise caution in permitting persons who are merely children to enter into such a solemn contract as marriage which binds them until the day they die, or may involve them in heavy maintenance costs which could blight their lives. If they remain married, they have a life of hell on earth.

Mr Whitlam - A person cannot escape maintenance costs by declining to marry.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - No, maintenance in the case of refusal to marry applies only to the child. Many young persons who might not care for each other will marry because the girl concerned has become pregnant. They ought to be told by the law, if by no one else, that there is another way out, and that the boy does not have to marry and take upon himself the responsibility and expense of maintaining a wife as well as a child. In such cases the child is not wanted; but the wife is not wanted either. Often, it works in reverse, and the husband is not wanted. A young woman accepts the man because she thinks she has to accept him. At the tender age of fifteen years, the schoolboy approach to the problem is that once such circumstances arise, the pair have to marry. It is far better that they do not marry unless they love each other since a mere boy might have to face up to the cost of maintaining a child and the mother as well. I am sorry that I have to take the side contrary to my deputy leader. I must confess that I do enjoy somewhat the novelty of being able to say something contrary to what I normally would say.

Mr Whitlam - Enjoy it while you can.

Mr Haylen - It will not be long now.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is shortlived. I hope that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will do what I am doing. I hope that those who favour fifteen years as the age for marrying will say so and that those who have views similar to mine will speak up. I am sure the Attorney-General would be the last to want to stop honorable members on the Government side from expressing their views freely as I have freely expressed mine.

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