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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I support the viewpoint expressed by the honorable members for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and Griffith (Mr. Chresby). I can find no justification for a differentiation in the age of marriage for males and females. Generally speaking, the differentiation between ages has descended, historically and traditionally, from the subjective positions that women have occupied in the community. In Australia at present, women have not reached full equality with men in the social and organizational life of the community. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says that they have in his home. However, that is apparently the only place where he has occupied a subjective position.

The point I make is that there is no justification for a differentiation in the ages. I do not think there is any social desirability in attempting to adopt a younger marriageable age for females. We live at a time when an attempt is being made to encourage people to stay at school longer. The school leaving age in Tasmania is sixteen years and in Victoria it is fifteen years. In other fields of thought and activity we find that the same age is adopted for girls and boys and for men and women. They qualify to drive motor cars at the same age and to vote at the same age. The compulsory age for attendance at school is the same for both boys and girls. To adopt different ages in this bill is simply perpetuating part of the undesirable traditions of the past.

As the honorable member for Barton pointed out, an important social factor is involved. A provision such as this produces a large crop of widows. Males were 3.36 years older than females in marriages that occurred in 1958. The average life expectancy of females is some four or five years longer than that of males. This, of course, produces a large number of widows in their sixties and seventies, with all the social consequences that flow from this both for the individual and for the exchequer in the payment of pensions and so on. Therefore, although I do not propose to move a further amendment, I believe that the marriageable age for both males and females should be eighteen years.

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