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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2529

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -In rising to take part in this debate I want to say, first of all, that in my time in the Senate this has been one of the highest classes of debate to which I have been privileged to listen. There has been pathos, there have been cold, hard facts and there has been humour, but the debate has shown that those who have taken part in it have researched the subject before rising in their places and have put into the record some very important facets of opinion in respect to divorce laws. It is all very well to call the Bill a family law Bill, but its commencement and completion is in relation to divorce- the breaking down of marriages. There will be a free vote. Party politics are not supposed to enter into the decision of senators and members in another place when voting on this legislation. I regret the lack of opinion from people on your right, Mr Deputy President. I believe that the Senate would have been better informed if more senators who normally sit on your right and who are conspicuous by their absence at the moment had stated their opinions.

I am glad that the honourable and learned Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) is honouring me with his presence in the chamber. I regret to say that I feel that the original aim of the marriage regulations which were rushed into the Senate was to inspire the country to accept a quick, easy and cheap method of changing marital partners, in other words, to make divorce quick and easy. The Senate wisely rejected those rules, and that gave rise, naturally, to the Bills that we have had over the last 1 8 months. I agree with words spoken by Senator Peter Durack on the first day of the resumption of the second reading debate when he expressed the view that the Bill was the most important one to come before the Parliament. It is a Bill of great importance to our moral life, to our economic life and to the institution of marriage which, after all, is the fundamental basis of our society. If this Bill in anything like the shape in which it has been presented to us on this its third appearance in the Senate becomes law, it cannot help but have a tremendous effect, either for good or for bad- I will not express an opinion on that- on the future situation of many present Australians and on future Australians who will be the products of Australian marriages. It will affect the basis of our human relationships.

Since the legislation which was introduced by the then Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, and which made divorce easier- the 5 -year plan- the marriage rate, in Australia, not only the number, has risen. Many of us held fears that there would be a great flood of applications, on the passing of that legislation, for divorce. There was a flood in the first few months, but in the following year when Australia had settled down to the Barwick legislation the divorce rate had increased but, I understand, not quite at the rate at which marriages had increased. I must point out that one of the reasons for the increase in the marriage rate was that with more divorces there were more second marriages. That shows that figures do not mean everything.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that bad?

Senator MARRIOTT - I am not against second marriages. I believe that it is the moral right of any two people, if one is divorced or if both are divorced, to marry.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are not marriages as popular as ever?

Senator MARRIOTT - Do you mind if I make my speech? You can speak during the Committee stage. I listened with rapt attention to you, as I always do, because I believe that you speak from the heart, with great clarity and with a lot of learning. On the other hand, on a Bill such as this, I speak as a layman. I do so tonight, for two reasons only. One is that I believe it is the responsibility of every senator, on the most important Bill that we have had before us for many years, to give his or her views, whether they are brief or protracted, on this legislation, not to sit like nervous Nellies and vote the way that the leader does. So I speak, firstly, because I deem it my responsibility as a member of the Australian Parliament to do so and secondly, candidly and blatantly I speak because of my desire to see the second reading of this Bill postponed. In other words, I come out in strong support- I will state my reasons, as a layman- of the amendment moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. If this Bill, even with many of the suggested amendments, becomes law- family law as it is calledfamily life, the family unit, will be greatly altered. For good or for bad will depend on the decision of this Parliament and on nobody else. Parliament will be culpable or praised for the results on family life in Australia in future years. The family unit is our strongest link with happiness, prosperity and development of the Australian population.

This Bill brings to the forefront deep religious beliefs and feelings. The people of religion, the spokesmen for the churches, should be listened to. Their views should not be abjectly obeyed or followed. They have been performing marriage ceremonies at the behest of millions of Australian couples over the years. Marriage is a tradition not in this country alone, not in the Commonwealth of Nations but in a great pan of the world. History has shown that. The marriage feast at Cana gives some proof of that. Secular interests of a variety of types will be affected by, and are interested in, the results of the decision ultimately of this Parliament in respect of the Family Law Bill. Broken marriages are the greatest causes of delinquency in any country. I think it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen of New York who said that there are 3 Ds- delinquent parents, doting parents and drinking parents. They cause by their behavioural patterns what we call 'delinquent children'. I know this from my experience on the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. The Committee interviewed 100 or so anonymous drug takers, not all of them addicts, who gave evidence in private without giving their names. A very large proportion of those people put their drug taking down to the fact that their parents had separated or were always arguing or were alcoholics. In other words, delinquent parents make delinquent children. These people became criminals in their search for drugs, and the Senate is perhaps going to be guilty if it is not careful of making marriages more easy to break.

Because I am not a conservative in social legislation I do admit that every 15 to 20 years legislation such as this- we called it 'matrimonial causes' earlier, now we call it 'family law'needs to be amended to change with the mores of the people, and the mores of the people change as the years roll on. But I do not believe that we should legislate to cope with the leaders in the field of changed mores. If we are a responsible parliament we will try to put a curb on the changed mores if those changes are for the worse, as I believe they have been in recent years. Senator Murphy, the learned AttorneyGeneral I have referred to this earlier- introduced marriage regulations into the Senate and to the rescue the Senate came and disallowed them. The mercurial mind got busy and we now have the Family Law Bill. This is the third Bill from the same stable. If anyone had the time and the inclination to study the first Bill and compare it with the regulations and study the third Bill and the 93 amendments, I wonder if they would know whether they came not only from the same stable but from the same stud? I think there would be a query as to the birthright of the third Bill when it is compared with the first Bill.

Not only have we had a Bill introduced 3 times, not only have we had amendments circulated, but we have had a committee of the Senate, comprising some of the most learned and sincere senators in this field of law and social behaviour, which produced a massive interim report. It was said today that the committee produced the report after 3 meetings and after having heard 7 witnesses, most of whom were identified with the introduction of the Bill.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Could you name a few of them?

Senator MARRIOTT - I am not going into a paean of praise for Senator James McClelland again. I wish the honourable senator would keep quiet. If we have any faith in the value of Senate committee reports, the report of this Committee should have been printed and widely distributed at least 3 months ago to the many readers who would have liked to consider it. If we are going to take the attitude that a committee of this Senate should report to the Senate only and the Senate acts blindly on the report without reading and digesting it and without the public expressing a view, then shame on us; let is do away with committees. The report of this Committee was well worthy of being read, even if its views were slanted towards the passing of the measure with some amendments. As several speakers have pointed out, there have been 90-odd amendments proposed, many of them machinery amendments resulting from the original amendment introduced by the mover of the motion for the second reading of the Bill. Does this not show the value of taking time- of delaying? Fancy the Attorney-General's Bill being passed by the Senate and the Attorney-General then having to run down to the other end of the building and say to his friend the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam): 'Mr P.M., I have got 92 amendments to that Bill that are going to improve it '. The Senate would have been the laughing stock of the nation. Shame on us. The Government Printer, the printing presses in this building and the typists in Parliament House have been working overtime since this Bill was introduced, and I remind honourable senators that the Government tried to gag the second reading debate on this Bill. Since it tried to gag the debate and failed, what have we had? We have had an amendment put forward by Senator Laucke, an amendment put forward by Senator Baume, amendments put forward by Senators Durack and Chaney, and amendments put forward by members of the Senate Committee. These amendments have been distributed tonight. The Attorney-General is getting very toey. He wants to go into Committee and say: 'I move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill going through the Committee stages without delay', so that we can get to the third reading. The Senate must spend 3 or 4 days in the Committee stages, if by any mischance the amendment of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is not carried because of the multiplicity and complexity of the amendments.

I say without any hesitation that there is not one senator- and I include the highest legal officer in the land, the Attorney-General- who would understand what would be the result of the Bill if all the Attorney-General's amendments were passed and some of the amendments of Senators Durack, Baume and Laucke.

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would understand.

Senator MARRIOTT - Senator JamesMcClelland says he would understand. He has a greater understanding of himself than we have of him. Rarely in my 20 years of parliamentary life have I had more unemotional and considered representations from a greater variety of people and from a greater variety of interests than I have had in respect of the Family Law Bill, and I presume this would apply to all other honourable senators. I am not going to refer to those representations in detail because I believe all honourable senators have had them. Perhaps some of the silent nervous Nellies who will not give their views on the Bill so that Hansard may record what they really think put a lot of the representations they received straight into the wastepaper basket. They know how they are going to vote and they are not going to waste their time. They will obey their orders from the top.

Senator McAuliffe - What is the honourable senator nervous about?

Senator MARRIOTT - I am not taking orders from anyone. I am considering the amendments and I will consider the views of the Senate put in argument. My main interest at the moment is to get support for the Senate to take a sensible statesmanlike decision, to allow this Bill to stand over until the autumn session. There are changes; there are reasons for these changes. Never have I seen a measure come before the Parliament which has been followed by more ministerial publications, both roneod and printed, than the original legislation on this matter.

Senator Missen - They are improvements.

Senator MARRIOTT - Yes. I am glad of that interjection. As far as I can follow those I have had a chance to study, they are improvements. I believe that adjourning this matter for 10 weeks will give us time to consider it. There will be more improvements to the legislation. The Senate and the Australian Parliament will earn a reputation and the people will be grateful to them. There is another important reason why the Senate's attention should be taken away from considering the Family Law Bill. I quote, firstly, what the Chief Secretary in the Tasmanian Labor Government and the President of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Labor Party said on the day following the announcement of the second Budget in a period of 6 weeks. He said he hoped that the Prime Minister and the Australian Government would delay consideration of their welfare and social legislation until they got down to the job of legislating for the economy, the welfare of the economy and in conjunction -

Senator Murphy - Mr Acting Deputy President-

Senator MARRIOTT - You will only make me take longer if you do this sort of thing.

Senator Murphy - A point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. In all fairness, could not Senator Marriott endeavour to speak to the subject matter of the Bill? If he must filibuster, at least he ought to address himself to the Bill.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)-Order! I think that Senator Marriott -

Senator MARRIOTT - I am not filibustering, Mr Acting Deputy President. I think that that is an unfair slur by the Attorney-General to whom I have tried to be fair. I am doing my best to give the reasons why I sincerely believe that consideration of this Bill in committee should be delayed. Public opinion and parliamentary opinion can be formalised and finalised and we can give our vote in time. I say quite sincerely that one of the reasons why consideration of the Bill should be delayed is, as Senator Everett would know, that the President of the Labor Party in Tasmania, Mr Lowe, has said that he wants us to get on with legislating in order to get the economy out of the wallowing sea of despondency and despair in which it is at the present time. It is expected that inflation will be running at the rate of 30 per cent at the end of this year. It was extraordinary to hear Mr Lowe 's statement on the news broadcast tonight because it was followed by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in which he said: 'In spite of the serious state of the economy'- he did not say 'bother the unemployed' or anything, but it was almost inferred 'we will press on with our social legislation'. From letters that I have received I realise that there are many people- I will not say coupleswaiting for this legislation to be finalised. But in all fairness to them, I believe they should understand that many more people fear the passing of this legislation in its present form or in a near relationship to its present form.

The main reason why I suggest the legislation should be delayed is that there are many more people in Australia in all walks of life, in all religions and in all secular occupations who want to know more about the real, possible effects of the legislation. They are undecided in their minds. They realise the seriousness to Australia if bad legislation goes on to the statute books. It must be remembered in coming to a decision on this matter that if a parliament were to pass bad legislation on an important social question such as this it is unlikely that the parliament would look at this question for another 10 or 15 years. In other words, to use a phrase of the late and honoured Mr Arthur Calwell: 'The eggs will be scrambled if this Bill gets royal assent'.

Finally, I say to the Senate that there is too much responsibility on us, with all the amendments that have already been circulated. How will the Parliamentary Counsel possibly keep up with the Committee stage of the Bill and be able to promise us that we have a Bill that will not be a lawyer's paradise? That will be one of the things that will count with this legislation. If it is badly amended or crudely amended it will be a lawyer's paradise and the people whom it is supposed to help will find themselves paying heavy legal fees and being subjected to great frustration. This is one of the measures that should be as near perfect and fair as it is in the power of parliamentarians to devise. I plead very sincerely with the Senate to delay the passing of the Bill. Let us delay going into the Committee stage of the Bill until Parliament meets in the autumn session.

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