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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2639


Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I must say that I find myself in a difficult position because I do not think the Bill is aptly described by the title 'Family Law Bill'. Yet I concede the point which has been raised by speakers against Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson's amendment that it does comprehend more than marriage dissolution. What Senator Everett said gets closer to the point. I regret that it has not been called the 'Matrimonial Causes Act' which was the language used in 1959 and which would be an appellation equally applicable to this legislation. Why I object to the expression Family Law Act' is probably the reason that it was considered in the first place. That is, it gives it an attractive character, makes it more appealing in places where it might be regarded with some objection and resentment and expresses the hope that it will achieve some of the more laudable objectives which are ascribed to the measure. In those circumstances I imagine the description 'Family Law Bill' has been chosen. But on the other hand I think it has at the present time features which I regard as not exactly destructive of marriage and the family but certainly conducive to weakening the impact in society and the acceptance in our society of marriage and the family. I think it also can be misleading.

Senator Everettreferred to the constitutional provisions. I think this Bill has some constitutional aspects which ought not to be overlooked. Section 5 1 of the Constitution states that the Parliament shall have power to make laws in this area with respect to marriage, divorce and matrimonial causes, and in relation thereto, parental rights, and the custody and guardianship of infants. There is no power to make laws with respect to the family. To that extent I think the name of the Bill goes beyond what could be regarded and ought properly to be regarded as constitutional power. I have circulated in this welter of amendments something which deals with the definition of matrimonial cause and it takes up the points which were relied upon by Senator Everett. I will have more to say when that amendment is considered.

I would wish that out of this some middle course could have been adopted but that does not seem to be a possible course. I would feel that if one were forced to a vote on this I would prefer to have the words 'marriage dissolution' in the hope that it would produce some change which would be more acceptable in the long run. But I do want to say right at the outset of this debate that the remarks of Senator James McClelland reflected an attitude to opponents of certain provisions of this Bill which is quite unwarranted. I voted for the second reading. I recognise there is a base upon which constructive work can be done. Yet I think one of the really welcome and useful additions to our society in recent times has been the emergence of the people who call themselves the Festival of Light, and far from their being a festival of darkness I think they are endeavouring to give some weight and stability to values which ought to be regarded as acceptable throughout our community. The attitude that Senator James McClelland adopts, I feel, only makes this Bill possibly a more acrimonious vehicle for discussion that it otherwise would be.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.


Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - May I have my vote in favour of the amendment recorded in Hansard?







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