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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2667

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - May I indicate why there has been a change of mind on this matter. The advice that has come to me, and what I understand to be the view of the marriage guidance bodies, is that the change should be made, that the element of compulsion should be taken out of legislation. I am advised that this compulsory kind of power existed in Denmark and that the situation was- this is the word that was mentioned to me- catastrophic. I am advised that in the United States these compulsory powers in regard to counselling have been done away with because experience has proved that it is not the way to go about this matter. That is the view-, point of people who are experts in the field. Where is the sort of counter-advice which suggests that we should have the direction? We all are trying to handle this matter in the best way we can. The advice that I have been given comes from people who are experts in the field, and I am talking about people engaged in marriage counselling; I am not talking about people who may have political or other views on the question. I am talking about the people who are experts in the field. That is what was communicated to me.

Senator Greenwood - But that was not your initial view, and you say you were prevailed upon.

Senator MURPHY -That is right. I suppose that I was approaching the matter in the same way as Senator Greenwood is. This proposal in this Bill was put forward, and from the point of view of the lawyers and so forth it seemed to have some merit. But an approach was made from the area that I have mentioned. The advice that has been communicated through to me by those who have been working on this matter is that this is the view of the experts. Do we pay attention to that view or not? If we were to provide some direction there we would have to restore the words 'but failure to comply with such a direction does not constitute a contempt of the court'; otherwise we would get into the absurd position where we are trying to heal something but we have somebody who gets into collision not only with the other spouse but also with the court. How on earth are you going to get anywhere if people are to be given a direction which they will disobey? All you will be doing is multiplying the bitterness, the hostility and so forth. That is the basis upon which I approach the matter.

If somebody has anything in the nature of evidence or something other than just acting, I suppose, in the way in which I originally approached this matter, to convince me that this amendment should not be proceeded with, I will consider it. But this seems to me to be a sound enough approach. In this area we should rely upon persuasion. The Family Courts are there to help with good sense. If ever there is an area in which the element of compulsion ought be removed, it seems to be this area, and that is the advice which has been given by those who ought to know because they are dealing with people and they know the effects that this question has upon them.

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