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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2677


Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - I move:

Insert the following new clause-

I 4a (1) A party to a marriage may file in the Family Court a notice stating that the marriage has broken down.

(2)   Where such a notice is filed, the Director of Counselling and Welfare of the Family Court may arrange for the parties to the marriage to be interviewed by a marriage counsellor for the purpose of assisting the parties with a view to a reconciliation or the improvement of their relationship to each other and to the children of the marriage. '

It is proposed to insert new clause 14a which would enable a party to a marriage to file a notice that the marriage had broken down. Where such a notice is filed the counselling procedures would be invoked. The Director of Counselling and Welfare of the Family Court may arrange for the parties to the marriage to be interviewed by a marriage counsellor for the purpose of assisting the parties with a view to a reconciliation or the improvement of their relationship to each other or to the children of the marriage.

Originally in this Bill I had proposed that a proceeding could be commenced even before 12 months separation had occurred, the intention being that where there had been a breakdown of the marriage one of the parties could institute a proceeding and then the parties would become involved in reconcilation procedures, the counselling services would be available and so forth. There was some objection to this because it was said that it might enable people who had a tiff over the weekend to file divorce proceedings on the Monday. May I say that to a lot of people that seemed to be a strange kind of possibility until it was pointed out that when the parties to a marriage had reached the stage where one of them felt like applying for divorce, the sooner the reconciliation procedures were invoked the better. In that very extreme instance you might be able to save the marriage if before there was a lengthy separation the parties were brought into an atmosphere where people would be saying: Look, you had better go and see a marriage counsellor. Why do you not wake Up to yourself? Is there not a chance of saving the marriage?'

I think that was probably a very good idea and that it still is a good idea. People stand on the sidelines and complain about things and say: You are wrecking marriage' without analysing the reasons behind the proposal. May I say that the reason behind this appealed to a great number of people who thought that the way this was framed was probably a good idea but who nevertheless thought that we could achieve the same kind of objective by a notice of a breakdown of the marriage being filed without the institution of divorce proceedings. That is to say, when one party files the notice the Director of Counselling and Welfare would become involved and he may arrange for the parties to be interviewed by a marriage counsellor. On the whole I think this proposed new clause will achieve the same purpose and there will not be the kind of complaints from the various institutions that are concerned about this Bill. I hope the Senate will accept this proposed new clause. May I say that this is one of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I do not think it came about entirely at the initiative of the Committee but nevertheless it is one of the recommendations and I hope that the Senate will accept it.


Senator Everett - I seek your advice, Mr Chairman, on how you wish to proceed in this matter. On behalf of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs I propose to move an amendment to sub-clause ( 1 ) of proposed new clause 14a by completely substituting other words. It would seem to me in accordance with what was done earlier that the most convenient means of achieving this would be if the Attorney-General's proposed new clause were voted on on the basis that it was without prejudice to the right immediately to move an amendment to it.


Senator Murphy - I think that probably the refined version which is proposed by the Committee is acceptable. I should have indicated that earlier. I would not oppose the proposal which is made by the Committee.


The CHAIRMAN (Senator Webster -In reply to your query, Senator Everett, you may put your amendment now to Senator Murphy's amendment and we will deal with your amendment first.







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