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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1967


Mr CADMAN(7.18) —I move:

At the end of the clause add the following paragraph:

''; and (c) by omitting from sub-section (2) '12 months' and substituting '2 years'.

This is a very simple amendment which I am sure nobody will have too many problems with. It changes two figures only. It changes '12' to '2'. It is just a process of deleting the figure '1' from the clause. That process increases the period necessary to await dissolution from 12 months to 2 years. I am not strongly in favour of this amendment because I rather felt that the more sensible approach of counselling would have been considered more seriously by honourable members than it was. Despite the comments of the Minister for Trade ( Mr Lionel Bowen) in the closing stages of the debate on that clause, I am somewhat surprised that he did not follow through to clause 21 to see the restriction placed on dissolution by that clause in reference to clause 7.

I have moved this amendment because there has to be some slowing down process in the whole system. As honourable members are aware, my electorate is in the western suburbs of Sydney. I frequently have to speak to marriage guidance counsellors and welfare agencies of all sorts who have responsibility for dealing with those in receipt of widows pensions, over half of whom are divorced , those in receipt of supporting parents benefits and many other beneficiaries of the welfare system who are victims of the dissolution of marriage. There can be no doubt in my mind that the academic approach which tends to be adopted by this chamber is not one that is borne out in practice. In many instances young families are under great stress and living under great difficulty. A slowing down process of the dissolution of marriage, a longer waiting period, I believe would lead to a greater opportunity for reconciliation.

I noted with interest the comment of the previous Attorney-General, a man distinguished in the law, a man known for his careful consideration of all matters affecting both the legal process and the lives of the individuals of Australia. Senator Durack over the last few weeks has carefully stated his support for a change in the length of time that must elapse before a dissolution of marriage takes place. He was the first law officer of Australia, a man who is respected both for his compassion and his legal ability. We have in this place at the moment a man of ability, but a man without experience. The current Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) is not prepared to consider the changes moved in the Senate and strongly supported by Senator Durack.

I suspect that this amendment will not satisfy the Government. Despite the claims of a free vote, I think that if I were to push it to a vote, no member of the Australian Labor Party would be willing to cross the floor on this matter. Therefore, I will rest my case, having moved the amendment, and indicate that it is a far less satisfactory approach to this problem than proper counselling, and proper counselling for reconciliation. But it is a process which seeks to support the values of marriage and the values of the family.