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Wednesday, 19 October 1983
Page: 1967

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Minister for Trade)(7.23) —The Government does not accept the amendment. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) made the point that he did not think it would be altogether successful. He placed much more emphasis on counselling, and I agree with that. Once a separation takes place and it extends for a period of over six months, the prospects for reconciliation are not very good. Statistics show that that is the case. The real emphasis, as the honourable member said, is that people really feel there ought to be much more education and counselling before marriage. This is the important part. If parties are unsuitable, naturally they will not stay together . One can imagine that the 12 month period of separation presents all sorts of problems for them. I do not see any point in extending the problem area for a two year period.

The concept is to try to prevent the marriage taking place if the obvious results are that there is very little likelihood of success. Anybody who looks at the breakdown in marriages can well apply the criterion that in many cases this good advice should be given to young people: 'You fit a category in every sense of the word which means virtually that your chances of success in marriage are not very bright'. That would be worth while. But once the separation takes place, the statistics clearly show that once it goes beyond six months, it becomes more permanent and more obvious. Anybody who has practised in the law knows that it is all very well to talk about what we want to happen. But parties who have separated have already gone through the conflict period. There is a fair amount of hate; there is a lot of contest and bitterness. That is the reason why they separate. It is a bit too academic to say: 'Look, we will let the separation run for a longer period and it will get better'. It invariably gets worse, with all the connotations of the parties forming other liaisons and affiliations and the children and everybody else being affected by that position .

Everybody wants to see mariage being a success. But the issue must be looked at prior to marriage, not after a period of 12 months or two years. The statistics clearly show that once the separation takes place, the chances for reconciliation are very minimal. This matter has been the subject of continual debate. If we look at the theory of the Barwick position, it is that once people have separated, they must head towards a settlement of the marital relationship, either in personal terms or in property terms.