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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I support the clause as amended by the Minister. I am quite satisfied that if this scheme is to work the Minister must have the widest possible powers. We cannot leg-rope him to a set code, saying, " You cannot go outside this ", because we are delving into an entirely new field of activity, one that has never been entered upon previously, to my knowledge, in any State. I believe that not only must the Minister be given very wide authority to decide who shall be given assistance, and what that assistance shall be, but also that the Parliament must be prepared, if necessary, to vote very large sums of money for these purposes.

I am one of those who believe that much can be done to save marriages that break up and end in desertion. I do not believe that in all cases of desertion the marriages could never have been saved. On the contrary, I believe that had marriage guidance been obtained early enough - and I stress that point - many marriages that eventually ended in the desertion of one of the parties would never have broken up. It is no use calling in a marriage guidance counsellor after a marriage has been broken. The assistance must be given early. It is very difficult to induce people who are in the transition stage leading towards a final break-up to take the plunge and go to a marriage guidance council. For that reason I agree with the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) that wide publicity - costly publicity if need be - should be embarked upon. The various Churches should advise their members of the services that are available. I believe there is no better qualified person than the minister of religion or the parish priest to undertake this work. 1 agree with the further statement of the honorable member for Lang that one of the major factors in successful marriage is a complete pre-marital understanding of what is required of the various parties to the marriage. Marriage guidance might very well be extended to include the period before marriage. For that reason, I hope that there will not be any qualms about giving financial aid to religious organizations. If they are to be called upon to do this kind of work, it may be necessary for them to incur very heavy expenditure, for instance, in the purchase of motor cars to enable visits to be made to homes. I do not believe that marriage guidance will work if it is to be confined to some city address where people seeking assistance must queue to interview some person, just as they queue to interview the Commissioner of Taxation or some similar person. The proper place for marriage guidance is in the home, when the children are away at school.

If I am right in this assumption, then sufficient money must be made available to enable this to be a full-time job so that guidance can be given during the day. With poor people, when an already bad situation may be exacerbated by the loss of pay which would be involved if the husband remained away from work, marriage guidance organizations may need authority to reimburse the husband, to encourage him to remain at home during the day so that he and his wife may have the benefit of marriage guidance in the quiet surroundings with which they are familiar. The people undertaking marriage guidance must know something of medicine, something of psychology and something of the spiritual requirements that make for a successful and happy marriage. Not everybody has this knowledge.

I believe that the Minister has done a worthwhile job here. We ought not to be finicky about Part II. I do not believe that the well-intentioned people, such as the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, mentioned by other speakers, really understand the provisions. The alteration of " substantial " to " major " will not do the things that they fear it will. I agree entirely with the alteration. I do not want to see some phoney organization obtain a handout from the Government simply because it says it is a marriage guidance council. For all we know, such an organization may be a marriage guidance council only to a minor extent, and the major part of its work may be connected with matters completely unrelated to marriage guidance. It is not right that the Government should have to pay such bodies large sums of money which would be used for activities that are not contemplated by this measure. I am entirely satisfied with the provision as proposed to be amended. I agree that the Minister should be given wider powers and that the Parliament should be prepared to allocate large sums for the job that is in front of marriage guidance organizations.

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