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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has explained why he thinks that clergymen should be given a guarantee against being compelled to give evidence. He has not explained why, if a matrimonial guidance counsellor is not competent to give evidence in court, a clergyman should be competent to give such evidence. No Roman Catholic priest, whether this law makes him competent or not, is competent, because of the oath that he takes, to give evidence of what he has heard in the secrecy of the confessional.

Mr Killen - But this is a secular matter.

Mr BEAZLEY - I do not know. There might be a confession of something that would make the marriage voidable or dissolvable, because it was a confession of something that the person making the confession regarded as a sin. Therefore, it is not quite a secular matter. There are some members of the clergy who are erratic and who might suddenly get a bee in their bonnet. Such a man might suddenly decide that although he could not be compelled, he was competent to go into court and state what he had heard a party to a marriage say. Consequently, I cannot see the point of providing that the clergy shall be competent to give evidence, although I can see the po:nt about guaranteeing him against being compelled to give evidence.

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