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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) . - I move -

Omit paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph: - " (b) that, since the marriage, the other party to the marriage has, without just cause or excuse, wilfully deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of not less than three years; ".

This amendment seeks to preserve the status quo in all States, with the exception of Tasmania. One can say that the period of time of desertion specified as a ground in the Australian States is three years. There are some people who do not support the principle of uniformity without a consideration of what is involved. I presume, on this occasion, to call in support of my amendment none other than the Attorney-General himself. Last night in this chamber the honorable gentleman very eloquently expressed this sentiment -

When you find that a particular State has a ground that is working well and has not caused any social evil, and with which the people of the State are satisfied, you carry a very heavy burden if you say, " In my uniform law I am going to cast that ground over ".

For all practical purposes the law of the six Australian States specifies three years' desertion as a ground for divorce. What nature of burden is it that the honorable and learned gentleman takes upon his shoulders in casting aside the settled provisions existing in all the Australian States? It may be argued, and no doubt it will be, that desertion does not suddenly occur on the second anniversary of separation. That is prefectly true, but a similar argument could apply with respect to the three years' provision in the States at the present time. It may also be argued that with the delays that are experienced in divorce matters at present, even if a party petitions for divorce after two years' desertion, the period will have extended to three years before the decree is granted. If that argument is put forward - and I expect that it will be - it must be remembered that these delays are occurring at the present time and result in a corresponding extension of the period of three years at present provided.

What evidence is there that would lead honorable members of this Parliament to presume that the Australian States wish to disturb the existing provision for divorce on the ground of three years' desertion? The Attorney-General cautioned us last night, very properly, against setting aside lightly, when making a uniform divorce law, a ground that has worked well in any one particular State. Well, here is a ground that has worked in every State, and yet the Minister comes along and, obviously with the support of the Government, says, " We are going to cast aside this ground that has worked well in the States." I hope the committee, in considering this amendment, will at least accept the presumption that the States do not want to disturb the existing ground of three years' desertion.

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