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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- I want to seek some information from the AttorneyGeneral, particularly on paragraph (k). In his second-reading speech, he gave as a ground for including this provision that it is included in New South Wales, where no period is stipulated, and in South Australia, where a period of three years is provided. They were the only two States that had this ground. Earlier to-night, the AttorneyGeneral suggested that the reason he had made the period one year was because this ground was being constantly used in New South Wales as a means to obtain a quick divorce. The same argument can be applied to the provision, even with the stipulation of a period of one year, because no restriction is placed on this ground being used as a matrimonial cause, even within the first three years of marriage.

It appears to me that only one party to the marriage would be in the court - the person seeking the order for restitution of conjugal rights. I am concerned, therefore, to learn how the conciliation provisions would operate. Clause 14 (1.) in Part III. provides -

It is the duty of the court in which a matrimonial cause has been instituted to give consideration, from time to time, to the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties to the marriage . . .

If only one party is before the court and there is no compulsion in the reconciliation provisions, how will this provision help in effecting a reconciliation? The AttorneyGeneral said earlier that this ground is being used constantly as a means for a quick divorce.

Sir Garfield Barwick - No, that is a different ground, not this one.

Mr STEWART - No time limit is provided, although I think 21 days is the period set down at present. If it is being used now with a period of 21 days, surely it will still be used as a quick means of divorce even though the period may be one year. If it is being used now, because there is no restriction in New South Wales, surely it will continue to be used in New South Wales and will be used in all the other States as a means to obtain a quick divorce.

I regret that the subject of religion has been raised in the last few minutes. A few snide references have certainly been made during the debate, but it was not until a few minutes ago that this actually came out into the light. I do not want to go into the pros and cons of the doctrines of the Bible or anything else, but I suggest that most of the religions follow the word of the Bible. I suggest that some honorable members, who talk of doctrine, of Christianity and of religion, should look at some of the passages of the Bible dealing with this very question and see whether any interpretation can be put on them except the interpretation that I believe to be the correct one.

On the question of insanity, I wish to raise only one point with the AttorneyGeneral. In his second-reading speech he said -

After a lapse of more than six years there seems just reason to permit a petitioner who faces the balance of life without a partner because that partner's illness of mind is incurable, to form some regular union and begin family life anew, and that it would be harsh to condemn him or her to a life of useless loneliness.

I fail to see that that is any reason at all, because thousands of bachelors and spinsters are, in the words used by the AttorneyGeneral, now living a life of useless loneliness.

Sir Garfield Barwick - But they are free to marry if they want to do so.

Mr STEWART - To suggest that as a reason for including this ground, I feel, is taking the argument a little bit too far.

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