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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I wish to intrude again into this debate for two reasons. First, I do not think that the speech of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) should pass unchallenged. Secondly, I wish to say that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) gave the best reasons in the world why he should support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). That amendment is designed to prevent the occurrence of the very type of situation outlined by the honorable member for Blaxland. Who is to know when these people are beyond the stage of recovery? We read of people who are presumed dead and years later they return to the community, only to find that in their absence they have been divorced.

With the aid of modern science a person who to-day may be considered beyond help may be fully restored to health to-morrow. But under this legislation that person could be divorced before he achieved his recovery. Undoubtedly there can be no justification for this provision. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) pointed out, if you support this proposal it means that one partner to a marriage uses the other partner while that partner's life is good and while he or she is in good health. When it is discovered that the partner is mentally ill, he or she is discarded like a mangy dog for the simple reason that he or she is of no further use. That person is then locked in an institution and the other partner obtains a divorce and remarries. There is nothing humane, Christian or decent in that. That is why I am offended by the gratuitous insult handed out by the Attorney-General, not only to honorable members on this side, but also in other respects.

When we study the speeches of the Attorney-General on this bill we find that continually he has cast slurs on Churches of all denominations that have dared to question this legal luminary. Divorce is a racket for lawyers who pay no regard whatever to humanity. The AttorneyGeneral, in dealing with criticism of this proposal, said that the law in New South Wales, as it applies with respect to mental cases, was introduced for religious reasons. He does not seem to know that ever since New South Wales has had responsible government there has never been any provision for granting a divorce to people whose spouses are mentally defective. Does he say to-day that successive governments in New South Wales have, for religious reasons, refused to grant a divorce on the ground of insanity? He either does not know the reason or does not want to accept it, because he seeks protection by casting slurs on people on this side who are opposed to his legalistic legislation. He has no answer to our arguments.

It is all very well for him to say that these things occur. It is all very well for him to cast slurs. The other night he cast a slur on the Anglican Churches for the point of view that they held. The only thing in which he has been consistent has been the fact that he has not excluded any church from criticism and slur. He criticized the honorable member for Macquarie for his statement-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! Does the honorable member intend to deal with the paragraph before the committee or not?

Mr DALY - I am dealing with it.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member has not time to speak in order to disparage the Attorney-General continually. He may make a comment, but he must deal with the paragraph before the committee or sit down.

Mr DALY - I quite realize that you want to protect the Attorney-General.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.

Mr DALY - I beg your pardon?

The CHAIRMAN - I have ordered the honorable gentleman to sit down.

Mr DALY - Why?

The CHAIRMAN - For reflecting on the Chair. Sit down, please.

Mr DALY - If I have reflected on the Chair, I withdraw that reflection.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable gentleman has reflected on the Chair and I have ordered him to resume his seat.

Mr Galvin - I shall move that the honorable member for Grayndler be heard.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! That is not permitted. I call the honorable member for Bruce.

Mr DALY - I shall move that the honorable member for Grayndler be heard.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! That also is not permitted. I have called the honorable member for Bruce.

Mr DALY - Then I shall move that progress be reported.

Dr Evatt - You have ordered the honorable member to resume his seat, Mr. Chairman. Will you accept a suitable explanation from him?

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I will consider an apology, but I will not guarantee that it will alter my decision.

Dr Evatt - I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to reconsider what he has said.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will obey the Chair also. He has not been given the time to speak in this debate simply to attack the Attorney-General continuously. We are dealing with a particular clause.

Mr DALY - Surely I can criticize the Minister at the table. That is all I was doing.

The CHAIRMAN - Certainly, but it is not permissible to direct a continual tirade of abuse at him. Do you apologize tor your conduct?

Mr DALY - I withdraw any imputation against the Chair.

The CHAIRMAN - Very well. You may continue.

Mr DALY - I resent the AttorneyGeneral attacking honorable members on this side of the chamber because legitimate criticism has been directed at him by supporters of the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Watson. The Minister has not explained why, since constitutional government has been in operation in New South Wales, this provision has never been incorporated in the acts of the Parliament of that State. It is not right for him to say that that provision has not been included in the legislation of New South Wales simply for religious motives. I could not count the number of governments of all political colours and creeds which have been in office.

As the honorable member for Watson has said, for the Attorney-General to escape his obligation to explain to this chamber the reasons why this provision has never been incorporated in the New South Wales legislation, by pretending that it has been on religious grounds, does him very little credit. I remind the committee that it is not possible even to declare a member's seat in this Parliament vacant because he is mental. A member can be declared and certified insane and still have the right to sit in this Parliament. But we are to permit a marriage to be dissolved because one party is unfortunately afflicted by a mental illness. The Attorney-General has come out of this in a very sorry way because he has failed to explain these matters. He has simply glossed them over. 1 am one of the honorable members on this side of the chamber who resents his imputations against all who criticize this legislation. I do not care from which side of the Parliament the lawyers may come, they are the greatest theorists and the most impractical persons one could find. They work out problems in facts and figures and then they theorize and expect their theories to be applied to human problems, although they know that they cannot possibly be applied.

It is all right in theory to say that a spouse must have consideration when the partner to the marriage is insane. But when a wife may have to nurse a sick husband for years and perhaps watch him die slowly, on what ground can we justify this escape from the responsibilities of marriage simply because this form of illness - mental illness - is involved?

The sorry picture that the AttorneyGeneral has presented to this committee in explaining this position does him little credit, and I register my objection to his attitude.

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