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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (1:49 AM) .- It is my impression that we are bringing too many abstractions and too much obsession with a sense of guilt to bear on our minds in considering this clause. Last year there were some six thousand divorces in Australia. On the Western Australian average that means perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 divorces based on this ground in the ensuing twelve months. This, then, is an important item of release for perhaps about 2,000 people. I do not think there is any particular element in the lives that may lie ahead of these people that makes it important which is the guilty party. I think that in many respects, if we believe all that we have said about ethics and morality and so on, this is one clause whose spirit we may support, because we are not expecting people to produce proof of something which we regard as a guilty act. We act on the conclusion that a marriage has completely and finally failed, and there are only two people who can decide finally whether that is so - the two people intimately involved, the married couple concerned.

I would regard it as lying rather heavily on my conscience if, in the exercise of my powers as a member of this Parliament, I chose to assert some high moral unction on my part over and above the wish and desire for happiness of people themselves. I believe that we ought to be considering all this not so much with an obsession with sex and adultery and the question of guilt, not even so much in regard to the complications which have come from other countries, but on the question of how it will affect the future happiness of people who belong to what we consider the mature, civilized and adult community. T do not believe that hundreds, or thousands, of people will rush off and attempt to break what we consider the healthy ordinary standards of morality in the community. If I do not think that of myself I am not entitled in any way to consider it as likely that other people will consider it. So I think I can appeal to honorable members in regard to this matter.

I know that the sentiments expressed on both sides of the chamber in all cases have been expressed from the bottom of honorable members' hearts. I know that they have brought to the consideration of this subject a devotion and a dedication which

I have not seen before in my four years in this place. But I particularly request honorable members to think of the individuals involved and see whether we can confer some happiness on people who are people like the rest of us. They live down the street from us, they are ordinary individuals like us, and we should see whether we can give them the opportunity to live full lives with somebody else when a first marriage has failed. I would regard it as a serious departure from our duty to individual human beings rather than to the abstractions I think we are inclined to be obsessed with here, if we did not do so.

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