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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) .- The desire of the Attorney-General to protect children and to improve the daily press is to be commended. But I believe that the daily papers are adopting a much more reasonable attitude to the reporting of divorce proceedings. I have examined newspapers such as the " Sydney Morning Herald " and I think, generally speaking, that they adopt a very reasonable, fair and just attitude.

In this matter, I find myself torn between two emotions. First, I am concerned that there should be no publication of the sordid, salacious details of divorce court proceedings. I believe that the public should be spared these details and that, in any case, publication should be withheld to avoid hurt to any children who may be concerned. Decency should be the criteria in publication.

However, whilst I agree with the AttorneyGeneral that there is need to protect the public from undesirable matter, I hardly think that, in these days, the press seeks sensational matter from the divorce courts to any great extent. In recent times, of course, the newspapers have had quite a considerable amount of other sensational matter to draw upon. I think, for instance, of the late Errol Flynn and his protégée - his concubine. Such disagreeable material1 is better left out of the daily press.

There is another matter concerning which I would like the Attorney-General to say something. Clause 113 states -

The court may, if it thinks fit in any particular proceedings, order that none of the mattersreferred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of the last preceding sub-section shall be printed or published or that any matter or part of a matter so referred to shall not be printed or published.

What do paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d> say? Paragraph (a) refers to the names, addresses and occupations of the parties. What objection can there be, fairly, to the publication of the names of the persons involved? I would like the Attorney-General to say something about that. Paragraph (b) reads - a concise statement of the nature and grounds, of the proceedings and of the charges, defences and counter charges in support of which evidence has been given;

In the course of debate on the bill, and particularly on clause 27 (m) and its associated clauses, a strong case was made that an innocent party might suffer. I believe therefore that the public is entitled to know the circumstances of a divorce. People ar& entitled to know the basis for the divorce and why a certain judgment has been given*

If a party to the divorce considers that he or she is innocent, the circumstances ought to see the light of day and the innocent person's name ought to be cleared. Paragraph (c) refers to submissions on any points of law. What profit is there in denying the publication of any point of law that ought to be made known to the community? Surely that would not offend public taste. It ought to be made known for, undoubtedly, it would relate to the cause itself. I suggest that there is some basis for the publication of all these matters.

Paragraph (d) specifies - the judgment of the court and observations made by the court in giving judgment.

It is essential that a judgment of the court should be published. Surely the printing of a concise statement of the nature and grounds of the proceedings and of the charges, defences and counter charges in support of which evidence has been given, as provided for in paragraph (b) would meet with the approval of the House.

Paragraph (a), as I have said, refers to the names, addresses and occupations of the parties. I have no doubt that influential people who may be the guilty parties in divorce proceedings would be happy to have their names, addresses and occupations suppressed. They might also consider it desirable to suppress the circumstances of the divorce. I feel that there is some need for the Attorney-General to make an explanation on this matter. I am in favour of the publication of the material mentioned in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). I believe that there should be a concise statement of the proceedings and that names, addresses and occupations, as well as the -submissions and the judgment, should be published. It is wrong that a court should be able to suppress those details.

Mr.CHANEY (Perth) [4.451.- I think that this is one provision of the bill on which we should congratulate the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick). The community is divided into two types of people - those who want to get their names into the press and those who try to keep their names out of it. This provision will protect people who cannot protect themselves. T do not know of any honorable member of this Parliament or any member of the community who feels anything but sympathy for a person who has been forced to take divorce proceedings whether he or she be guilty or not guilty of any matrimonial offence.

What has happened in the past in many States is that certain sections of the press have had a Roman holiday per medium of the divorce courts. They have not been interested in any legal interpretation of cases before the courts but in headlining the type of stories that they think will increase sales of their publication. The result has been extremely damaging not only to parties concerned in the divorce actions but also to their families and relatives. No good purpose at all is served by that practice.

I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) say that a closed door policy on divorce proceedings would increase the incidence of divorce, because people would think that they could get away with certain crimes or sins without being the subject of publicity. That is a naive piece of thinking, and it will not have that effect at all. If newspapers had complete freedom to publish anything they like in respect of divorce proceedings, such reports would probably be read by younger people and would put ideas into their heads which would have the opposite effect to that expected by the honorable member for Mitchell. No one in his right senses could oppose a clause such as this, which is designed solely to protect people who, after all, have suffered enough when they have reached the stage of having to go to a divorce court to end something which, perhaps, should never have been commenced.

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