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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2644

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - Could I throw a little light on the matter? The advice given to me is that we should not include this definition here. It is an inappropriate place in which to put it. The Marriage Act deals with marriages in Australia and I indicate to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson that, in any event, amendments will be proposed to that Act. If the honourable senator wants to say anything about what marriages entered into in Australia should be, that is the place to do it. The difficulty here is that we are dealing with dissolution of marriages among other things. We are dealing with all sorts of family situations. We are dealing with marriages which are not all entered into in Australia. We are trying to provide a law which will apply to people in Australia who are married. We have to deal with people who are married not only in Australia. Some people, believe it or not, get married outside Australia. I did, 5 years and 2 days ago.

Senator Buttonpointed to clause 6 of the Bill and indicated that we deal with polygamous marriages as well. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson will remember that his Government brought in this measure about 6 years ago. It was found that it was necessary to deal with those marriages because of injustice which would occur and which marriages were quite proper otherwise. In dissolution the then Government was really creatingSenator Sir Kenneth Anderson might ponder upon this- the danger of saying that it would not provide for the dissolution of a polygamous marriage but, when the matter was analysed, it was, if you like, putting a sanctity around polygamous marriages which it was not putting around monogamous marriages. The Government was saying: 'All right, here is a law to dissolve a marriage which is even performed in church in Australia, but not a polygamous marriage. '

The definition proposed by the honourable senator may create unintended consequences because in some other country marriage might be entered into for a term. Who knows? Are we to say that they are not dissolvable and, for other purposes, they cannot be dealt with? I remind honourable senators that when this kind of law was brought in previously no such definition was included for the same kinds of considerations which I am expressing now. Honourable senators should not think that the matter would not have been considered previously in the Matrimonial Causes Act. At the moment marriage is not defined in the Marriage Act in such terms. I think, because of these very considerations, that the honourable senator's definition may create some of these unintended consequences. Everybody knows that as the Bill stands the laws will apply to marriage as we know it. This definition is the kind of thing which is unnecessary and which may produce difficulties.

If Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is worried about the fact that somehow by this Bill marriages may be able to be conducted between, say, persons of the same sex, I assure him that that is quite unreal. It does not fit within the legislative framework at all. By putting in definitions where they are not necessary we may create unintended consequences. The honourable senator has some feeling that if marriage is for life we should know that, unless it is sooner dissolved. I suggest, with respect, that we do not endeavour to define marriage here. If the honourable senator wants to express the feelings that marriages ought not to be dissolved, there are other means. It can be done in other ways. But the situation is fraught with difficulties if we start to put in a definition clause here where it is quite clearly not appropriate. As I say, this matter has been avoided by the legislature on every other occasion. I think Senator Button or Senator Everett indicated that even the State legislatures have carefully avoided doing such things. I suggest, with respect, that we should not insert the definition.

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