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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2645

Senator MISSEN (Victoria) -1 would like to make a short comment. The proposed amendment mentioned by Senator Durack in his closing remarks may well meet a situation which I think involves a great deal of difficulty. It is a very curious thing that in sections 46 and 69 of the Marriage Act there appear these statements in regard to what the celebrant says to people being married, namely, 'marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life'. That is the exact wording of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson's amendment. Yet that definition is not really true because it is not the law in Australia that that is so. The law has provided for many years for dissolution. It might be said that people intend to enter into a union for life but we know that people divorce, and have done so for generations, and they have been divorced under the law in Australia.

I think there is a curiosity in the law and I do not think the same curiosity in the same form should be put into this Bill. The proper place for this is in the Marriage Act. There ought to be a definition in the Marriage Act. I think the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) indicated that there would be amendments to the Marriage Act and I think they are well overdue in many respects. I think there should be some definition in the Marriage Act to cover even the situation of polygamous marriages or marriages celebrated under different circumstances in other countries. This would cover people who have come to Australia and want the jurisdiction of this Bill. There are statements throughout this Bill about children of a marriage, parties to a marriage and so forth. If we define marriage narrowly in this Bill- this is the point already made by Senator Durack and others- and if we define out of the Bill the people in that situation, it would be most unfortunate. There are some people who have become citizens in this country who would not be covered by the jurisdiction of the court.

All we hope to do is to bring together the various strands into one court. That idea would be partially broken because in this case the law would not be applicable to them. I am not saying as a definite fact that that will necessarily happen but that, on my reading of the Bill, is the effect that a narrow definition might have. I have reservations about including any definition but on the other hand, if one is to be included, the one just proposed by Senator Durack- subject to the provisions of this or any other Act, which no doubt would bring in polygamous marriages- is better than the original suggestion. With some doubts I would support that amendment.

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