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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2671

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - On my understanding we had reached the stage where we had the clause amended to the point where I was content if it stood as I read it out a little while ago. Whatever the Standing Orders might say, I would not object if someone wanted to move a deletion of those words if it were thought that they should come out notwithstanding that they were added in the amendment; but I suggest the convenient course is to enable to be moved a motion to delete whatever honourable senators think ought to be deleted. I draw the attention of the Committee to clause 41 of the Bill which deals with the children and which contains provisions relating to conferences where the interests of the children are concerned, where there is a child under eighteen and where divorce proceedings or proceedings for custody or guardianship have been instituted. The clause provides that the court may, at any stage of the proceedings, of its own motion or upon the requests of a party to the proceedings, make an order directing the parties to the proceedings to attend a conference with the welfare officer to discuss the welfare of the child and, if there are any differences between the parties as to matters affecting the welfare of the child, to endeavour to resolve those differences.

Then there are provisions as to how the conference will take place. Sub-clause (3 ) states:

If a party fails to attend a conference in respect of which an order has been made under sub-section ( 1 ), it is the duty of the welfare officer to report the failure to the court.

There was also a provision that the failure does not constitute a contempt of the court but the proposal was to remove those words from there where the interests of the children were involved. This meets substantially the points which Senator Greenwood has raised. Where children are involved and something is affecting the interests of the children the court may, if it sees lit, direct the parties. We would remove the reference to the failure not constituting a contempt of the court, but then again one would hope that the court would not be involving itself in any kind of use of the contempt powers for the reasons I indicated before. How on earth are we to get matters resolved reasonably if weapons such as contempt are invoked? I would hope that the court which will operate under these provisions will not be concerned with such matters and that the problems were resolved in other ways. I suggest that if we leave the clause as amended it would be better than endeavouring to bring in this aspect of compulsion because where children are concerned there seems to be quite ample provision.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Webster -The situation at present is that we have before the Chair an amended amendment from Senator Murphy. If, by leave, Senator Murphy wishes to amend his amendment further it could be done; otherwise the amendment we are speaking to is the one that inserted the words 'or advise' and or advice'.

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