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Tuesday, 17 November 1959

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- I desire to make a few comments on this bill and to endorse the remarks made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) in his plea that this Parliament, if necessary, should be kept in session for the next few weeks in order to give adequate time to discussion,

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (WANNON, VICTORIA) - You would be the first to complain.

Mr GALVIN - 1 am quite willing to remain here as long as this Parliament is sitting. There is plenty of legislation for us to consider. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) is not content to remain in the House even now. He wants to go out. I think that we should have an assurance from the Government that it is not intended to push this bill through by having members stay until the early hours of the morning to debate the committee stages. The proposed amendments that have been circulated by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) - 58 of them, covering twelve pages - are themselves bigger than an ordinary bill. Other amendments have been foreshadowed in addition to this 58. If the AttorneyGeneral and the others who move amendments take only ten minutes each to pui their viewpoint, that will require about eleven hours of time, apart from any comment that other honorable members may wish to make.

Let me make this point clear: I am al! in favour of uniformity. I believe it is long overdue. In that regard, 1 commend the action of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) who introduced the private member's bill some two years ago and who devoted a great deal of work and time to this problem. I am only sorry that the legislation was not carried on by the honorable member for Balaclava. After seeing that the honorable member's proposition was fairly acceptable to the public, the Government decided to adopt it. It arranged for the Attorney-General to put the bill through this House and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Government supporters have emphasized that it is a Government measure. Whilst they have not told Government back-benchers what they should do, they have let them know, quite clearly and distinctly, that it is a Government measure and that they are greatly concerned about it. I think we have got our priorities all mixed in this Parliament. As I said, a uniform divorce law is most desirable, but we should look at some of the problems which are causing divorce in this community. I suggest that a national plan from this Parliament to get on with the task of providing homes for young married couples would be a much worthier subject to discuss, and time would be much better spent in that way than devoting it to this matter of divorce. I believe that undoubtedly the problem of young married couples trying to raise children to-day-

Mr Anderson - It is not a problem.

Mr GALVIN - It is all very well for the honorable member for Hume to say that it is not a problem. He sends his wool to red China and gets his money easily. If he were a wage-earner on the basic wage trying to bring up two or three children he would be greatly concerned that this Government has done nothing at all in the matter of child endowment for nearly ten years. He would think that it should do something to help young married couples and give them a chance to provide for their children instead of having to suffer the continual upset which comes about through living on the basic wage and struggling to provide for their families. While Parliament is dealing with this matter of divorce I should like it to give some consideration to the causes of divorce. I should like it to get on with the task of amending the social services legislation, to bring in a decent educational programme and generally to get our priorities right. Then we would be better able to discuss what the Government describes as this most urgent matter of divorce.

As I said earlier, the Attorney-General should give us an assurance that he does not intend to keep honorable members discussing this measure until the early hours of the morning, during the committee stage.

Mr Chaney - Are you frightened of it?

Mr GALVIN - It is not a matter of being frightened. We have heard this bill applauded by the legal brains in the Parliament. They have told us what a marvellous measure it is. When the AttorneyGeneral introduced it he was clapped on the back, but now he has to bring in 58 amendments and seven or eight more have been suggested by other members. This was supposed to be a model bill when the Attorney-General introduced it; I feel it will be necessary to spend a great deal of time at the committee stage discussing amendments to it.

Some criticism has been levelled at the churches for what has been called "pressurizing" or some other term. That is rather strange. Quite frankly, I am always pleased to receive information from leaders in the community. If an arbitration or industrial measure is before this House, it is delightful to get information from the leaders of the trade union movement as well as from the employers' federation and the Chamber of Manufactures. They always supply us with information which they think we should have. There is never any criticism of their actions. The information they provide is always welcomed and often quoted. But because the Bishops of the Church of England and the Catholic Church and men like the Reverend Alan Walker and other church leaders have expressed doubts about certain parts of the bill - clause 27 in particular - the Government is quite worried about the churches coming in and offering advice. I suggest that they are probably in a better position to know what causes broken homes than any legal man sitting in the chamber or elsewhere.

Will all these amendments make this law perfect? The lawyers are the experts who will discover weaknesses in it. They have done so already. They are the men who will reap a rich harvest out of it. If there are weaknesses in the measure, it needs a great deal of thought. I am quite happy to support, generally, the idea of uniformity.

I thought that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) set out quite clearly the difference between this measure and the bill introduced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). He pointed out that the honorable member's bill might have been described as containing the highest common factor but this bill brought down by the Attorney-General has the lowest common multiple. The Attorney-General has not introduced a new measure. He has taken clauses from all the acts in the Commonwealth and States dealing with this subject and consolidated them. He has just put them together and introduced them because he does not want to tread on anybody's corns in any of the States.

I am quite happy to support this bill, except for clause 27 (m). I expect a lot of explanation of that provision from the Attorney-General. It is not good enough for him to say that this provision is safeguarded by some other clause. Honorable members are well acquainted with the onus of proof section in the Repatriation Act and how that is applied. The legal men in this chamber - the honorable member for Balaclava and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - as well as a former senator and Attorney-General who is now Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, Mr. Justice Spicer, all expressed opinions on that particular section and how it is interpreted by the Repatriation Commission. We want more than words from the Attorney-General. If he cannot give us some real explanation and have something written into this measure to safeguard the effects of this clause, I, for one, will oppose it.

I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) that the expressed opinions of the church leaders cannot be ignored. I do not say that we have to accept them but we cannot just say that they do not know anything about the issue. Their opinions are entitled to be received and not pushed aside as though they counted for nothing.

I think the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) expressed himself some time ago as one of the experts who criticized the letters which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory had received. We have many experts in this Parliament. It is surprising to find how many members in this House think they are the real brains of this nation and that if they were not here the country would collapse. 1 am quite happy to accept the views of men outside the Parliament who are much more capable than most of those inside it. I am always ready to listen to the views of other people and accept them also. I think the honorable member could learn a lot from some of the letters he received, too. But from the way he spoke about the letters received by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, he probably threw his copies into the wastepaper basket anu forgot all about them. As I said before, 1 am sorry that the Government has not seen fit to do something to remove the causes of divorce by increasing child endowment, education, housing facilities and so on, instead of concentrating on divorce as such. 1 hope that the Attorney-General will give the assurance I have asked for. 1 am sure that members of the Opposition would be quite happy to remain in session until Christmas to give this important legislation the proper consideration which it should have in this Parliament. Much better consideration should be given to it than is to be given to it under the Government's plan, and with much better results. We could devote a great deal of time to the bill, and to amendments to it, instead of having it pushed through in the small hours of the morning.

I support the principle of having uniformity of divorce laws, but I need a great deal of explanation from the AttorneyGeneral regarding clause 27 (m).

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