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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- Mr. Chairman,I think that the AttorneyGeneral is drawing the long bow when he says that the privileging of marriage guidance councils simply gives to them a measure of protection in the sense that it will' encourage people to go to them. I put it to the honorable and learned gentleman that if people will go to a marriage guidance counsellor in the knowledge that what they tell him and what they discuss with him will not be repeated, it may be said with equal force that people will go to a minister of religion if they have a similar assurance.

The Minister has said, Sir; that a minister of religion or a priest would not disclose to a court what he had learned. My I ask the honorable gentleman: Is there at present any statutory bar which prevents a person from subpoenaing a witness who may be a minister of religion or a priest to come into court and give evidence under oath? There may be, not a statutory bar, but a conventional bar. However, conventions exist simply to be broken, and it may well be that, in the future, parties under great provocation who have discussed something with their local minister of religion or their parish priest will take a stand. Each of them may say, " I want to bring into court the minister of religion " - or the parish priest, as the case may be - " with whom I discussed the matter ". The Attorney-General may say that a convention will prevent the court from agreeing to this course. I repeat - I hope it is not an impertinence - that there is ample evidence in history of the breaking of conventions time and time again. The honorable gentleman said that he has discussed the bill with representatives of the Church' and that none of them had raised this point with him. May I say, with respect, that I have discussed the point with some members of the Church and they regard it as being a slur upon them that you confer protection upon a marriage guidance council which has, in effect, a quasi statutory duty to perform, and not upon them.

Mr Haylen - What sort of sordid story did you tell them? Are you suggesting that marriage guidance councils are-

Mr KILLEN - I do not follow the honorable gentleman. I did not get the tail end of his interjection which was obscured by chewing gum, I think. The whole issue is this: It could well be that a circumstance would occur in which one or other of the parties would call a minister of religion into the court to give evidence of what they had discussed with him. With great respect, I put to the Attorney-General that there is another side of this. Believing as I do that this constitutes nothing but a slur on the Church, believing that circumstances could well arise in which a minister of religion would be called and the existing conventions broken, and believing that a number of people including well-thinking clergy consider that this protection is desirable, I propose to divide the committee on the amendment.

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