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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr WIGHT (Lilley) .- As one who intends to support the clause as drafted by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), and to oppose the amendment, I am not prepared to accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Macquarie that this paragraph in clause 27 will make divorce easy. That is quite untrue. It will not make divorce easy. It will provide a degree of social justice that has been needed for a long time in this community. This paragraph will have application only where mariages have already broken down. In nine cases out of ten, a marriage has already failed long before separation actually occurs. I refer the honorable member for Macquarie again to the actual wording of the paragraph, which provides that a petition for divorce may be based on the ground that - since the marriage, the other party to the marriage has, without just cause or excuse, wilfully deserted the petitioner for a period of not less than two years.

In such a case the deserted party might well have been experiencing absolute misery for those two years, possibly having to care for children and find enough money to feed, clothe and educate them. For those two years the person concerned would be denied any social justice whatsoever. That period of time must elapse before the injured party can have the opportunity of marrying again and so being able to bring up the children in a proper manner. The honorable member for Macquarie is now suggesting that we should prolong the period of suffering by a further year. Instead of having the aggrieved person waiting for two years to get social justice, the honorable member suggests that the period should be three years. Is it a Christian attitude to condemn a person to suffer for three years instead of two? I find it hard to reconcile my views with those of the honorable member for Macquarie.

I intend to support the paragraph as drafted, and I cannot accept the honorable member's suggestion that it will make divorce easy. It will shorten the period of suffering and will enable a person to obtain a divorce more quickly in a case in which the divorce was inevitable anyway. No one can convince me that if two people have been separated, in the manner set out in this paragraph, for a period of two years, reconciliation is probable. In such a case I believe that divorce is as inevitable as it could possibly become. Prolonging the waiting period for another year will not bring about a possibility of reconciliation. I strongly support the clause as framed, and I oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton.

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