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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) . - I am very sorry that the Attorney-General has not seen fit to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I am not a lawyer; I have only been asked by my constituents to make laws for the past 32 years. When I have given some opinions, which apparently were right as against lawyers' opinions, which were wrong, it has been to my detriment, because they did not like it. In this instance, we are not dealing with a human, social problem as lawyers; we here have a responsibility as human beings, not as lawyers. Because the Law Council has decided something, it does not affect me at all. The Attorney-General said, " We are not clerics ", and I admit that we are not. But I have just as much right and even more duty on a matter that affects the Christian religion to listen to clerics than I have to listen to lawyers. After all, I know the lawyers have had a long experience and I congratulate the Attorney-General on the job that lawyers have done, on the time and work that they have put into this bill. But we cannot build a strong democracy by detaching it from its religious foundations, its motivating ideology and its soul. As Arnold Toynbee said, how can the Western nations successfully combat communism unless they establish a working Christianity?

It does not do to come into this Parliament and say that the lawyers are right and the clerics are wrong. Probably none of us is always right; we are always human beings and therefore liable to err. But, as I said before, the Churches have asked us to consider only three main points. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) wanted to quote Tasmania, where the law and the Church have recently come into conflict, and I do not think that the law came very well out of it. However, if he wants to refer to the graph that has been circulated, I hope he will look at it from the point of view of paragraphs (k) and (m) when we come to them, because New South Wales, from which the ground in paragraph (k) was taken, and Western Australia, from which the ground in paragraph (m) was taken, have a higher divorce rate than has any other State.

Mr Anderson - That is not so.

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - It is true. Take the graph and have a look at it.

Mr Thompson - Look at the year of it.

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES - I have looked at it, but we can argue that when we come to it. This is the official graph given to honorable members. It shows that one State, New South Wales, has 90 and Western Australia 80, as against 50 to 64 for the remaining States. That is the information given by the Attorney-General. If it is wrong, I merely point out that I did not prepare it.

With this provision, I am surprised that we are not adhering to the status quo, which has been so strongly supported by the Church. The Attorney-General said that most of these divorces occurred when the parties were between the ages of 30 and 40, when a year of life is terribly significant. May I say to the AttorneyGeneral that a year of life is terribly significant, no matter how old you are. Between 1914 and 1918, it was terribly significant to me when I was in my early twenties. Between 1940 and 1945, it was terribly significant to many people of various ages. Now that I am over 60 years of age, a year of life is even more significant than it was when I was between 30 and 40. This has nothing to do with the matter.

What we are dealing with are social problems and moral values in a Christian community. I am sorry that here is a small amendment that will not be granted, although it has been asked for by the Churches and it does not affect the bill. The Anglican bishops have not condemned the whole bill; neither have I nor has any one who has spoken on it. The Churches have asked for this amendment and I feel the quality of mercy might have been strained and the Attorney-General might have given way on it. But no, we will still stick to this secular outlook and we are not prepared to discuss it from the wider point of view, which I think is equally important. I feel that, if we do not be careful, there will be a very great danger that, instead of laying a corner-stone of a building of which we will all be proud, we will lay a foundationstone which will have a few names on it - I, for one, never was in favour of premature tombstones.

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