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Wednesday, 15 March 1961

Mr Ward d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -

1.   Has his attention been drawn to a report in a Sydney newspaper of 3rd March publishing details of a divorce case which report, in Mr. Justice Nield's opinion, constituted a breach of section 123 of the Commonwealth Matrimonial Causes Act?

2.   Has Mr. Justice Nield also expressed a doubt as to the validity of the section and suggested that the Commonwealth should initiate proceedings against the offending newspaper in order to clarify the position?

3.   Is the Government considering the matter; if so, when does he expect to make its decision known?

Sir Garfield Barwick - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Yes.

2.   Yes.

3.   Before the bill was passed, I gave careful consideration to views with regard to section 123 which the learned judge had expressed to me. In the particular case mentioned by His Honour, the newspaper published a report which certainly in my view contravened the section. However, having regard to the short time that the act has been in operation, to the possibility that newspaper staffs may still not be fully conversant with the requirements of the section, and to the nature and extent of the breach, I have decided not to institute proceedings in this instance. Not thinking a prosecution necessary on the substance of the matter, I certainly do not propose to institute one merely to provide a vehicle for a discussion of the constitutional validity of the section, as to which the Government entertains no doubt. I have, however, taken the matter up with the Editor of the newspaper personally, and I hope that the publicity (hat has been given to this matter will remove any possibility of misunderstanding as to what the act permits. It will certainly remove any merit from any suggestion in the future of inadvertence or inexperience. I cannot, and will not, allow the policy laid down by Parliament in the public interest to be disregarded, and I have given directions that in every State any reports which appear to contravene the section must be placed before me for consideration.

Conferences on Legislation.

Mr Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) m asked the Attorney-

General, upon notice -

On what dates and at what places have Commonwealth representatives attended conferences concerning (a) uniform companies legislation by the States, and (b) rules under the Matrimonial Causes Act?

Sir Garfield Barwick - The answer to the honorable member's question is as follows: -

(a)   Conferences on uniform company law since 1st January, 1959 - 18th June, 1959 (Melbourne). 15th to 17th July, 1959 (Melbourne). 31st August, 1959 (Sydney). 1st to 4th September, 1959 (Brisbane). 14th to 17th December, 1959 (Perth). 10th to 12th February, 1960 (Melbourne). 24-26th February, 1960 (Melbourne). 17th March, 1960 (Sydney). 11th to 15th July, 1960 (Adelaide). 1st to 10th August, 1960 (Brisbane). 6th to 17th February, 1961 (Hobart). 20th to 24th February, 1961 (Melbourne).

Some of these conferences were attended by Ministers and officers, others by officers only.

(b)   Conferences on matrimonial causes rules - 28th to 30th March, 1960 (Canberra).

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