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Wednesday, 25 September 1974
Page: 1385

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.

Senator JAMESMcCLELLANDHonourable senators will recall that yesterday in my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs I tabled an interim report on the law and administration of divorce and related matters and the Family Law Bill 1974. I stressed that it was an interim report only. In this morning's Melbourne Age' on page 3 there appeared an article headed: 'Cut grounds of divorce; Senate body'. The story contained, inter alia, these words:

Replacing the 'fault' concept for divorce by a no-fault system based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has been recomended by an all-Party Senate committee.

The article went on to state a little further down:

An irretrievable breakdown would be established by one year's continuous separation.

The statement is a misrepresentation of what actually appeared in the interim report. The relevant section of the report, paragraph 10 on page 6, reads as follows:

From the submissions received and oral evidence taken by the Committee on the general reference, a remarkable consensus has emerged that the present grounds of divorce based as they are on the notion of matrimonial fault in one or other of the parties to the marriage are out of date and that a new ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage is desirable.

It must be perfectly clear that that paragraph is a comment on the evidence which had been received by the Committee and is not and cannot be read to be a firm recommendation by the Committee based on the evidence.

Even though it may be possible for a commentator to make some sort of prediction of the Committee's frame of mind from a reading of the whole report I submit that the writer of the article went further than he was entitled in stating flat-footedly that the Committee had already made up its mind and had made a firm recommendation to replace the fault provisions in the present Act with one sole ground of irretrievable breakdown. I trust that the newspaper in question will correct this error.

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