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Thursday, 30 June 1949

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - I support the bill, very warmly. I agree with the point which has been made that we, by ratifying this convention, are helping to affirm a body of international law for the future. At the same time, we are also reaffirming a great moral principle. We cannot too often reaffirm great moral principles, even though we may see on all sides departures from the practice of those principles, and find within our own borders departures from the practise of certain other moral principles to which we have subscribed. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber, who have spoken in this debate and have been criticized by honorable members opposite, did not condemn this measure as such, but they did speak of it in terms of criticism because of its ineffectually, in itself, to bring about the thing which we claim to be right and proper in the conduct of national and human affairs. As I see it, this measure really stems from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a part of the body of law and statement of principle that has been set forth by the United Nations. We, a3 a government and as a people, have always subscribed to conventions that have been placed before us. Certain articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deal with the right of marriage, which is closely bound up with this convention on genocide. This is not merely a measure designed to prevent the extermination of groups by acts of violence, for it is also aimed at moves to prevent births in certain groups. There is even at this moment discussion of a policy to encourage the prevention of births in Japan and, I concede, in Britain, and in other countries. We must ensure as a subscriber to this convention that that policy shall not be allowed to develop to the point at which it will become an imposition upon people that they shall practise birth control. We in Australia are departing very largely from certain conventions to which we have subscribed and which seem to me to be closely connected with the convention now before the committee. Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as finally adopted, reads -

(   1 ) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality, or religion, have the. right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage, and at its dissolution.

(2)   Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

(3)   The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Under certain of our laws, we are cutting right across that principle to which we have subscribed. We are preventing Australians from exercising their lawful right to marry.

Mr Beazley - Then, the honorable member agrees that the bill is necessary as a practical measure.

Dame ENID LYONS - I do agree. T have contended from the beginning that we should pass the bill, but we must not depart from the spirit of Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the administration of our laws. I say strongly that if an Australian lawfully takes unto himself a wife who is not of Australian birth, he should have the right, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which, I repeat, we have subscribed, to maintain that wife in this country.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member for Darwin was dealing with the prevention of births in groups of people. She is entitled to touch upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but she is not entitled to do more than that. .

Dame ENID LYONS - There is a distinct connexion between the convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights opens up a wide field, and the honorable member would not be in order in going too far into it.

Dame ENID LYONS -I bow to your ruling, sir, but the nations that have subscribed to the convention should ensure that their practice shall accord absolutely with the principles enunciated in it.

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