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Wednesday, 1 October 1958

Mr OSBORNE (Evans) (Minister for Air) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of this short bill is to clarify the authority of chaplains to solemnize marriages under the Marriage (Overseas) Act 1955. Honorable members will recall that this act authorizes certain marriages to be performed in overseas countries that do not form part of the Queen's dominions. So far as marriages of servicemen are concerned, the act enables a marriage between parties of whom one at least is a member of the Defence Force to be solemnized in an overseas country by a chaplain. The act also validates certain marriages purported to be solemnized by chaplains in overseas countries between 3rd September, 1939, that is, the date of commencement of World War II., and 1st July, 1957, the date of commencement of Part III. of the act. " Chaplain " is at present defined by section 4 as - " a minister of religion who, at the time material for the purposes of this Act -

(a)   is or was authorized by or under the law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth to celebrate marriages in that State or Territory; and

(b)   is or was a member of the Defence

Force ". [Quorum formed.]

It has been brought to notice that this definition may be defective, as in some States and Territories a minister of religion registered as an authorized celebrant, upon ceasing to reside in the particular State or Territory, is deregistered, and is therefore no longer a person " authorized to celebrate marriages ". It is possible that some ministers of religion who enlisted as chaplains and who left their State or Territory in the course of service duties were deregistered in this way. A doubt therefore arises whether the marriages purported to be validated by section 16 have in fact all been validated, as some of the chaplains may not have been authorized to celebrate marriages at the relevant time. The same doubt may arise in the future with regard to marriages solemnized by chaplains pursuant to section 1.4 of the Marriage (Overseas) Act.

This bill inserts a new and more appropriate definition of " chaplain ", which will avoid the difficulties referred to. The authority of a chaplain to perform functions under the act will, under this definition, be dependent solely upon his appointment as a chaplain in the defence forces. Provisions have been included in the bill to validate marriages already performed by chaplains both in the 1939-57 period and in the period between the date of commencement of Part III. of the principal act and the date of commencement of this bill. There is nothing contentious in this measure; it is designed purely to remove the doubts referred to. I commend the bill to honorable members.

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