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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1685

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I rise in the debate on the estimates for the Attorney-General's Department to discuss a different matter to that which has already been discussed so far. I believe it is a matter with which the Australian community has been deeply concerned for many years. Recently Battle of Britain celebrations were conducted in Australia and we were reminded of the historical words of the late Sir Winston Churchill. In referring to members of the Royal Air Force he said: 'Never before in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few'. 1 want to apply those words to the impositions made by certain members of the legal profession through divorce costs and I hope for the benefit of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to develop that theme in the short time available to me. I wish to apply Churchill's words to certain members of Parliament insofar as I say that never before in the field of legal conflict has so much been owed by so few to «o many.

It has been reported that today .some people are using do-it-yourself divorce kits, proving to the community that they can obtain a divorce at a total cost of about $30. I have the honour to sit in this Parliament behind the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby), one of the most eminent Queen's Counsel in the country. He made sacrifices to come to the Parliament. When he was speaking the Minister at the table was one of the most eminent Queen's Counsel that Sydney has produced - Mr Nigel Bowen, Q.C., the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What pains me is that we very seldom hear from eminent members of this Parliament about the exorbitant divorce costs which unfortunate Australians must pay in order to disentangle the complications of their lives. They have to continue to pay, down through the years.

Tt is well known that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) earned great credit for himself by recommending an inquiry by a Senate committee into our divorce laws. He referred to a defended divorce case in which one party to his knowledge had to pay costs of about $34,000. How ridiculous that is. Mr Justice Selby, the Chief Judge in Divorce in New South Wales, is on record as saying on 9th June that Commonwealth legal aid should be provided in some divorce cases. I think that the advice of such an outstanding jurist as Mr Justice Selby should be heeded by the Commonwealth. In the Brisbane 'Courier-Mail' of 7th August a prominent person wrote:

The Queensland public at present is being denied access to the law and its remedies . . . This leads to a situation where there is one law for the rich . . . and one for the poor.

He was referring particularly to divorce. The 'National Times' of 28th February also referred to divorce. I am a little hesitant to quote the article concerned because it might induce more lawyer members of Parliament to leave Parliament and resume their legal careers. The 'National Times' said:

Defended cases cost more money and this is a good reason why so many cases are undefended. For court appearances solicitors charge $10 an hour, barristers $180 a day, and QCs start at $200 a day, ranging up to $500 a day.

That is not bad sugar. It makes you laugh, Mr Deputy Chairman. The article went on:

A defended case lasts at least one day, frequently 5 and occasionally longer.

I notice that the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Barnes) is smiling. Sammy Howard or Georgie Moore would not charge him anything like that to ride 'Tails'. The article went on:

The complete costs for both sides, including the fees of two Ocs, junior barristers and solicitors, could reach more than $1,700 a day. Legal aid is subject to a means test.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And on top of that they have to pay the police.

Mr JAMES - That sometimes arises, too, but the police price is always a lot smaller than that of some trade union leaders who get mixed up in a little graft. The honourable member is going a little red. The article in the 'National Times' refers to a divorce case which had cost one party $34,000 before the charges were taxed. I think it is time that the Commonwealth Parliament gave a lead in this field. Most honourable members know of unfortunate divorce cases. I know of cases in which decent women whose marriages have broken up have approached a legal officer and he has said: Go away and get a bit more money and we will start.' They have had to pawn some of their most cherished worldly possessions.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Could you speak up and let us all in on it?

Mr JAMES - I do not want to humiliate the honourable member for Hindmarsh. He is a pal of mine but he is sticking his neck out and asking for it. I do not want to have to deal with him.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.

Mr JAMES - The Attorney-General administers the Commonwealth Police. Force. A recent case prompted me to think that the Commonwealth police should be used more to investigate the types of people who are migrating to Australia. I have in mind particularly the awful episode of the bombing in Sydney. Only a year or two ago an illiterate and unskilled Calabrian migrated to Australia. His name is Dominic Iorfino He was given permission to migrate to Australia with his wife and 8 children. He parted from his wife and was unable to keep the children. An article states that the Department of Immigration deservedly has a red face about the case which hit the headlines recently when lorfino was unable to support his family. It goes on to say that the publishers are willing to bet that the Iorfino family and the Department of Immigration officials dealing with the case were of a certain religious faith and that this may have involved circumvention. The article suggests that a certain religious organisation may have applied pressure. If that is so, it is not to the credit of that organisation in helping to circumvent the immigration laws.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired.

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