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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1728

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) (Minister for Social Services) - I shall of course look forward to receiving from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) the particulars of which he speaks and I will examine the case. What the honourable member says is not quite as simple as it looks. I think we all are, or should be, rather alarmed at the rising rate of illegitimacy in this country. If I recall the figures, 21,000 illegitimate babies were born in the calendar year 1970. In the year 1971 the figure was 25,000 and, although this is unofficial, I understand from the preliminary indications that the 1972 figure will be substantially higher still.

What is happening now is that about 10 per cent of total births in the community are illegitimate. This is not something which I think we should take lightly. I realise that from a humanitarian point of view we must look primarily at the interests of the child. Yet at the same time one must look at the preservation of the social structure as a whole. It may be that some people believe that marriage is no longer important and that we should get rid of marriage altogether. This is not something which I believe. In fact, I would reject that concept very strongly indeed.

Mr Scholes - Why?

Mr WENTWORTH - The honourable member asks why.

Mr Cohen - Why prejudice the children? That is the question.

Mr WENTWORTH - If one does reject that concept that there is no point in marriage and that one should go to another kind of society, one would have to take the further step of having some kind of sanctions which apparently are necessary because of the quite unprecedented upsurge in illegitimacy which has taken place in Australia in the last 3 or 4 years. Do we want this to continue or do we not? If we do not want it to continue we may have to think in terms of some kind of sanction? As the honourable member for Robertson would know, it is very difficult to decide what is the correct thing to do because there is a conflict of the 2 principles. Do we look always to the child or do we look to some extent to the genera] structure of society? At the present moment, when in Australia it would appear that the general structure of society is changing in a way that I certainly would deplore and that most of us would reject, I do not think we can ignore entirely the latter consideration. However, on this particular case, the honourable member can be assured that, when he gives me the name of the person concerned tomorrow, I will have the case examined in detail.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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