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Thursday, 15 March 1973
Page: 603

Mr CROSS (BRISBANE. QLD) - Has the attention of the Minister representing the Attorney-General been drawn to criticisms directed at recent changes introduced by the Attorney-General to the divorce rules which operate pusuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act? Is there any substance in the criticism?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for the Northern Territory) - I have seen the criticism to which the honourable member referred. I am sure that all the honourable members have seen the criticism. I suppose one has to say that whenever reforms are made to branches of the law like the divorce rules opinions will differ as to whether the reforms are done in the best way or whether a better way could have been followed. I think the best answer I can give to the honourable member's question is to point out that the old divorce rules have been subject to a great deal of criticism by some of the most learned and responsible people familiar with the subject, including Mr Justice Selby, the senior judge in divorce in New South Wales. The rules were greatly in need of reform.

Any person who has had experience of the divorce jurisdiction will know the unpleasantness, embarrassment, hypocrisy, distaste, prurience and voyeurism that existed in the divorce courts as they were forced to operate under the old rules and the old philosophy. The changes in the rules make great steps forward. They remove the obligation to file a discretion statement. I have seen cases in the past where people have fought in the courts for weeks and weeks and incurred costs amounting to hundreds of dollars over whether a discretion statement should be made available to the other spouse. The changed rules remove the court fees. They attempt, successfully I hope, to impose a price limitation on fees so that more and more people can take advantage of the system. They remove the very unfortunate speculative nature of divorce proceedings whereby an order for costs meant that if a petitioner went to a lawyer, the lawyer would act only when he was reasonably sure that he would get his costs out of someone else's hide over a long period of time. They remove that aspect and the degrading experience of having sometimes 20 to 30 people in a day waiting in the courts, having to listen to everyone else'9 often thought dirty washing being washed in public while judges were forced to examine a person on a discretion statement.

The changes in the divorce rules allow a divorce to be granted in the dignified atmosphere of a judge's chambers on affidavit evidence and they remove the obligation to deny condonation which is only another way of saying 'I forgave my wife' or '1 forgave my husband'. They remove the obligation to deny connivance because of the fault concept, which is archaic in our law, that people had virtually to say in advance: 'I have created a fault in order to get a divorce'. They deny the collusion aspect which is only another way of saying that people wanted a divorce and were prepared to agree to have a divorce. All in all, it is a magnificent step forward.

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