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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 192

Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Prime Minister and relates to the Government's action as recently announced by the Attorney-General in licensing additional persons for the civil celebration of marriages. I ask: Is this action, which on the surface seems reasonable enough, in fact an episode in a subtle campaign by the left wing of his Party to reduce the significance of all forms of religion by taking over more and more of the traditional functions of the Church? Is this action in relation to marriages in parallel with the attempt to divide and destroy the independent school system in which his Government is currently engaged? Is there a substantial faction in his Party which accepts the Leninist dictum that 'religion is the opium of the people' and adopts the Leninist tactic of attacking religion by snide and indirect methods because, as Lenin said, religion is too strong to be destroyed by direct and open attack?

Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - The first question seems to be in order. It has been the law of this country, first of all when the law was passed by the State Parliaments and for the last decade since it has been an Australian law, for people to be able to contract marriages according to civil rites. An increasing proportion of people who wish to marry now choose or would choose civil rites. There are not enough persons, not enough places and not suitable enough hours to meet the legitimate demand under the laws. The Australian Government is acting to meet that demand.

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