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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 638

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - On this matter, looking at it from the aspect of public policy, there is one other consideration which, I suggest, has to be taken into account. That is that if the law is to compel unwilling spouses to give evidence it may be introducing a greater evil than the short-comings of the law which the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has pointed to and which he says he seeks to correct by this provision. He asks: Why should a case arise in which a plaintiff may have given a false account of events and that false account may be thrown out of court by the truthful evidence of his spouse who may, if this law is passed, be called upon to testify? But, surely as a matter of reality, the introduction of this provision could be said to be fostering the giving of false evidence.

It is well known among practitioners that the matrimonial courts are the scenes of perjury on a grand scale. I am not telling any secrets out of court. Every layman and every lawyer knows that so absurd are our matrimonial laws - they are held in such low regard by the community; they are so completely out of tune with modern reality - that they are flouted day in and day out by respectable people who otherwise would never think of telling lies, let alone telling lies on oath. I instance the provisions on collusiveness. Everybody knows that a great majority of undefended divorces are collusive divorces. Everybody knows that false evidence is constantly given in the matrimonial courts. Are we not perhaps fostering the proliferation of this social evil? Are we not inviting it by putting an unwilling spouse in the agonising position of being compelled to give evidence against the interests of the person in the world who may be closest to her? Are we not inviting that spouse to deviate from the truth? Is not the proposed provision substituting a greater social evil for the social evil which the Attorney-General says this measure is designed to eradicate?

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