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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2430

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator Poyser - No.

The PRESIDENT - 1 granted leave before you spoke, senator. Leave is granted.

Senator GREENWOOD - I have tabled the report made to me by the honourable Mr Justice Jenkyn of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on the operation of the English Divorce Reform Act of 1969. Honourable senators will recall that during the debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1971 some interest was shown in the possibility of breakdown of marriage being made a ground of divorce in Australia. As honourable senators probably know, irretrievable breakdown of ' marriage is now a ground of divorce in England. Indeed, it is the sole ground since the Divorce Reform Act came into operation on 1st January 1971. However, whilst it is the sole ground, a court may not hold that a marriage has broken down irretrievably unless the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the 5 sets of facts, including adultery and desertion, stipulated in the Act. The English Act is therefore different from the Canadian and Californian Acts providing for breakdown of marriage.

Mr JusticeJenkyn is a judge who sits regularly in the matrimonial causes jurisdiction in New South Wales. When it became know that he was to visit England last year arrangements were made by my predecessor for the judge to spend some time observing the operations of the Divorce Reform Act. Mr Justice Jenkyn listened to cases in the new Family Division of the High Court of Justice and he discussed the operation of the new Act with the President of the Family Division and his brother judges and also the Registrar of the Court. On his return to Australia Mr Justice Jenkyn made his report to me. I regard it as a very useful document. It is a document that I feel would assist persons who wish to engage in public debate on the merits of the English Act. I am sure the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs will find it of great assistance in its consideration of grounds of divorce in Australia. The tabling of the report will enable it to be available to other honourable senators who are not on this Committee but are interested in this important subject.

Senator Murphy - Mr President, in view of the importance of this report and the fact that it falls squarely within the terms of a matter which has been referred by the Senate to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, I suggest that it may not be inappropriate for that Committee to be asked to look at this report. Would it not be commonsense to refer the report to it immediately?

Senator Greenwood - Perhaps I might respond to what has been suggested. 1 agree this is a report which ought to be looked at by the Senate Standing Committee and it will be looked at. I do not think it is an appropriate matter for a motion. I have received written communications from the Committee asking for the assistance of my Department. This report is part of the material provided for its assistance. My purpose in tabling the report is to give it publicity and to enable those who are interested to have the benefit of the information, which 1 think is a useful step to have taken.

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