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Tuesday, 19 November 1974
Page: 2540

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - The existing law and administration of divorce, custody and other family matters is too humiliating, too complex and too costly. The laws should be changed so that they may be characterised by dignity, simplicity and inexpensiveness. Despite what has been said, the existing law allows for divorce even where a court is not satisfied that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. A broken down marriage should no longer be a prison which can be escaped from only by adultery, cruelty or the like. Despite all that has been said inside and outside this chamber the fact is that, for example, by an isolated act of adultery a divorce can be obtained even where no one asserts that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

It is a long time since I moved, and the Senate accepted, that there be an inquiry into the law and administration of divorce, custody and other family matters, dealing in particular with the oppressive costs, delays, indignities and other injustices. I think it is some 4 years. It is also a long time since the Family Law Bill was introduced in this chamber. It was introduced on 13 December of last year. There has been ample opportunity for those who are interested in what the state of the law should be to look at the Bill. The political parties have their own experts on the subject. The churches and other bodies which ought to be interested in this subject have had ample opportunity over the last few years, especially over the last year, to examine the measures and to see what they thought ought to be the state of the law. Some of them have done so but others have not. There is criticism if one brings in a Bill and does not accept any changes to it; but there is even more criticism if one listens to some of the suggestions that are made and, as in the case of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which examined the clauses of this Bill, if one endeavours to have drafts made incorporating views which seem to be sensible.

May 1 say that the Bill as it stands is substantially the same, as far as its effect on the ordinary person, as it was in December of last year. There have been improvements, that is true, but not really to the matters which are of contention here. I welcome the improvements which have been proposed. I have done my best to put them in a form in which they can be considered, debated and voted on by the Senate. I have no time to deal with the other matters which have been raised. I am aware that there have been subtle, and not so subtle efforts to prevent this Bill from being voted on by the Parliament this year. I regret that many tens of thousands of persons may have to suffer because of the actions of some persons inside and outside of this chamber. As there is so little time available, I think that I should ask the Senate to vote upon Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson's proposal and upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson's amendment) be left out:

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