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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2662

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I speak to the point raised by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I agree that by and large parties get their message across to a tribunal better through lawyers than they do if they have to do it themselves. I join issue with some people who are associated with divorce law reform and who want completely to eliminate the lawyer from the process. I agree that in an ideal society we would not have lawyers, but we are very far from having reached that ideal society. There is no doubt in my mind that justice is frequently not done when parties cannot afford to have a lawyer.

One of the things we also had in mind, in addition to the point raised by Senator Button on this matter, was that this family court should be set up as an institution which will be different from traditional courts in which matters of this kind are heard. It will be a much more informal court. For instance, we presume that there will be no robing and none of the formidable trappings of judicial office which I know from my own experience many litigants find rather off-putting and in some instances rather terrifying. We envisage a court in which the presiding judge will make more effort than in the past to establish direct contact with the parties and to be sure that he understands the wishes of the parties. We want to take the soullessness out of the procedures which are associated with proceedings where lawyers are involved. I think that I will be able to elaborate on that point in moving another amendment to this clause a little later.

Senator Buttonmade the point that unfortunately there are lawyers who consult their own convenience rather than the convenience of their clients as to when matters come on for hearing. It is a very familiar occurrence, in my observation, that lawyers do not always put their clients first in the matter of time. A busy practitioner might have something to do in another court on the day when the client's matter comes on and he manages to persuade himself with a bit of rationalisation that it is in the interests of the client that the matter should be postponed. We want to be sure that it was the party and not the lawyer whose convenience was being met in this case. The further point I make is that we believe that, if the sort of court we have in mind comes to fruition, the parties will not feel loath to represent themselves before a judge in matters of this kind.

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