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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2666

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - I move:

In sub-clause (4) leave out 'direct', insert 'advise'.

This amendment is moved because it is not con-' sidered that any advantage could be obtained by compelling the parties to attend upon a marriage counsellor. Counselling, reconciliation and similar matters depend upon an atmosphere of persuasion, not of compulsion. 'Direct', after a mature consideration of the sub-clause, is the kind of thing that gets people's backs up. If the court wishes to persuade people to get together it ought to say: 'We think you should see a counsellor. You are advised to do so'. That is one thing. Sensible judges who are steeped in the family atmosphere will suggest that. We must accept that the 2 parties are going through a break-down of marriage and want to get away from one another. The court should be able to say to them: 'This is our advice. See a marriage counsellor'. I think that the best way to do this is in an atmosphere of persuasion. If the court orders, or directs in that sense, people to get advice, help and so forth, it will not work. The court should not try to force people. If an unwilling person is forced to see a counsellor, what will be achieved? If the court advises and persuades, there is some hope of reconciliation or of a change in attitude. It is as simple as that. Do we introduce an element of compulsion into an area in which we are really trying to persuade people that their partner is not so bad after all, that they might be at fault and so on? It may not amount to very much in the long run.

On the other hand, people in that situation resent the direction to them. The situation would be worse if the court added that if they did not see a counsellor they would be in contempt of court or they would be subject to some penalty. If they went because they felt it was necessary to go, no good would come out of the exercise, they would get their backs up. They would go, but they would not be co-operative. That is the reason for the amendment. Some people may think that such persons should be compelled, directed and so forth. I do not think, in trying to heal a marriage that is breaking or has broken down, the element of compulsion which is involved in the use of the word 'direct' ought to be brought into it. That is why I have moved the amendment to alter the word 'direct' to 'advise'. After a good deal of reflection, I think 'direct' should be deleted. I know that a lot of others think it would help to have this compulsion to direct or to force people to undergo this kind of counselling. With great respect to them, I do not share that view.

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