Sir Garfiled Barwick’s Conjugal Rights Problem and other comments on the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1959

“The procedure for an order for restitution of conjugal rights is an ecclesiastical procedure designed to protect marriage and to secure reconciliation of estranged parties. Indeed, according to ecclesiastical rules it was enforceable by attachment of the disobedient respondent. When the possibility of dissolution for disobedience was substituted for other means of enforcement of an order for restitution of conjugal rights, the way was opened, and in many cases taken, to an early, and in the minds of some a too easy, dissolution of marriage.” (Sir Garfield Barwick, speech made to the house of representatives 14 May 1959)

This is one of the many problems that Sir Garfield Barwick sought to resolve through his matrimonial causes bill of 1959. Rather than requiring ‘attachment of the disobedient respondant’ he sought to require one years disobedience of an order for the ‘restitution of conjugal rights. This new method would prevent couples deciding to get and then disobey such an order as an easy way to get a divorce.

These hoops are justified because: “The prevalence of broken marriages does threaten our strength and imperil our future.” (Sir Garfield Barwick, 14 May 1959).

After pondering the issue over the winter recess Kim Beazley’s dad clarified the risk posed to the nation in a speech to the House of Representatives. Not only do we get a clarification of the national importance of marriage but we also gain an insight into the military history buff-ness of Kim – his Dad was something of a military nut. Beazley, the older, stated:

“To a child, desertion by his parents is a moral disaster. To a child the unity of his parents – not merely the absence of divorce – is a powerful factor in developing mental and moral ballast. A very large part of our education, of all the stuff that is poured out in films and books, undercuts the position of the woman and holds her up as being something other than a woman. This, as a consequence, produces in children, a lack of mental and moral ballast. Those factors have led to military disaster.

“I have recently been in the United States and the service chiefs there are at present having played to them again and again a tape recording of a report on United States troops who were prisoners of war during the Korean campaign. The service chiefs in the United States are gravely concerned at what happened in the Korean war. No Turkish prisoners of war broke under Communist Chinese brain-washing. One-third of American prisoners of war died from sheer lack of conviction. No physical harm was done to them. They did not stand to one another. They betrayed one another. They even threw sick men into the snow. Another third succumbed to brain-washing in what you might call the political sense, and another third stood utterly resistant. The percentage who stood utterly resistant would not have been as high but for the American negro. The American negro, in the belief of the United States General Staff, because of his deep traditions about slavery, saw slavery when it was coming and became immediately resistant. So the most discontented element of the United States community according to Communist theory and the one that should have collapsed easiest to this brain washing, did not collapse at all. There was not one instance of an American negro succumbing to brain-washing.

“The American authorities are sure that they know how the Chinese Communists went about their brain-washing techniques. The communists got together thousands and thousands of Chinese who had lived in the United States and got them to write eassays on the United States community until they had distilled the essence of the United States way of life. The conclusion which they drew and upon which they operated was that the American people had become a people of weak loyalties to their families, weak loyalties to their families, weak loyalty to their church, and weak loyalties to the community; that they were happily dependent on certain props provided by the community, mostly of a material kind, and when those props were removed the people would be floundering.

Prior to Kim’s Dad’s speech a Mr Luchetti offered an observation that certainly changes the context of these remarks, bringing them back to earth from a realm reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s insane general.

“I believe that the vow is above everything else and if the vow is not accepted it should not be made. If people do not want to observe it, they are not compelled to make it. The Church does not dictatorially compel people to go to the church for their wedding ceremony. But I believe that once the promise has been made it is binding and should be upheld on every occasion, and this Parliament has a duty to support it.”

If one accepts that the government should support a social institution shouldn’t it support it? Putting aside the complete lack of argument about why this should be done in the first place, isn’t it a bit stupid to support a social institution by changing its rules in order to make it more popular,  a social institution is, after all, only the rules that it holds.


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This author is just another fucking dickhead.

One Response to Sir Garfiled Barwick’s Conjugal Rights Problem and other comments on the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1959

  1. Sir Garfield Barwick was one of only eight justices of the High Court to have served in the Parliament of Australia prior to his appointment to the Court. He did his best job during his life period and regarding that Act of matrimonial causes in 1959. And because of him only today matrimonial is a good relation.

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