Second Reading

Resumed from 4 December 2018.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [12.33 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate we will be supporting this legislation. The Criminal Code Amendment (Child Marriage) Bill 2018 removes the defences in the Criminal Code to sexual offences against a child under 16 years that are based on the parties being lawfully married at the time. I understand this arose because a particular member of the public wrote to the then Minister for Child Protection, and drew her attention to the issue, suggesting that it was probably useful for us to address the anomaly in this legislation. Of course, we know that marriage does not come under state law—it is commonwealth law—and that the defences in the WA Criminal Code reflect a time in the past when the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 permitted marriage of girls under 16 years of age, subject to certain conditions. Now, however, that same Marriage Act does not permit a person under 16 years to lawfully marry under any circumstances whatsoever, nor does it recognise as valid any marriage that has been solemnised overseas if either party was under marriageable age. Under the act, “marriageable age” generally means 18 years, but in exceptional circumstances, and with the authorisation of a judge or magistrate, it can be 16 or 17 years. In no circumstances does it mean a child under the age of 16 years. The defences are therefore redundant and the bill removes those redundant conditions to reflect the state of marriage law in Australia.

I think, importantly, and I want to make sure that I have this on record, the bill makes no change to any right that a person who has been through a purported marriage that is void may have to apply to the Family Court—for example, for orders in relation to property, maintenance or any children born of the relationship. I thought it was important to make sure that that was clearly on the record. That is my understanding from the briefings that I have received on this piece of legislation, so I want to ensure that it is clear that none of those rights will be impacted by this legislation, should it be passed.

The bill is consistent with preventing sexual abuse of children and educating the broader community about the age at which Australia allows people to marry. Therefore, the Greens will be supporting its passage.

Comments and speeches from various members

Question put and passed.

Bill read a second time.

Leave granted to proceed forthwith to third reading.

Third Reading

Bill read a third time, on motion by Hon Sue Ellery (Leader of the House), and passed.


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