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After extensive debate over several weeks, the Upper House gave its approval to the Maintenance Bill, with eight amendments, at yesterday’s (Oct. 28) sitting. The approval of the legislation followed intense debate from both sides of the Upper House, with arguments centred on whether a public consultation should have been facilitated to gauge opinion on the law before it was passed. Responding to concerns raised by Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Senator Anthony Johnson that a public forum hosted by a Joint Select Committee would have been an appropriate means to allow the public the opportunity to address any issues they might have, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson said there was no need for a consultation as there was public familiarity with controversial aspects of the Bill, for well over six weeks.
Senator Nicholson, who said he had already been receiving feedback on the Bill from a number of stakeholders, argued that following the adjournment of the Senate two weeks ago, “time was given to interested parties to consider in particular Part Seven, which is to be introduced in the Bill, that deals with maintenance agreements.that is the only reason we took the adjournment.”
“In fact,” Senator Nicholson continued, “amendments were mooted coming out of suggestions and recommendations made by Senator Floyd Morris, and suggestions that came from Senator Dorothy Lightbourne.those would not have to been left to be considered by the public.” Piloted by Senator Nicholson, the amendments to the Maintenance Bill, was initially tabled in the Upper House on July 2 while deliberations on the amendments began in the Senate on September 23.
The amendments seek to place equal maintenance obligations on both sexes as spouses and parents. The proposed changes, which are part of a package of family law reforms, are based largely on the recommendations of a Family Law Committee and serve to confer obligations on spouses to maintain each other.
The amendments proposed would enable a married man to apply for maintenance upon dissolution of the marriage, which was previously the exclusive right of a married woman.