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Wednesday, 11 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - This is not my own suggestion, but is one of the unanimous recommendations of the special Committee of the Associated Chambers of Commerce held in Sydney in 1913. So far any thing recommended by them has been, opposed by the Government apparently without much show of reason.

Senator Gardiner - We have accepted quite a number of their recommendations already.

Senator KEATING - Can the honorable senator name one?

Senator Gardiner - Yes, in a previous clause I accepted the honorable senator'samendment to substitute the words " file with " for " submit to."

Senator KEATING - That was not their suggestion, nor was I concerned with the use of the word " file." I wanted to make it " file with the Registrar " instead of " submit to the Official Receiver." The Minister made it "file with the Official Receiver," and the clause as it stands is a farce. If it goes through in its present form it will be a laughingstock throughout the community. The Registrar is a permanent official, whereasthe Official Receiver is not responsible beany body.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator should know that the Official Receiver is to be the permanent officer under this Bill.

Senator KEATING - The honorable senator should not say that, because it exists only in his mind. It is not in the. Bill, and the public will not know it from the Bill. The honorable senatormay know it, or believes he knows it, inhis own mind, but that is not enough for the people. The Bill should express the policy of the Government. Will the Minister search the Bill through, and show me where the Official Receiver haa any responsibilities to anybody? What, are his duties and responsibilities under it? Where is he oompelled to allow * creditor to inspect a statement? If I went to an Official Receiver's office, and asked to be allowed to inspect the statement of assets and liabilities of a bankrupt, the Official Receiver could say, ' 'Let him wait. I am not going to have him trapesing into my office to look at the statement." Where is he bound to allow me to inspect? The Act says that he shall, but what obligation is there on him to obey? As a matter of fact, Official Receivers do not want people coming into their offices. They will not be in the position of Registrars, and to say that the amendment which the Minister made was suggested by the Associated Chambers of

Commerce is to depart altogether from the facts. The amendment now before the Committee has been put forward by that body representing the commercial interests of Australia, not in the interests of any section of the community, but after lengthened experience of the bankruptcy laws of the States. It is proposed, not with any sinister intention, but to enable the creditors to have a better control of the affairs of a bankrupt who takes advantage of the Act. It is proposed as the result of their experience, and all the Minister has to say in reply is that it might give a dishonest committee man an opportunity for fraud. Does not that rest entirely with the creditors? If they choose to have one man, why should they not? In many instances the bankruptcy is small, measured by the amount of indebtedness, and if three are appointed to the committee it will often be impracticable to get them together.

Senator Pearce - How do they rub along in the Old Country?

Senator KEATING - I cannot say from experience, but in Australia it is common when a committee of three is appointed for them to be unable to meet, and to delegate the duty to one. We are arriving at the same result, The amendment has not been submitted without due consideration. It is not merely my own suggestion, and is not submitted simply for the sake of moving an amendment. The Australian Associated Chambers of Commerce considered the Bill very carefully. They invited every Chamber of Commerce in Australia to send a special representative to the 1913 meeting to deal with the Bill in a special committee, and this is one of the unanimous recommendations of that body. To say, as the Minister does, that the English Bankruptcy Act provides for the appointment of three, and the New South Wales Act for three, is very well, but to say, as I do, that the united wisdom and experience of the Chambers of . Commerce suggests this amendment demonstrates that the clause as it stands is not in accordance with the necessities of the times in this Commonwealth.

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