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Wednesday, 11 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I gave notice of my intention to move that after the word "bankrupt," in line 2, the following words should be inserted - or debtor who makes an assignment or composition under this Act for the benefit of his creditors generally.

Since the amendment was circulated, the Minister has, in the course of the debate, intimated that the purpose of the Government with regard to this measure is to have it, like a war-ship, in several distinct water-tight compartments. That is to say, bankruptcy and assignment is each a division of the. Bill complete in itself, and so, too, with regard to the other methods of a debtor compounding or meeting his liabilities with his creditors other than by complete payment. Iwant to get an assurance from the Minister with regard to effectuating the object of my amendment. In my second-reading speech I dealt at some length with this subject. I pointed out that the Bill did not seem to me to make it clear that when a man assigned his estate, or compounded with , his creditors, or took advantage of one of the other forms provided by the Bill, the same priority would be given to wages debts due by him as is given in cases of sequestration. With sub-clause 1 of clause 80 in the Bill, it is abundantly clear that where there is a sequestration order a clerk, or a servant, or an em ploye, will have a priority in claim up to £50, and for four months. But where, instead of the man's estate being sequestrated, he takes advantage of some of the other provisions and assigns his estate for the benefit of his creditors generally, my contention is that a clerk, a servant, or an employe, should, in relation to the distribution of that estate, stand in precisely the same position as if the man were technically, as he is actually, a bankrupt, and that the same priority of claim should subsist. If the Minister can show me where in the Bill it is so provided, or where it will be so provided, I shall be prepared not to deal with the amendment now, because I think it is the general feeling of the. Committee that the wages or the salary of a clerk, or a servant, or an employe, shall not alone be entitled to priority of claim in respect to the estate of a bankrupt, but shall be entitled to priority of claim wherever a man takes advantage of the Bankruptcy Act to relieve himself as against his creditors. All that I gave notice of my amendment for was to make it abundantly clear that there would be no doubt whatever about this point. I would like to know what is the attitude of the Minister.

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