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Wednesday, 18 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I have no objection to accept the suggestion offered by Senator Senior, and make the amendment read in such a way as to permit the trustee to employ any person, including the bankrupt, to do any business necessary for carrying on the business of the bankrupt. With regard to the statement of the Minister that the Bill elsewhere provides for the employment of the bankrupt, it is true that, in clause 98, and not clause 97, there is a provision enabling the trustee, with the sanction of the creditors, .by resolution of any general meeting, to appoint the bankrupt to superintend the management of his property, or any part thereof, or to carry on his trade for the benefit of his creditors on such terms as the trustee may direct. It is clear from that that the Bill contemplates the possible employment of the bankrupt, but not for a limited period or a definite task. It contemplates his employment for the superintendence of the management of his property, or any part thereof, or the carrying on of the trade of his business. I am proposing to invest the trustee with the power to employ the bankrupt as an employe. If his employment is detrimental, as it would be in only very exceptional cases, and that is overlooked by the trustee, it will probably be realized by the creditors or Committee of Inspection, and the bankrupt's employment will not then be continued/. Why there should be the necessity, not merely for the formality of obtaining a resolution, but for the cumbersomeness and the risk of obtaining a resolution, I fail to see. If a bankrupt is to be employed to go on with his business as if he had not failed, I think that the creditors have a right to be consulted. If he is to be employed to superintend the management of his property and control the working services of clerks and otherofficers, I consider that the creditors should be consulted. Provision is made for that in clause 98 ; but my amendment will give to a trustee merely the power to temporarily employ the bankrupt, and the bankrupt having an acquaintance with his business, and knowing the people with whom he had been dealing, will be able to do the work, in many instances, much better than could any other man, even though the latter might be otherwise, and generally much more* skilful. If a trustee wants to employ the bankrupt for a week, say, to collect debts, probably there is no better man. who could be secured for that purposeI am not seeking to enlarge the powers, of a trustee to any very great extent toenable him to carry on without having to resort to the provision made in clause 98. As one who has had some experience in connexion with bankruptcies, I can say that, after the first meeting of creditors, it is most difficult to get them to meet again. They have to be urged and entreated to attend a meeting. They say, "We have attended a meeting," or "We have written the debt off." And many of these persons are those who will complain afterwards, blaming the Act, or somebody. I hope that the Minister will see that my amendment proposes no undue enlargement of the powers of a trustee. It is only providing a little greasewhich will enable the wheels to revolve more smoothly, and to facilitate proceedings in the interests, not of the trustee, but of the creditors, and at less expense to them. It is absurd to involve the estate in the expense of convening a meeting or of obtaining the authority which is required in clause 98 - authority which, I agree, it is desirable should be obtained! where a bankrupt should be engaged to carry on the business as though no bankruptcy had occurred, or to superintend the management of it. I cannot say offhand whether such an express provision as I propose is in force anywhere; but I know that it is a common practice, especially in connexion with a country storekeeper, for the trustee to employ the bankrupt in connexion with the work. It is almost a necessity, and certainly it is an advantage. I do not know that it is necessary to pass a resolution in a case of that kind.

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