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Friday, 4 March 1927

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

It provides for a few amendments, mostly of a merely formal character, in the Bankruptcy Act 1924. The principal act, as honorable senators will remember, was passed in 1924, and constitutes a single uniform bankruptcy system for the whole of the Commonwealth to replace in each of the States the numerous Bankruptcy or Insolvency Acts. In passing that measure, Parliament gave effect to section 51 of the Constitution in respect of an important item of its legislative powers, i.e., paragraph xvii. of section 51 - "Bankruptcy and Insolvency." In preparing the way for its commencement by proclamation, which will bo made as soon as the necessary arrangements now in progress have been completed, the measure has been submitted to a very severe criticism. Its provisions were considered by the AttorneysGeneral of the States, who met in conference with the then Commonwealth Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), and some few, but essential amendments were recommended to improve the machinery necessary for its administration, and to secure its complete application to the proposed changes. Further, a number of bankruptcy officers sat in conference in Melbourne for several days, and, in addition to dealing with various bankruptcy matters and the proposed regulations, which are of a very voluminous character, made some useful suggestions for the improvement of the act. The act contains 223 sections, and in the consolidation and adaptation of the English and States' legislation, notwithstanding the close and exhaustive debate in this chamber, and in the other branch of the legislature, it is not surprising to find that there have been a few typographical errors, one or two instances of duplication, and one or two omissions of desirable provisions. The bill will remedy these defects, while it makes provision for giving legislative effect to some valuable suggestions made, as already referred to, at the conferences. The work preparatory to initiating a Commonwealth bankruptcy system for the whole of Australia is, as honorable senators will admit, a very considerable task. The framing and printing of the regulations, and the drawing up and printing of the necessary forms as required by the act to supersede over 2,000 State bankruptcy regulations and forms, has required time and care. The passing of the amendingbill will enable this work to be finalized. An Inspector-General in Bankruptcy, as required by the act, has been appointed, and the appointment made, will, I feel sure, commend itself to honorable senators.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !

Senator McLACHLAN - The bill contains eighteen clauses. As the matters dealt with are all more or less technical, the explanations will be more appropriate at the committee stage. I can assure honorable senators now that the bill contains no alterations in principles as embodied in the main act, but provides more fully and effectively for carrying out what Parliament intended when it passed that act. I suggest to honorable senators that the discussion might be brief on the second reading, because the elucidation of the amendments proposed will come better at the committee stage. I commend the acceptance of the bill to the Senate.

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