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Friday, 4 March 1927

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - I doubt whether any honorable senator can remember when the first bankruptcy bill came before this chamber.For many years it was a hardy annual, and there was great and I think very proper reluctance on the part of many honorable senators to address themselves to such a highly technical measure. The limited number of legal men in the Senate resulted in the bill being held over for a long time. Ultimately it was agreed to by both branches of the legislature, and although it has not yet been proclaimed an act, I believe it is in a fair way of becoming operative. No sooner, was the principal measure passed by both Houses than it was found necessary to amend it. Some hundreds of amendments were suggested almost immediately the bill had been passed, and these were duly incorporated. The work of consolidating the bankruptcy laws of the six States of the Commonwealth, and incorporating the most recent decisions of the British Courts was of great magnitude, and it is not surprising that a number of omissions and some slight defects have been discovered. I expect that as soon as an attempt is made to put the measure into operation a number of other defects necessitating further amendments will be discovered.

Senator McLachlan - We hope not.

Senator GRANT - That hope cannot be realized. The bill is far too complicated. It involves too many interests, and in many respects will require amending from time to time. I do not object to that. As far as I am able to understand the amending measure - it is a bill that I do not profess to know very much about, but I have taken the trouble to make some inquiries in the right quarter - it is of a machinery character intended to make the act more workable. In the circumstances, it is advisable to agree to it, but I do not expect that even with these amendments the principal act will be perfect. I anticipate that, as soon as the InspectorGeneral gets to work, Parliament will be asked to make further alterations. In the meantime this modest little series of amendments should be agreed to so that we may see how the act will work. It is time that the Commonwealth realized that all the matters referred to it under section 39 of the Constitution received consideration. I regret very much that it has been laid down that the Commonwealth has no power to pass a uniform companies law, because, in my judgment, such a measure is urgently required.

Senator Thompson - The Commonwealth Parliament would have been empowered to pass such a law if the referenda questions had been carried.

Senator GRANT - I do not admit that for one moment.

Senator Thompson - It is correct, absolutely.

Senator GRANT - The mere fact that the honorable senator says it is correct is not necessarily conclusive. It may be correct.

Senator Thompson - There is no doubt about it.

Senator GRANT - At all events,I doubt it. In any case, that is one direc tion in which I think this Parliament should have power to legislate. The Commonwealth should be authorized to deal with the company laws of the various States, and by amalgamating them take over complete control of all company legislation. The Commonwealth also should deal similarly with the marriage and divorce laws of the various States. It has this power, but for some unknown reason nothing has been done up to the present. Certainly the Commonwealth should make an excellent job of this bankruptcy law, because as I have already stated, Ave have had this subject under notice for so long that it is difficult for any one to say when -we started on the business. An Inspector-General has been appointed. We all have complete confidence in his ability to administer the law in such a way as to give it a very fair trial, and I feel sure that if he finds it inoperative in any respect, he will ask for the necessary amendments to be made. I support the second reading of the bill.

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