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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14980

Mr Murphy asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 12 February 2003:

(1) Did he issue a joint news release with the Assistant Treasurer on 22 March 2001 entitled “Bankrupt Lawyers” advising that a taskforce had been established to determine whether any changes are needed to the bankruptcy and taxation laws to ensure that people are prevented from using bankruptcy as a means of avoiding their tax obligations.

(2) What action is the Government taking to strengthen the law to stop serial offenders, particularly barristers, from being made bankrupt.

Mr Williams (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) Measures being taken by the Government to crack down on high income earners who try to avoid their obligations to pay income tax were announced in a joint press release the Assistant Treasurer and I issued on 30 August 2002.

Also, suggested changes to bankruptcy and family law are flagged in an issues paper released in November 2002 by the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA) and the Attorney-General's Department (AGD). The paper was open for comment from the community and professional bodies until 20 February 2003. The comments received are currently being considered by ITSA and AGD to inform the Government's decision on the appropriate action to take.

The Government has also moved amendments to the Bankruptcy Act (which commenced in May 2003) to strengthen its operation. In particular the amendments:

· provide a new discretion for Official Receivers to reject a debtor's petition where it appears the debtor can afford to pay their debts and the petition is an abuse of the bankruptcy system; and

· strengthen the trustee's powers to object to the discharge from bankruptcy of uncooperative bankrupts after the standard three year bankruptcy period.