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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr MULCAHY (Lang) .--! direct the attention of the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) to the matter of the imprisonment of Mr. T. C. Trautwein as the result of proceedings in the Bankruptcy Court. The affairs of Mr. Trautwein, who is 74 years of age, and with whom I am personally acquainted, have occupied the attention of the courts of this country for a long time. I have no sympathy with anyone who evades taxes, but it is the function of the Bankruptcy Court to dispense justice, not, I should say, to persecute people. The claims of the Commissioner of Taxation against Mr. Trautwein have been the subject of long and expensive litigation. Both the Commonwealth and the respondent have had to expend thousands of pounds on counsel's fees and other legal costs. I understand that Mr. Trautwein is in prison because he cannot give to the Judge in Bankruptcy a complete record of his transactions over the last ten or twelve years. It would be difficult for any one so old as Mr. Trautwein, and with such business ramifications, if placed in similar circumstances, to give a correct account of all his transactions over such a long period. I have no personal interest in this matter beyond the fact that, particularly in the last couple of years, a great deal of Commonwealth money has been wasted, and a great deal of time of the Commonwealth courts taken up on this matter. I am especially concerned to learn from the report of the Taxation Commissioner that influential people in Australia owe vast sums of money to the department, but have not been prosecuted. I see no reason why an individual should be singled out for persecution. I understand that about £150,000 is involved in this matter.

Mr James - Fines more than anything else.

Mr MULCAHY - Yes, £100,000 of fines. These protracted proceedings have been not only ruinous to the 'taxpayer, but also -extremely costly to the Commonwealth. I do not want in any way to reflect on the Bankruptcy Court, but I know that the Judge in Bankruptcy is an old man. I suggest to the Acting AttorneyGeneral that after so many years it is rime that some solution to this matter was discovered without continuing to resort to legal formalities.

Mr Hughes - One solution is for him to pay what he owes.

Mr MULCAHY - Every body should do that, but the court has decided that he must pay something that he has not got. "What can he do ?

Mr Hughes - That is what he says.

Air. MULCAHY.- This man is in gaol because he says that he cannot remember details of all his transactions over a number of years. I remind the right honorable gentleman that at times his memory has not been good.

Mr Hughes - I gave him every consideration although he did not deserve any.

Mr MULCAHY - The right honorable member was most sympathetic towards this man, and I do not blame him or the present Minister. However, the Attorney-General's Department should find some means of solving this problem without expending thousands of pounds for the services of King's Counsel to continue this case in court. Why does it not take his property and sell it ? He has placed everything at the Government's disposal. The department should put an end to this silly business of wasting the time of the courts and, at the same time, putting large sums of money into the pockets of King's Counsel whilst pauperizing this person. The court has done an injustice to him by imprisoning him merely because, on account of his advanced age, he cannot recall in detail his transactions over a lengthy period. He should be released from prison, and some satisfactory method should be evolved to pay to the Commonwealth the amount of taxes due to it.

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