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Wednesday, 11 November 1914

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) .- With Senator Stewart, I think that all information of this kind available in public offices should be free to the public. In a case of bankruptcy, the Court is open to the public; any person may attend and make notes of the proceedings, and, as a matter of fact, the daily newspapers publish the accounts of bankrupts. They publish the amount of liabilities and assets, and the whole of the cross-examination of a bankrupt. We do not require any mote than that, and that can be done under the existing law. Why, therefore, should we impose a fee for obtaining this information under this Bill? It is in my mind that the object is to bolster up certain trade protection associations.

Senator Bakhap - Is an analysis of a bankrupt's affairs published in the newspapers unless there is some suspicion that the bankruptcy is fraudulent?

Senator GUTHRIE - I can refer the honorable senator to innumerable cases of reports appearing in the newspapers of examination of bankrupts regarding the whole of their business transactions by the Commissioners of Insolvency.

Senator Keating - That is where the circumstances of the bankruptcy have been suspicious.

Senator GUTHRIE - What more could we get under the amendment?

Senator Keating - Is this to be a court of record, or a star chamber court?

Senator GUTHRIE - I wish to make it as open as possible; but the honorable senator, by his amendment, wishes to put the matter in the hands of some syndicate, that desires to publish a trade circular.

Senator Senior - Why should they not pay for information on which they make a profit?

Senator GUTHRIE - A man in business subscribes to a trade circular because it saves him the trouble and expense of going to a court to look up the records of various insolvencies. It has been suggested that these trade circulars are confidential documents, but we know that they are thrown into the street and into waste-paper baskets. Any man who is interested in the affairs of a bankrupt can get the information he requires without any fee.

Senator Senior - Could the honorable senator go to the Titles Office for a certificate of title without the payment of a fee?

Senator GUTHRIE - I should like to abolish that fee also.

Senator Senior - Could the honorable senator go to the Probate Office to see a will without the payment of a fee?

Senator GUTHRIE - Does the honorable senator think that it is right that a man should have to pay a fee to search a title ?

Senator Senior - I do.

Senator GUTHRIE - Well, I do not. I think that I should be able to hunt up the particulars of a title in a public office without the payment of any fee.

Senator Senior - No Government can be carried on without the payment of some fees.

Senator GUTHRIE - I hope that the Government will stick to the Bill, and that no fee will be imposed for any search in a matter of this kind.

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