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Tuesday, 17 September 1985
Page: 627

Senator MAGUIRE —My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, follows that of Senator Bjelke-Petersen. Does the Minister have the latest information on the level of bankruptcies in Australia? If so, will he advise us of the trends in the various States? Is the level of bankruptcies an indicator of general economic conditions in the country?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Knowing Senator Maguire's uncanny perception in these matters, the Attorney-General has kept me well supplied with statistics on bankruptcies for 1984-85. To get the context clear at the outset, I shall give the national tally. In 1983-84, there were 4,909 bankruptcies but in 1984-85, there were 4,727. That is a decline around the country of 3.7 per cent. There is no doubt, as Senator Maguire intimated, that the level of bankruptcies is a useful indicator of economic performance.

Senator Messner —What a load of rubbish! They are lagged and you know it.

Senator GARETH EVANS —When an economy is strong, companies and individuals can trade their way out of difficulties or get credit, as even Senator Messner might recall, to tide them over tough times. But when an economy is not basically sound, as was the case during the Fraser years, business confidence falls and the level of bankruptcies tends to rise. So the significant fall in the level in 1984-85 is a further indication of the way the Australian economy has recovered under the Hawke Government's management and its policies.

As to the situation in the States, Senator Maguire can be properly proud of the fact that in South Australia over that period there has been a drop in bankruptcies of 14.6 per cent. They fell from 775 in 1983-84 to 662 in 1984-85. Increases were recorded in three bankruptcy districts. There was a very slight increase of 1.8 per cent in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. In Tasmania there was an increase of 5.5 per cent and, rather fascinatingly, in light of some of the discussions we have heard today, in Queensland, there was an increase of 15.6 per cent. So South Australia had a drop of around 15 per cent and Queensland had an increase of more than 15 per cent. Nationally there was an overall drop of 3.7 per cent, but in Tasmania, there was a 5.5 per cent increase and in Queensland, an increase of 15.6 per cent. For the record, so that the real enormity of the failure of economic performance in Queensland can be appreciated, this is how the remaining States and the Northern Territory performed in those two years: In Victoria bankruptcies were down 11.5 per cent under the Cain Labor Government; in the Northern Territory they were down 7.5 per cent for reasons that remain obscure; and in Westen Australia under the Burke Labor Government bankruptcies were down 15.3 per cent. There has been no attempt to hide the total picture. There it is and there is the lesson the Opposition and Senator Bjelke-Petersen and her husband ought particularly to be contemplating.