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Thursday, 27 September 2001
Page: 28244

Senator COONEY (4:37 PM) —This is a busy day. It is the final day on which debate is taking place in this house and in this parliament. The Bankruptcy Legislation Amendment Bill 2001 and the Bankruptcy (Estate Charges) Amendment Bill 2001 deal with very important legislation. I see some representatives of ITSA here, and I pay tribute to them for the work they have done over the years. Bankruptcy is a difficult business in the sense that it tries to balance the need to have debts paid and for people to be responsible for the positions they put themselves in and at the same time it tries to get people back to a normal life so that they can go on free of debt and obligations. There are great issues of what is morally right as well as what is financially right in those areas, and I think over the years that has been kept in mind.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee prepared a report on these bills, and it is in keeping with the usual high standard that has been set by the committee. On this occasion the committee was chaired by Senator Payne. Observations were made, and I want to take some time to mention one particular aspect. Those who gave evidence to the committee did so in a splendid way, but there were two groups who gave evidence that I want to mention: the Wesley Community Legal Centre and the West Heidelberg Community Legal Service. Both of those groups had some concern about how this legislation will affect the sorts of people they act for—that is, the people who are struggling within this community, struggling with their finances and struggling with their social position, because money problems also bring social problems. I want to talk about those two groups, the Wesley Community Legal Centre and the West Heidelberg Community Legal Service. I want to say something about them because they represent a group of institutions and people in society who do splendid work for people in need, for people who are disadvantaged, for people who are not as fortunate as you and I, Mr Acting Deputy President, or as fortunate as all those who are in this chamber. Even though we are pressed for time on a day such as this, I think some time should be taken to acknowledge the work that a whole series of people and a whole series of groups do throughout society. For example, the churches have committees and institutions which do tremendous work, and I wish to acknowledge that. When we come back to a new parliament I will use some occasion to name some of these people.

On a topic such as bankruptcy it is not only, as it were, the large companies, the large banks and the people who are dealing with large sums of money that count, but also those who are affected by bankruptcy laws but are very modest in circumstance or, indeed, almost in abject poverty. So I take this occasion to mention those people, to mention those institutions and to mention those groups that go about trying to help not only society as a whole but also particular parts of it so that society as a whole may become a better and fairer place.