Harmer Report

Australian Law Reform Commission General Insolvency Inquiry Report No 45 (1988) is referred to as the ‘Harmer Report’.

In 1983, then Attorney General Gareth Evans commissioned an inquiry into the Bankruptcy Act and Australia’s legal insolvency framework. Five years later the ‘Harmer Report’ (nicknamed after its main author) was published. The report significantly shaped the Corporate Law Reform Bill of 1992, which ultimately became the Corporate Law Reform Act 1993 (sometimes referred to as the Harmer Amendments). Before this report and the 1993 updates to the statute, insolvency law had not undergone significant statutory overhaul since the mid-19th century.

The Harmer Report’s specific recommendations can be underpinned by nine fundamental principles:

(i) The fundamental purpose of an insolvency law is to provide a fair and orderly process for dealing with the financial affairs of insolvent individuals and companies;
(ii) Insolvency law should provide mechanisms that enable both debtor and creditor to participate with the least possible delay and expense;
(iii) An insolvency administration should be impartial, efficient, and expeditious;
(iv) The law should provide a convenient means of collecting or recovering property that should properly be applied toward payment of the debts and liabilities of the insolvent person;
(v) The principle of equal sharing between creditors should be retained and in some areas reinforced;
(vi) The end result of an insolvency administration, particularly as it affects individuals, should, with very limited exceptions, be the effective relief of or release from the financial liabilities and obligations of the insolvent
(vii) Insolvency law should, as far as it is convenient and practical, support the commercial and economic processes of the community;
(viii) As far as is possible and practicable, insolvency law should harmonise with the general law;
(ix) An insolvency law should enable ancillary assistance in the administration of an insolvency law originating in a foreign country.

(Paragraph 33 of General Insolvency Inquiry, Vol 1).