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Wednesday, 9 March 1932

Mr ROSEVEAR - The sooner a scheme of national insurance is brought down to this House the better I shall be pleased. But I am positively certain that national insurance, with all the safeguards and the assets of the Commonwealth of Australia behind it, would not suit the interests represented by the honorable member for Wentworth. The insurance companies have at times sought to control governments in respect of legislation. I remember the outcry that was raised in New South Wales about the Workmen's Compensation Act. The private insurance companies - private enterprise - declared that they could not afford to insure under that act, and that if they did, the exorbitant premiums would be beyond the means of the average person. The State insurance office, which was inaugurated by Mr. Lang, entered the insurance field, and within three months reduced the cost of premiums by 33J per cent. When the private insurance companies realized that their game of bluff was ended, they were eager to effect insurances under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and when the State insurance office subsequently effected a further reduction of 20 per cent, the insurance companies followed in its steps. To-day private enterprise in New South Wales is effecting insurances under that act at about one-third of the original estimated cost. As has been indicated by the honorable member for Wentworth, this legislation has been introduced for the purpose of denying the Government of New South Wales the right to legislate along similar lines. I am in agreement with the honorable member if he says that the lodging' of the deposit demanded under this legislation will not be an effective bar against default on the part of insurance companies. They will default in spite of the deposit. If honorable members opposite are serious when they say that there should be uniformity in respect of the laws governing insurance throughout Australia, they should be prepared to allow the deposits to be controlled by one central authority - the Federal Treasurer. It is because some of the governments of the other States would be embarrassed if the Commonwealth were to demand the handing over of deposits lodged with them by insurance companies that clause 8 has been inserted in the bill. It is designed to have a sort of double-barrelled effect, but it will have no effect if its purpose is to prevent the wealthy insurance companies from defaulting. If this legislation is designed to embarrass the Government of New South Wales, the Premier will resort to other means to obtain revenue. I say that, even if it is considered to be an admission that that Government would use insurance deposits in the same manner as Nationalist Governments in the other States have used them. I am indebted to the honorable member for Wentworth for having spilled the beans by admitting that all this talk about the necessity for insurance companies to lodge deposits with the Commonwealth Treasury so that the interests of the policy-holders may be safeguarded, is camouflage. Despite the efforts of this Government to overthrow the Premier of New South Wales, the Lang Government will exist in that State long after the members of this Government are forgotten.

Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.

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