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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond)

The main reason advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in support of his amendment, was that the insurance companies operating in Australia, to which he desires to give an exclusive right to this business, provide employment in this country.

Mr Holt - I am not asking for an exclusive right.

Mr ANTHONY -It would practically amount to that. The honorable member desires to eliminate outside competition. May I remind him that the British public is buying 5,000,000 bushels of Australian apples each year. The growing of this fruit provides a very much larger amount of employment throughout this country than is provided by the insurance companies In those circumstances, the British insurance compa nies are untitled at least to the right to tender for the insurance business that the Apple and Pear Board may have to place. [Quorum formed.] It would be entirely wrong for us to exclude the British insurance companies from any possibility of sharing in this insurance business. Moreover, it might lead to serious misunderstandings. The Australian primary producers value very highly their entree to the privileged British market. The British people spend about £1,275,000 a year in buying Australian fruit, yet the honorable member for Fawkner desires virtually to exclude the British insurance companies from participation in the insurance business connected with the export of this fruit. To take such a course would be to damage seriously our prestige on the British market. If we expect the British people to buy our fruit we ought surely to be willing to give them a share, at a competitive rate, in the insurance business. We cannot properly compare our primary producing industries, which have to rely so largely upon the export market, with our manufacturing industries which do practically all their business on the Australian market. We should give the Apple and Pear Board a free hand to deal with such matters as insurance as it desires. If the premiums of the overseas companies are satisfactory the board should be in a position to place the business with them. If they are not satisfactory, of course the business will go to the companies operating in Australia. The Australian companies have not earned the right to any special consideration from us. It seems to me that the honorable member's amendment is. in effect, merely a devious method of securing additional business for the Australian insurance companies at the expense of the unfortunate fruit-growers. I am astonished that such an amendment should have been moved, and I hope that it will be defeated. The bill was designed to further the interests of the industry and to protect the fruit-growers, not to impose additional costs on the growers; yet that would be the effect of this amendment, if carried.

Mr.Holt. - Most of the growers obtain cover from the local insurance companies.

Mr ANTHONY - They now have the privilege of effecting their insurance wherever they like, and that freedom of choice should be retained. If a virtual monopoly be given to the Australian insurance companies, what guarantee is there that the premiums will remain at the existing rates? So long as we have an effective check on the abuses' associated with monopolies, there is a fair guarantee that premiums will remain reasonable. All that the opponents of the amendment urge is that there shall be an open market in insurance. I am amazed that, in order to help the Australian insurance companies, an honorable member should ask us to incur the risk of antagonizing our best customers. To fasten the cost of this procedure on the growers of Australian apples and pears would be most iniquitous. I hope that the amendment: will be rejected.

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