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Thursday, 10 November 1938


Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- I have some difficulty in understanding exactly what is before the committee, because I have just been informed that the amendment in its printed form is before the committee, whereas I have been shown a typwritten document which I understand contains what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) really desires.


Mr Holt - The typewritten document contains an amendment suggested by the Parliamentary Draftsman as being better than my own amendment.


Mr BLACKBURN - Yes, but what is before the committee at the moment is the printed amendment as moved by the honorable member. I have a great deal of difficulty in understanding just what the honorable member desires to accomplish by his proposal. Clause 15 provides that insurance may be effected in two ways; first, by the owner or person having authority to export in conformity with conditions approved by the board, and, secondly, by the board, acting as the agent of the owners of the apples or pears or of other persons having authority to export them. The honorable member for Fawkner does not propose by his amendment to affect contracts for insurance made by the owners themselves, and it seems to me that one effect of the amendment might be that the board may not place insurances but may say, " We shall not do this business; we shall leave the exporters to do it." That would leave the board free to prescribe any conditions it desired. It seems to me that the honorable member's object could not be achieved by his amendment. He does not give preference to Australian companies as against non-Australian companies by his amendment, because he still leaves the board free to say, " We won't effect insurances; we shall leave it to the owners or to the exporters to do so ".


Mr Paterson - Has the honorable gentleman read clause 15?


Mr BLACKBURN - Yes ; I am reading it now. It says - (1.) After such date as is notified in the Gazette by the Minister on the recommendation of the board, a contract for -

(b)   the insurance against loss or deterioration of such apples or pears whilst awaiting transport or in transit or until disposed of, shall not be made except in conformity with conditions approved by the board.

That is one way in which insurance contracts can be effected. The second is contained in the succeeding words - or by the board acting as the agent of the owners of the apples or pears, or of other persons having authority to export them.

It is perfectly clear that the board can say that contracts for insurance may be effected by private persons on such conditions as it prescribes; the board is free to prescribe any conditions. It is also clear that the board may effect insurances as the agent. It is the second way in which insurance contracts may be made that the honorable member for Fawkner proposes to affect by his amendment. He does not propose that the owner shall be bound.


Mr Paterson - But that second half may be 100 per cent.


Mr BLACKBURN - It may easily be, but the board could say, if it were satisfied with the conditions; that it would not effect insurance and would leave to private persons the right to effect insurances on conditions prescribed by it.


Mr Holt - If the board is not satsfied it can go to the Minister.


Mr BLACKBURN - The board may say, " Why go to the Minister ? Why let the Minister interfere with us at all? We shall escape going to the Minister altogether by saying to the private persons ' You shall do the insurance business yourselves ' ".


Mr Paterson - Yes; but the board could say, " You shall do this only on the terms we lay down ".


Mr BLACKBURN - Exactly. The honorable gentleman is not following me. Perhaps I am not making myself clear, but what I am trying to make clear is that the clause does contemplate insurances being effected by either private persons or the board, and, if they be effected by private persons, they must be effected on conditions prescribed by the board. But the alternative to insurances so effected is insurances effected by the board as the agent for the owners or exporters. The amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner does not touch the case where the owner insures for himself.


Mr Paterson - My point is that the individual is not free to insure himself except on such terms as the board prescribes.


Mr BLACKBURN - I agree with the honorable gentleman. I have said that many times already. I say that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fawkner will not force the board to prescribe Australian companies. The private exporter can go to any company he likes. The carrying of the amendment will leave it competent for the exporter to go to any insurance company, so long as the conditions, which mean the rates, are prescribed by the board. The only contract for insurance affected by the honorable gentleman's amendment is the contract effected by the board as agent; it says that the contract for insurance effected by the board as agent must be with an Australian company, unless the Minister otherwise provides. I suggest that he is not getting the protection for the Australian companies that he is seeking.


Mr Anthony - In other words, a shipper would be free to make insurance contracts at rates lower than could be made by the board.


Mr BLACKBURN - That is so.


Mr Francis - The individual shipper will not get any concessions in insurance rates. It is possible to get concessions only when applications are made in bulk.


Mr BLACKBURN - A shipper of large consignments will be able to prescribe his own rates.


Mr Francis - That has never been the case.


Mr BLACKBURN - He will be able to get conditions which other shippers cannot get. I suggest that, in order to overcome the difficulty that I foresee, we should go further than is intended in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fawkner, and not merely make the board agent for the exporters in the matter of insurances, but also make it mandatory that it shall effect all insurances.


Mr Paterson - That is what is done under other legislation.


Mr BLACKBURN - I should like to see the Government consider such an amendment, preferably at the report stage, because one could not be drafted at a moment's notice. I do think that the preference to the Australian companies that the honorable member for Fawkner suggests will not be achieved by his amendment. The small shippers will be compelled to use the board as an agent, whereas the large shippers will be free to do as they desire. If it is contemplated to give preference to Australian insurance companies, it should be done in a more general way than that sought to be provided by the honorable member for Fawkner. It should not be left to the discretion of the Minister. The less the Minister interferes with the board's management in the matter of exports the better it will be for all concerned. If a check is to be imposed it should be by a majority of the board. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) stated that once a cargo of apples or pears is sold, even although it has not left Australia, it becomes the property of persons on the other side of the world who may desire a free hand in making insurance contracts, and naturally they may desire to do so. Of course, such persons will insure privately with any one they wish. The proper course for the committee to adopt is to provide that the board itself shall be the insurer, and shall effect insurance upon cargoes of apples and pears, or, in fact, any other commodity of which it is in control.







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