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Thursday, 10 November 1938

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I am not altogether impressed by the argument of honorable members in respect of the merits of allowing Australian insurance companies to have a monopoly of the insurance business connected with the export of apples and pears as opposed to permitting the English companies to share in it. Personally, I think it does not matter a great deal what flock of vultures picks the bones. I share the opinion held by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and supported by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), that if the fruit shipments are to be insured against total loss, that risk should be undertaken by the board itself. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has pointed out, it has been disclosed in New South Wales at least, that when private insurance companies have been permitted a monopoly of insurance business, premiums have been raised to an enormous extent. During the seven years that the New South Wales State Insurance Office was in operation, it was able not only to carry on successfully in competition with the private companies, but also to make a profit of £100,000 per annum, after paying income tax. It is amazing to listen to honorable members arguing as to whether Australian insurance companies should be given a monopoly of the business, or whether the English companies should be given an opportunity to participate. The committee would be better employed in considering the advisability of asking the Government, which claims to be so anxious to assist the primary producers, to provide that the business shall be undertaken by the Apple and Pear Board. The State Insurance Office of New South Wales commenced business with no capital, but with a government guarantee, and was able to carry on successfully. There appears to be no reason why the Apple and Pear Board should not undertake the insurance of cargoes under a guarantee by the Government against heavy loss occurring in the first years of its operations. If that were done, doubtless the profits from the venture would be sufficient to cover the whole of the expenses of the board, and the growers would be relieved to that extent. In my opinion, everything is to be gained by preventing insurance companies, whether controlled in Australia or in England, from being permitted to undertake this insurance, because, as honorable members opposite have admitted, when they have had the opportunity to do so the insurance companies have exploited the primary producers of this country. If competition in insurance business bysemi-government authorities will assist in keeping insurance rates low, it should be encouraged. It would be distinctly wrong to allow a monopoly of this business. I trust that before this measure is finally passed, the Government will take steps to see that the board is empowered to undertake the insurance of fruit cargoes shipped abroad, so that any profits accruing as the result of that venture may be returned to the growers. The arguments advanced by honorable members in support of either English or Australian companies, leave me cold. The Australian insurance companies can expect no sympathy from Labour members. If we were to assist them we would probably find that we were aiding the very people who, in the past, have done everything possible to prevent Labour from functioning successfully in this country or of occupying the treasury benches in the Australian parliaments. A perusal of the list of directors of Australian insurance companies would disclose that the majority of them are either actively associated with, or support, anti-Labour parties. If it were possible to examine the accounts of the various political parties it would be found that these people are large subscribers to the party funds of the Government forces. Having regard to these circumstances it is rather strange that some honorable members who support the Government should criticize the activities of the Australian insurance companies, and instance cases in which they have used their powers to exploit primary producers by forcing up insurance premiums to an unfair level. I believe that if members of this Parliament were free to vote in accordance with their expressed opinions a majority would be found to favour the proposal that the board should undertake this insurance business. I point out to those honorable members opposite who have criticized the insurance companies that votes count, not speeches. I hope that when the division on this amendment is taken, those who have so criticized the private insurance companies will support their words by their votes.

Progress reported.

Sittingsuspended from 12.39 to 2.15 p.m.

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