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Thursday, 3 December 1959

Mr Beazley (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) y asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   Has the Government any intention of causing to be raised again in the United Nations the question of the right of search and seizure, under United Nations' authority, of ships engaged in the Saudi Arabian slave trade, and ships carrying slaves in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf areas?

2.   Was Australia represented on the committee of United Nations which commenced sitting in January, 1957, and which recommended this right of search and seizure?

3.   How did Australia vote on this question when it was before the United Nations?

4.   What nations voted against the recommendation and what reasons were proffered for their action?

5.   Can he state why the recommendation was unacceptable to the United Nations?

Mr CASEY - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   No.

2.   Australia was represented on the Committee on the Drafting of a Supplementary Convention on Slavery and Servitude, which met in New York from 16th January to 6th February, 1956. Article 3 of the draft Convention drawn up by this Committee proposed that:

While on the high seas in the area of the Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, bounded by the twenty-sixth degree south latitude and the sixty-second degree east longitude, warships or military aircraft under the control of Parties to this Convention shall have the same right of visit, search and seizure in relation to vessels of Parties to this Convention suspected on reasonable grounds of being engaged in the act of conveying slaves as they have in relation to vessels so suspected of being engaged in acts of piracy.

3.   The draft article was withdrawn by its sponsors in a working group of the subsequent United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on a Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, Geneva, 13th August-8th September, 1956. Australia voted for the present text of Article 3 of Supplementary Convention.

4.   The draft Article 3 recommended by the Preparatory Committee was not brought to a vote. The voting on Article 3 of the present Supplementary Convention was 37 in favour, 0 against, 7 abstentions. Voting was not by roll call.

5.   Objections were initially raised to the geographical delimitation of the high seas in which vessels could be visited and searched. The sponsors of the original draft of Article 3 eventually concluded that it was unrealistic to seek international control on the high seas, withdrew the draft Article and accepted the present text.

Third-party Insurance.

Mr J R FRASER ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

1.   Has he authorized substantial increases in third-party insurance premiums for motor vehicles registered in the Australian Capital Territory?

2.   What is the estimated income to be derived by insurance companies from the increased premiums in a full year?

3.   What income was derived by insurance companies from premiums at the existing rate in the last full year for which records are complete?

4.   What payments did insurance companies make in that year pursuant to third-party claims in respect of vehicles registered in the Australian Capital Territory?

5.   How do the proposed rates compare with those charged, or proposed, in each of the six Australian States and the Northern Territory?

6.   Are the owners of vehicles, as an effect of third-party insurance legislation, required to carry the full burden of financing an insurance scheme which provides cover and benefit to other members of the community, including passengers in motor and other vehicles, members of families of registered owners of vehicles, and pedestrians?

7.   Will the Commonwealth Government study the report of the Victorian Royal Commission on Third-party Insurance when it becomes available, and will it consider amending its own legislation in the light of recommendations made by the royal commission?

8.   Will the Commonwealth Government consider taking the initiative in the calling of a convention or conference of State and Commonwealth Government representatives with representatives of insurance companies with a view to devising a scheme of insurance to ensure that

9.   Has the Government given any consideration to proposals that it should establish an insurance office in the Australian Capital Territory to provide cover in this and in other fields where there is statutory provision requiring insurances to be entered into; if not, why?

Mr Freeth (FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for the Interior) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Yes.

2.   Had the new premiums been in operation in 1958 the income derived would have been £132,694 or an increase of 34.8 per cent. over that actually received.

3.   £98,433.

5.   Because of the difference in the classifications of motor vehicles, it is difficult to compare the rates charged in the Australian Capital Territory with those charged in the States and Northern Territory. In addition the liability of the insurer varies in some States and this is reflected in the premiums charged. The attached schedule sets out the premiums charged where the classifications are comparable.

6.   Yes.

7.   The report of the Victorian Royal Commission on Third-party Insurance will be studied when available and any action considered necessary will be taken.

9.   Yes. The matter has been considered. Since presumably a Government instrumentality would only operate to cover vehicles now insured in the Australian Capital Territory, no relief in premium rates would be expected unless some Government subsidy were to be applied. This would involve either a special tax on Australian Capital Territory residents or a contribution by taxpayers outside the Australian Capital Territory which would be inequitable. It is felt that this field is best left to private enterprise.


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