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Wednesday, 7 July 1915

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - If the Bill contains a clause requiring a deposit too large for small companies to pay, when we reach that clause it will be time enough to consider the necessity of providing for smaller deposits or easier conditions for small companies. All this clause does is to fix the time within which the licence shall be taken out. When we reach the other clauses I shall be pleased to assure Senator Senior that no provision shall pass this Committee that will give the big companies any pull over the small ones. There are in existence now some absolutely cooperative insurance concerns - really business concerns - which have been formed by a number of business men, or by municipalities, to do the insurance business necessary under the Employers' Liability Act and other State legislation. It is the intention of the Government to make it quite clear that this Bill shall not operate to their disadvantage. If it appears that the Bill does, I now give the -Committee my promise, that, before it finally passes the ' Senate, purely cooperative concerns of that kind will not be injured, and huge deposits will not be required from them. It is the intention of the Government to exempt them definitely and clearly from the provisions of the Bill, except that we may make it compulsory for them to furnish returns. That applies to .co-operative insurance businesses run, not for profit, but for the protection of their members under certain State Acts. We intend to make it clear that" the Bill shall not deal with them by making them put up deposits, but it will be no hardship to them to furnish returns, which, on the other hand, may be of dis, tinct assistance to the Government. It would be absurd to compel a few business men, whose yearly expenditure to meet liabilities does not amount to £500, and who return in bonuses- to themselves any surplus moneys over and above a small reserve fund, to pay annually to the Commonwealth 25 per cent, of their profits, or anything like it. We have no desire to harass, interfere with, or annoy small concerns of that kind, and the same remark applies to municipalities which have established little insurance concerns of their own for the same purpose. I assure Senator Senior that we are not going to make the little man close up his shop. If there is a mutual insurance company well, or reasonably well, managed, and conducting a legitimate business, no wilful act on the part of the Government by the insertion of harsh provisions in this Bill will compel it to wind up its business. I do not object to Senator Senior putting forward his objections at this stage, because he fears that if he lets the clause go through it will be too late to remedy the evil, but the honorable senator will agree with me that any company that persists in transacting business without a licence after the Bill becomes law should be liable to an extremely heavy penalty. Six months is ample for registration, and existing concerns are well aware that this legislation is be'fore Parliament, and must sooner or later become law. I confidently expect the Bill to be passed within the next twelve months. It was introduced on the 29th April last, and the companies are paying rather keen attention to its provisions. I know that there will be a general feeling of relief throughout the community, particularly on the part of those running purely co-operative concerns, when it is learnt that they are not to be included under these provisions, and are not to be treated on the same footing as the gigantic fire and life insurance companies. I still think, however, that it is unnecessary to amend this clause. I shall not promise to accept any amendment that Senator Senior may move on the later clauses to which he referred, but if he can show that any hardship will be inflicted, I shall be quite willing to postpone them for further consideration. At the same time I am not prepared to postpone this clause.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 -

A foreign company shall not be entitled to registration unless it has appointed some per son who is a resident of the Commonwealth to be its representative in the Commonwealth in all matters between itself and the Commissioner, and has lodged with the Commissioner a notice in writing of the name and address of the representative.

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