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Wednesday, 9 March 1932

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) . - The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) made an informative and interesting speech on the subject of this bill early this afternoon, and I do not think it necessary to cover the same ground. I wish, however, to urge the Government to bring down a comprehensive insurance bill. It is regrettable that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), who was Prime Minister of this country for about seven years, should have shelved a bill which he had had drafted on this subject during his period of office. It is evident that the real reason for the introduction of this small measure has not been stated in the speeches made by government supporters in this chamber, or in another place; there is undoubtedly more behind the bill than meets the eye.

Royal commissions have been inquiring into the subject of national insurance in Australia for twenty years, and on various occasions have recommended that a uniform Commonwealth insurance law should be passed. In these circumstances, it is regrettable that the Government has not seen fit to do more than' it is proposing to do in this bill. We know very well that mushroom insurance companies have, in the past, robbed the thrifty people of Australia of thousands of pounds. Similar companies have done the same kind of thing in other parts of the world. It was for this reason that the British Life Insurance Act was passed in 1870, and that the Queensland Labour Government introduced the Queensland Insurance Act in 1916. I am sorry that this Government has not given more attention to the experience of the Queensland insurance office in the last fifteen years. The Queensland Government, under the act of 1916, was empowered to transact all classes of insurance, and it is actually carrying on fire, life, accident, and marine insurance on competitive lines with considerable success, as shown by the progress and growth of the business year by year.

This bill was not satisfactory to the. States in the form in which it was originally introduced; but I understand that it became acceptable because amendments were made to it in another place, which provided that security lodged with a State government prior to the 1st Febuary, 1932, may remain so deposited, and that the provisions of the bill will not apply in such cases so long as such deposits are so held.

The time is ripe for the introduction of comprehensive legislation to provide for national insurance throughout Australia. It has been shown in Queensland that the establishment, of a State office is beneficial to both the State and the insurers. The position in Queensland at present is that the State Government is able to take credit to itself for having -

1.   Substantially reduced the rates charged by the insurance companies for insurance under the old Queensland act of 1905; incidentally, the rates charged for farming are as follow : -


2.   More than doubled the benefits to injured workers; the maximum weekly allowance to disabled wage-earners has been raised from £1 per week (under the previous act) to £2 15s. per week, with a. special provision that married workers shall receive up to £3 14s. per week according to the number of children under 14 years of age. Increased from £400 to £750 the maximum amount payable in respect of total incapacity:

3.   Settled approximately 182,122 claims (excluding miners' phthisis, &c., section 14b) and paid over £3,825,000 to injured workers in cash, only 02 cases having been taken before police magistrates.

4.   Given general satisfaction, not only to workers and their organizations, but also to employers who are relieved of a vast amount of the work of claim settlements which devolved upon them under the old system of private insurances.

5.   Made profits of approximately £435,000, after subsidizing compensation grant to the extent of £26,500 and section 14b £192,199.

6.   Brought sufferers from miners' phthisis and other specified industrial diseases, including pulmonary tuberculosis, where traceable to work in mines, &c, within the scope of the act; in November, 1925, increasing the amount payable from £400 to £450 in case of disablement or death.

7.   Enacted that compensation shall be paid direct to the injured worker, or to his agent, acting for andon his authority, or in the event ofa fatal case, that the compensation be paid to the dependant or to an agent acting for or on his or her authority - in other words, payments of compensation are made direct to the worker or his dependants. 8.The operation of the 1905 act was restricted to manual workers only, but under the present act no such limitation exists. All workers in receipt of earnings not exceeding £520 per year come within the scope of the present act. Originally casual workers and domestic servants were excluded; this too, has been altered.

9.   Under the 1916 act the employee is given power to apply for his compensation in a lump sum if he so desires; this privilege, under the 1905 act, lay with the employer only.

The fire insurance section of the Queensland State Insurance Company has effected reductions of up to 33½ per cent. in premium rates, and as a result of these reductions and the annual bonus distribution to fire policy-holders on prescribed risks, the amount saved to the insuring public of Queensland during the past five years amounts to over £3,000,000. If this Government were to introduce insurance legislation providing for the establishment of a Commonwealth national insurance department operating on similar lines there would be a tremendous saving to the Australian policy-holders generally.

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) - I remind the honorable gentleman that his party was in power for over two years.

Mr FORDE - During which time we had not a majority in the Senate. Because of that, and because a number of honorable senators are interested in proprietary insurance companies, it was impossible for the Scullin Government to secure the passage through Parliament of a national insurance scheme.

The success enjoyed by the life insurance section of the Queensland State Insurance Department has been phenomenal. Within three years, at the first valuation, it was paying bonuses, and now, after having been fourteen years in existence, the company is paying a bonus which begins at £3 and runs as high as £3 14s. per £100 on whole life policies, while the minimum and maximum amounts declared on endowment assurance policies are £2 and £2 10s. respectively. The amounts insured to date with the Queensland State Insurance Company exceed £S,830,000. Only one other Australian insurance office has declared a bonus so early in its career, and few, if any, have declared bonuses in such a short period, which in any way approach in liberality those declared by the Queensland State office.

I mention those facts to remind the Government of the wonderful success that has attended the national insurance scheme that was sponsored by a Labour Government in Queensland, in conformity with Labour's policy to nationalize insurance. The sooner such a scheme is adopted for the whole of Australia the better it will be for the tens of thousands who are at present charged excessive premiums by profiteering private companies. The Queensland State Insurance Department has proved that a well-managed State concern can be of greater benefit to the public than any proprietary company, whose chief purpose is to make profits out of its policy-holders. I admit that there are mutual provident insurance companies in Australia which are doing excellent work, but not one can show as good results in such a short time as those disclosed by the operations of the Queensland State Insurance Department. The present Assistant Treasurer is likely to be a member of a Commonwealth Government for another three years, and I hope that he will exhibit a greater interest in this matter that he did on a previous occasion, when he carried a measure only to the introductory stage. I trust that he will introduce a more comprehensive bill, dealing in a national way with this important subject, which is now merely being tinkered with in order to enable the Commonwealth Government to deal with a certain delinquent State administration. As the measure proposes to protect policyholders, I shall support it. My only regret is that it does not go far enough.

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