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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- Mr. Speaker,I am glad that you are now in the chair, because it was you who, as lt were, shot me down in flames this morning when I attempted to raise at question time the matter which I wish to raise now. No doubt, you were perfectly within your rights.

This matter concerns a large banking and hire-purchase company m Tasmania, which is offering loans on hire-purchase transactions without deposit, on condition that the borrower takes out a life assurance policy. I have with me the files on the case that I wish to raise, and these files completely authenticate what is happening. Custom Credit Corporation Limited, which is a subsidiary of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, not long ago advanced a borrower £20, to be repaid in four monthly instalments of £7 each for the purchase of a watch. Whatever we may think about some one going to a company for a loan of £20 in order to buy a watch, the fact is that this actually happened. Custom Credit Corporation Limited, in addition to making a profit of 40 per cent., Mr. Speaker, insisted that the borrower of the money take out a life assurance policy for £450 with Custom Life Assurance Limited, another subsidiary of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, at an annual premium of £6, and without the normal personal statement and medical examination usually required in all similar assurance transactions. I want to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt): Does he agree that this sort of business is little short of sheer extortion, and will he order an investigation in order to see whether the Commonwealth or the States have power to stop transactions of this kind?

That, in a nutshell, Mr. Speaker, is the story, which I wanted to relate this morning. This matter is very important, because it affects the whole principle of life assurance.

Mr Anderson - It has nothing to do with the Commonwealth Treasurer. It is a matter for the Tasmanian Treasurer.

Mr DUTHIE - It is all right for the honorable member to say that. The Commonwealth Treasurer can get in touch with the Tasmanian Treasurer, if he likes, and ascertain whether the State Government could do something to stop this sort of practice. That is all I am asking for. I know that the Commonwealth cannot always work miracles, but we believe that the hire-purchase companies to-day are already getting enough out of the people without putting this sort of thing over an innocent person who merely wanted £20 for the purchase of a watch. She found that, as part of the transaction, she had to take out a life assurance policy for £450. That is a form of bribery and extortion of which T, for one, do not approve. I condemn it as being unworthy of the company concerned, or of any other company that may try to perpetrate such a transaction in Australia.

I leave the matter at that, Mr. Speaker. I trust that the Treasurer will make inquiries to see whether the State could enact legislation to stop this kind of extortion.

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