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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 2404

Mr MacKELLAR (WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question which is addressed to the Treasurer refers to the activities of insurance companies. I ask: In what way do insurance companies use their public funds? Do they contribute to a broad range of Australian industry and, in so doing, protect the content of Australian equity in industries? Has the Government given any thought to protecting by way of legislation or by other means the insurance industry against nationalisation? Is nationalisation of the insurance industry a means by which the influence of government on private enterprise could be extended?

Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) (Treasurer) - The insurance industry is more than a mere industry in Australia; it is an institution. It is an institution upon which all members of the public rely. Insurance companies insure against all manner of risks. Mainly, of course, they insure against the consequences of illhealth or death and to look after the interests of widows should this happen.

Mr Whitlam - The Minister is giving information.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows that the nature of the reply is in the hands of the Minister.

Mr SNEDDEN - Insurance companies have available to them a very considerable amount of money which is invested throughout the community in all commercial and industrial activities and in homes. There is scarcely an activity in our ordinary everyday lives which does not have some content of money from insurance companies. The importance of this matter to the Australian public has therefore led me to make an examination as to whether it would be possible to amend the existing life assurance legislation, or the general insurance legislation to be introduced, so as to protect against future nationalisation. I have been led to do this because the Labor Party's policy is to nationalise insurance companies. Insurance is quite clearly one of the potential sources of nationalisation. 1 think this would be extremely bad for the Australian nation and especially bad for the Australian public. However, one of the problems that I encounter in this field is that if a government comes into office with a majority, it can use its majority to do that which it wants. Therefore whatever we may erect as a weapon against nationalisation could be undone by a Labor Government if it decided to do so. What must be important is that the Australian public understands that it is within the platform of the Labor Party, adopted in Launceston at a meeting of the supreme policy making body of the Labor Party, and that document quite clearly says that it will be an objective of policy of the Labor Party to nationalise the insurance industry.

Mr Armitage - I rise to order. I submit that Minister, by not referring to the constitutional barriers to the nationalisation of the insurance industry, is misleading the House.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER -Order! No point of order is involved.

Mr SNEDDEN - It is certainly one of those areas that the Labor Party docs not want to talk about. Whenever it is suggested that nationalisation is an objective of the Opposition - and in particular nationalisation of insurance, banking, and the means of communication including the news media - the Labor Party says: 'But please do not take any notice of that because we really would not do it, you know.' However, if the Opposition does mean that it would not do it, the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Party ought to stand up and say that they are not bound by the Labor Party platform.

It was very interesting to read the other day a report of a statement by a member of the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party who used words which are exactly the same as I have been using, and that is that the Labor Party should be prepared to expose its policy and all its policies and not hide those things which it thinks may tarnish its image for electoral purposes in the election coming up. This particular member of the Federal Executive of the Labor Party said that he did not want a Labor Party to be elected to office and afterwards do those things which are in the platform and then be accused of misleading the public in order to be elected. Quite clearly, it ought to be a matter for the Opposition, and particularly for the Leader of the Opposition, to make clear to the Australian public whether he is bound by the Launceston platform of the Australian Labor Party, and in particular in relation to the nationalisation of insurance companies.

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