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Friday, 30 May 1930

Senator DALY (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I hope that Senator McLachlan will reconsider his decision not to accept this amendment. I submit that the law of forgery does not cover the case that has been brought under notice by Senator Dunn. It is not forgery to alter a policy, if both parties agree to the alteration. Forgery is what Senator -Dunn is anxious to protect policy-holders against. Where a trained insurance man suggests a certain alteration of a policy, we have one man's word against that of another.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I understand that this woman did not agree to the alteration, because she was not consulted.

Senator DALY - I am dealing with the principle rather than with the particular instance mentioned by Senator Dunn. I have had cases before me of persons whose insurance policies have been altered, and they have said that they were not parties to the alterations, but a court might conceivably believe that they were. Their knowledge that the company with which they were dealing was worth thousands of pounds, a3 against, possibly, the few pence possessed by the policy-holders, would result in litigation being avoided. Once a policy has been granted by a company, there should be no alteration of it, unless it has been submitted in the first place to some responsible authority. I remind Senator McLachlan that it was found necessary in connexion with the Workmen's Compensation Act in South Australia to introduce a safeguard of this description. Persons were signing documents under that act, until a scandal was created in Adelaide, which demonstrated that the policy-holders were not receiving what they were entitled to. Legislation was then passed providing that no settlement could be arrived at until the matter had been submitted to the clerk of the local court. Personally, I see no objection to this proposed new sub-clause from the point of view of the reputable insurance company. If it wishes to eliminate risks with regard to carbuncles or other complaints, the person insured should have the benefit of some legal advice. These industrial policies are generally taken out by persons of limited means, who cannot afford legal advice. In South Australia, however, they have an opportunity to consult the poor man's lawyer. The clause would provide a safeguard for the reputable company, and would prevent the exploitation that undoubtedly takes place with regard to industrial policies. Seeing that we are now codifying the insurance law throughout the Commonwealth, we should accept the proposed safeguard.

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