Since the outbreak of war the marine insurance on cattle, sheep, pigs and live stock generally going across to Great Britain has been increased very much on account of war risks. Fortunately, there has been no loss, and the cattle trade believe that if they were to carry this insurance themselves they could eventually reduce the rate. It is a few months ago since the cattle trade representatives came to me about this matter and it took some time to draft the Bill. It is a great pity that it was not possible to bring it in sooner as a fairly substantial fund would have been built up by now. If they take over the insurance themselves now, they will have to continue the rates as they are at the moment until the fund is built up. I have consulted the cattle trade representatives about this and they are still anxious to go on with it as they believe it would be better for them to do this insurance themselves than to continue at the rates offered at present.
The Bill is drafted more or less on the lines of the Slaughtered Animals (Compensation) Act, 1928. That was an Act brought in to deal with cases of foot and mouth disease occurring amongst cattle exported. The Act was afterwards amended in 1932 to include animals detained on account of foot and mouth disease. It was further amended in 1938 to deal with other expenses that might occur. This Bill is modelled more or less on the lines of that Act with regard to the constitution of the governing body, etc. It provides for the legislation being brought into operation on an appointed day. War or no war, the cattle trade intends to go on with this scheme. In fact, they intend to continue the scheme in peace times. The present rates are very high. From port to port the rates in the case of sheep vary from 7/6 to 10/- per head; store cattle, from 7/6 to 10/- per head; pigs, 12/6 to 15/- per head, and milch cows from 25/- to 35/- per head. These rates only cover transit from port to port. The cattle are not insured if they proceed beyond the port in Great Britain. The cattle trade feel that, in these days of air raids and other untoward happenings, the animals should be insured to their destination on the other side. This Bill provides for that. Senators are already aware of the export figures for the past four or five years—roughly about 600,000 cattle, 300,000 sheep, and 35,000 pigs.
The Bill provides for a board of eight members who will be appointed for a period of five years by the national executive of the live-stock trade. At least one of the members must be a person engaged in the business of exporting pigs, and at least four must be persons engaged in the business of exporting cattle or sheep, or either of them. Everybody will see the necessity of that, because the national executive is composed principally of cattle and sheep men. The pig-dealers have a very poor look-in there, and, lest for any reason the pig exporters might be squeezed out, provision is made in the Bill that they must at least have one member. There are the usual provisions that it shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession, etc. There will be a fund created known as the Exported Live Stock (Insurance) Fund. The fund will be fed by levies on cattle, sheep, and pigs exported. These levies will be collected by means of stamps. They will not be State stamps, but stamps printed by the cattle trade themselves, and they will be affixed to documents which it will be necessary to fill in before cattle, sheep and pigs are exported. The stamps will be on sale at the port. In that way this insurance body will have an easy method of collecting the money in advance. There will be no such thing as giving credit.
The rate of levy will be fixed by the Minister for Agriculture in consultation with the National Executive. The National Executive, you will observe, will be consulted by the Minister before fixing the rates. In fact, what usually happens in these cases is that the National Executive take the initiative. They discuss the matter amongst themselves and they make up their minds what the rate should be. They then send a memorandum embodying these recommendations to the Minister for his consideration. After he has considered them, he either approves them or, if he does not think they are suitable, he sends for the members of the National Executive, discusses the matter with them, and suggests that the rate should be changed. I think you will find that, as a rule, in all these cases the Minister very seldom interferes in a decision of that kind. It was thought better, however, and the cattle trade agreed, that the Minister should have the last word in the fixing of the rates.
Where an animal is lost or damaged either on land or sea while in transit, the procedure is that the exporter will put in his claim. The claim will be investigated by a committee of assessors. That committee is also appointed by the National Executive, not by the board. They give their award and there is no appeal from it. A point arose about the time during which an animal is covered. There may be Senators who perhaps are even less intimate than I am with the conditions governing the export of cattle. I might explain that when cattle go across, they are detained by the veterinary authorities on the other side for some hours before they are permitted to be moved any further inland. It is from the moment they leave that detention that the time counts. It is provided here that they will be covered as regards insurance either until they reach their destination, whether that is a farm or market in Great Britain, or for 72 hours. In other words, 72 hours is the maximum period. The insurance cannot cover a period greater than 72 hours, but, in practically all cases, the animals will have reached their destination long before the 72 hours have expired. They usually reach the market in which they are to be sold the next day, or reach the farm, if they are going to a farm, on the next day. If an accident occurs after the 72 hours it will not be covered even though they have not reached their destination. There must be some limit in these cases otherwise you may have people coming along saying that the animals were merely resting at a particular place and that they had not reached their destination. We do not want to have the board investigating cases like that, followed possibly by legal proceedings as to the interpretation to be put on terms such as "reach their destination". We, therefore, put a limit of 72 hours on the period.
There is one difference—it is not a very big difference—between the scheme laid down in this Bill and the scheme laid down for the Slaughtered and Detained Animals (Compensation) Act. In that Act there is a provision that the Minister can suspend the collection of levies after the fund reaches a certain amount. As a matter of fact, in the particular fund dealing with foot-and-mouth disease, no levies have been collected for some years now. The fund reached £40,000, which was regarded as a fair amount, three or four years ago, and no levies have since been collected. Any expenses have been paid out of the interest accruing on the fund. In this case we think it better that there should be some rate of insurance paid all the time. If the cattle trade find from experience that the fund has grown very big, they will in all probability propose to the Minister that the rate should be reduced. The Minister, of course, if he finds a substantial fund there, and if he is convinced from the arguments of the cattle trade that the rate might be reduced, naturally will agree that it should be reduced. The only other thing I should like to say is that I would like Senators to realise that this is not a war measure. It will probably be brought into operation even while the war continues, but it is not to be regarded as a war measure and is meant to be a permanent scheme, whether there is war or peace.