Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 14. 28 June 1972
I agree with NZUSA's opposition to racism on an international scale but feel uncomfortable about a certain corner of the Association's own backyard. NZUSA and at least one of the constituent associations (VUWSA) offer life assurance services which discriminate against Polynesians. Maoris and Islanders are expected to pay higher premiums than Pakehas in an equivalent or even inferior state of health because these two groups of people have shorter life expectancies.
If life assurance is based on anything other than assessment of health and life prospects on an individual basis, some kind of stereotypy, be it statistically contrived or not, is being brought into play. In this case the stereotypy is one of race and therefore to call assurance companies, NZUSA and VUWSA racist is justifiable.
To have Polynesian ancestry undoubtedly alters the probabilities of certain genes but to equate this, as the assurance companies do, with disease is unwholesome and unacceptable to a majority of students, if not New Zealanders in general. It also neglects the fact that shorter life expectancies are related to lower standards of living and other socio-economic factors.
This letter was referred to N.Z.U.S.A.'s insurance brokers, Price Forbes (N.Z. Ltd) who replied as follows:
Until recently, Life Offices did adopt certain practices which could be regarded as discriminating against non-Europeans. These included automatic medical examinations, restrictions on types of policies available and in some cases, premium leadings.
Since the enactment of the Race Relations Act however, most Life Offices have discontinued such practices and generally speaking each proposal is now judged on its merits. Thus underwriting is in fact "based on the assessment of health and life prospects on an individual basis."
Although this is now the general rule we find that the attitudes of various Insurance Companies towards this and other aspects of insurance does sometimes vary. It is for this reason that the N.Z.U.S.A. scheme is designed in such a way that students can obtain policies from a selection of companies according to their own particular circumstances, rather than being forced to accept the terms and conditions imposed by any one company.