8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is true that there are fortytwo cases nowbefore the Arbitration; Court, and, if so, what steps are being taken to enable those concerned to have them heard.
– I am not aware.
– I wish to know, Mr: Speaker, when we can expect finality in regard to the investigation that you and Mr. President are making intothe conditions of employment of the messengers and others connected with this building. When are you likely to finally determine the rates of wages and conditions which shall apply to them in the future?
– Under the PublicService Act, the matters referred to are left to the determination of Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, and, as I have already intimated, in answer to a question asked by anotherhonorable member, they have been considered, and certain readjustments willbe provided for in the Estimates for the forthcoming financial year, which are now in course of preparation.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes, by leave) proposed -
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and men of the Royal Australian Navy for their heroic services during four years of war in the guardianship of Australia and her commerce from the attacks of a lawless foe, for their unceasing vigilance in the patrol of many seas, for their courage and skill in safely convoying their soldier comrades to the main theatres of operations, and for their efficient co-operation with the Grand Fleet of the Empire.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, and men of the Australian Imperial Force for their unrivalled courage and efficiency, their cheerful endurance of unexampled hardships, and their magnificent achievements throughout four years of strenuous effort, with their comrades of the other portions of the British Empire, in upholding the cause of human liberty.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Australian Air Force for their brilliant, daring, and conspicuous services over sea and land.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the members of the Australian Army Medical Corps for the skilful discharge of their humane office, and for the unprecedented success which attended their unremitting labours to preserve the armed Forces of Australia from the ravages of disease.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the women of the medical and other auxiliary services for their devotion in tending the sick and wounded and for other duties faithfully and bravely discharged.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the fathers, mothers, wives, and sisters of Australia’s sailors and soldiers, for their devotion, their service, and their sacrifices.
That this House records its deep appreciation of the efforts and gifts of the women, men, and children of Australia, for the mitigation of the hardships endured by sailors and soldiers, and for the alleviation of the sufferings of the sick and wounded.
That this House acknowledges with deep reverence and submission the heroism of those who have fallen in the service of their country, and tenders its profound sympathy to their relatives in the hour of their sorrow and their pride.
That the foregoing resolutions be conveyed to the officers, men, and others referred to therein.
.- I rise to second the motion. I regret exceedingly that the health of the Prime Minister is such that he is unable to do justice to himself by speaking to it, but I am pleased to know that so far as this Parliament is concerned we have practically come to an end of the war. The motion embraces quite a number of people, including some of ourselves, but I think there are others who should not have been omitted. I understand that 95 per cent, of the home service men volunteered for service abroad, and were unable to get away.
– I do not believe that 95 per cent, of them volunteered.
– I believe that was the percentage. I know men who gave up good positions and volunteered, but were kept in Australia. They do not get any of the benefits of the Repatriation Act, and are not included in the war gratuity, and the least we can do is to extend our thanks to them. Again, there are the men of the mercantile marine. In the discussion of the War Gratuity Bill the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) mentioned cases of men of that service who were torpedoed twice. We are not according our thanks to them.
– There are also the munition workers.
– Yes; munition workers and war workers ought to be included. I do not depreciate the services rendered by all the classes mentioned in the motion, but I think that home service men, war workers, munition workers, men of the mercantile marine, and men who served in the auxiliary naval force and citizen forces, compulsorily called up for garrison artillery work, guarding our own shores, shouldbe included in the motion.
– I support the motion. We are yet too close to the war to realize what our people have done during the struggle. We know that those who went away from Australia did their fair share, and that if it had not been for the Army and Navy of the Empire we would not be sitting here today, and the position of Australia would have been very different. We are not yet able to regard with a proper perspective whatwe owe to those who went into that hell for nearly five years’ fighting for the preservation of the liberties we are enjoying to-day. The heartfelt thanks of this House and of the nation should go out to those who preserved those liberties for us.
– With the permission of the House I shall be very pleased to add to the motion the- following paragraph covering the classes of persons referred to by the Leader of the Opposition: -
That the thanks of this House be also accorded to the men who enlisted for Home Service, the Munition and War Workers, the Mercantile Marine, the Royal Naval Auxiliary Forces, and the Citizen Forces called up for Garrison Artillery work.
Question (by leave) amended accordingly, and resolved in the affirmative, honorable members rising in their places.
– Is it the intention of the Government to give the House an early opportunity of amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act with a view to providing an easier method of dealing with the many cases now cited for hearing?
– The Government have been giving a great deal of attention to this matter. Parliament has amended the Act many times, and every time the House has been led to expect that there would be a great improvement, that cases would be more expeditiously heard, and that justice would be more effectively and speedily clone; but it can hardly be said that the facts of a very lengthy experience of the working of the Act have warranted those expectations. The Government are very anxious to exercise the limited powers at their disposal to the very best advantage, and for that reason have convened a conference of all persons interested, in order that we may seek counsel and advice from them. Those who are charged with the conduct of industrial affairs in unions will agree with me that there is great room for improvement. I have no bias in one direction or another. If we can secure industrial peace by means of the Arbitration Court well and good, but it is obvious that we must use every effort to secure it. I am hopeful that those who from their long experience are very familiar with the causes that lead to industrial disputes as well as the means that now exist for their settlement will at this conference be able from their joint wisdom to suggest to the Government a means whereby, at any rate, we may improve the existing machinery. More than that I cannot say, but it would be an unwise policy “to amend the law by patching it up on the lines we have already followed in the past. I see no reason for believing that from such a means any lasting good could come.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that the National Rifle Association of New South Wales proposes to hold its annual meeting on the Anzac Rifle Range, Liverpool, in October next, and that teams from all parts of the Commonwealth, New Zealand, and Great Britain will be competing in the matches, making the competition the second largest rifle meeting in the world, will he take immediate steps to have all necessary work carried out in order to put the range in proper condition for the competition f
– As this range will also be required for military purposes action is being taken in the direction indicated.
Working Men’s College of Victoria
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has expressed his wishes as to the hours for official functions, and has also asked that he be allowed certain time free for his own purposes daily. Programmes have perforce been amended accordingly, but country interests have not been sacrificed to those of the city.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he inform the House if Peter and Maurice Mitchell, who were heavily fined for keeping a filthy cafe, as reported in the Age of the 30th April, are of British nationality; and, if not, will he ascertain what is their nationality, and what are their real names.
– They are of British nationality, having been naturalized in 1914. They arrived in Australia in 1909 from Greece, of which country they were natives. They were naturalized under the names of Pythagoras Hadzimichael and Mavroedis Hadzimichael.
Sufferers from Tuberculosis.
asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will state what measures are being taken by the Department towards the repatriation of returned soldiers suffering from tuberculosis, in view of the specially distressing circumstances surrounding such cases?
– The policy of the Department is to provide for this class of invalids as follows: -
Incipient tubercular cases will be treated at sanatoria throughout the Commonwealth where patients, besides receiving skilled medical attention, will be given lectures, demonstrations, &c, with a view to educating them as to the course of life most suitable for their condition, and to encourage them to keep their complaint in subjection.
For the men whose complaint has been arrested, special farms, under the supervision of eminent medical men, have, and are being, established with suitable quarters, both for families of married men, and single men, whereon every endeavour will be made to stabilize the health of the patients, at the same time imparting to them instruction as to agricultural pursuits, so as to enable them later on, should they so desire, to undertake the best form of open-air employment on a farm of their own.
Special hostels in cheerful surroundings have been procured in most of the States for the more serious cases, and others are in course of acquisition, established as near to capital cities as possible, to enable the relatives and friends of the patients to visit them with facility.
With regard to certain of these institutions, the Bed Cross Society is co-operating with the Department, whilst arrangements have also been made to utilize special wards at certain State institutions, pending completion of the Department’s own establishments.
This policy has been indorsed by the Departmental Medical Advisory Committee, consisting of Sir Henry Maudsley, K.C.M.G; and Drs. R.R. Stawell, G. Syme, and J.Ramsay Webb, gentlemen most eminent in their profession. I n his presidential address at a recent meeting of the British Medical Association, Dr. J. Ramsay Webb, in referring to this policy, said: - “ For the first time in this State, there will be available a means of treatment which represents in full our personal knowledge of the disease.”
– On 29th April the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions : -
I then stated that the information was being obtained. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following inf ormation : -
– On the 29th April the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following questions : -
I then promised to have inquiries made with a view to furnishing the information desired. I am now in a position to supply the honorable member with the following replies : -
The following papers were presented : -
Convention revising the General Act of Berlin, 26th February, 1885, and the General Act and Declaration of Brussels, 2nd July, 1890, signed at SaintGermainenLaye, 10th September, 1919.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Awards and Orders made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and other documents in the following cases: -
Arms Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia. (Dated 30th March, 1920.)
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Association, and the Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Australian Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association - (Dated 30th March, 1920.) (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Australian Letter Carriers’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Australian Postal Electricians’ Union - (Dated 1st March, 1920.) (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Australian Postal Linesmen’s Union. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920) (two.)
Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia. (Dated 9th April, 1920) (three.)
General Division Officers’ Union of the Trade and Customs Department of Australia. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Line Inspectors’ Association - Commonmon wealth of Australia. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Meat Inspectors’ Association - Commonwealth Public Service. (Dated 9th April, 1920.)
Postal Sorters’ Union of Australia. (Dated9th April, 1920.)
Audit Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 59.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at - North Preston, Victoria - For Repatriation purposes.
Papua - Ordinance of 1920 -No. 1. - Land.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message resumed from 30th April, vide page 1702) :
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Insert the following new clause: - “47 a. The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers in establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, woolscouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), saw-milling, and other enterprises.”
Senate’s Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
Upon which Mr. Poynton had moved -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
.- I move -
That the following words be added, “ but that, as an alternative amendment, the following clause be inserted in the Bill: - “ 47a. ( 1 ) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of pound for pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, woolscouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), saw-milling, and other enterprises. “(2) The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall be repayable.”
Had there been no Senate, the amendment carried by this Committee at the instance of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) would have been the law of the land.
Mr.Fenton. - A further reason for doing without the Senate.
– No ; the Senate is justifying its existence. The motive of the honorable member for Echuca in providing that the Government should advance money to soldiers for co-operative purposes was of the very highest. Those of us who have tried in various ways to bring about a better condition of society welcome anything in the nature of co-operation. But we must protect Government funds by providing that all attempts at cooperation shall be upon a business basis. The honorable member pointed out the serious discrepancy between our attitude in advancing without security up to £650 for house, stock, and implements to assist people to go upon the land, whilst not advancing money to enable soldiers to engage in other enterprises. That is quite true ; but honorable members will recollect that when repatriation was first discussed, everybody was hopeful that nearly all returned soldiers would desire to go upon the land. Land settlement was to be the solution of all our difficulties, and a Committee, of which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was a member, considered proposals for advancing as much as £70,000,000 to enable men to go upon the land. We have found, however, that not more than 5 per cent, of the 250,000 returned soldiers desire to settle upon the land, and I am sure the honorable member for Echuca will realize that a great many of those who are going upon the land will unhappily fail. Land and estate agents are of opinion that within a few years a large number of soldiers’ farms will be on the market, because the soldier farmers will discover they have no taste for the work, and will endeavour to get back to the cities. My alternative amendment will provide that if any returned soldiers desire to put up their own money in cash or war bonds for the purpose of engaging in co-operative enterprises, the Government shall advance money to them on a £1 for £1 basis.
– Why discriminate between men on the land and those who wish to engage in other enterprises?
– I have already explained that the policy of advancing money to enable men to go upon the land, without requiring them to put up any of their own capital, was conceived for the very special purpose of encouraging men to leave the over-populated cities and settle the vacant areas. If we wish to save our civilization we must make country life more attractive in every way. Any business man knows that there are hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who are prepared to go into cooperative or other businesses if somebody else will find the money.
– The advances are to be subject to the approval of the Commission and the Minister.
– I invite the attention of the Committee to the number of persons who fail in all kinds of businesses each year.
– Not co-operative businesses.
– The failures are not so numerous in connexion with co-operative businesses, but a limited liability company is a co-operative body more or less. The following particulars concerning insolvencies are taken from the Commonwealth Year-Booh, but the Commonwealth Statistician is careful to point out that the figures regarding the assets are very unreliable : -
Every year thousands of persons go into businesses and fail. It must be borne in mind that those persons believe in their particular industries or occupations, and invest their own money. But if the Commonwealth, in addition to paying £26,000,000 by way of a war gratuity, is prepared to advance money, without security, to 250,000 soldiers - and the hon.orable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) mentioned no limit to the amount - i wonder how many millions of pounds will be required.
– The Commission and the Minister will have tq approve of the advances.
– It would not be within the power of any single person or Board to cope with the applications that would be made as soon as it was made known that 250,000 soldiers could each get an advance of £200 in order to start them in co-operative businesses. The money required will amount to about £15,000,000 over and above the £26,000,000 for the war gratuity.
– The money would be advanced only to those persons who were prepared to work in the businesses themselves.
– The money would be required only for those who would apply for it under the Act.
—Does the honorable member know who will apply? Every man will have the right to do so. Business men in the city are being approached from day to day by men who have made some discovery or invention which they require capital to exploit.
– No one has approached the honorable member?
– I was amongst others who were approached by a man who had invented a smoke consumer, but it was ascertained that smoke was consumed by tapping a forced draft supplied by some neighbouring bottle works. The smoke was- consumed all right, and it seemed a perfectly good proposition; but when it had been examined by the engineer in charge of the Victorian Railways it was ascertained that it would require an engine as large as the one it was proposed to treat, in order to furnish the means of consuming the smoke. There are thousands of inventors who thoroughly believe that their inventions, if supported by capital, would revolutionize industry; and I wonder how many proposals were made to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) during the war by people who were prepared to demonstrate to his satisfaction that if he supplied the necessary money the inventors could’ provide appliances that would end the war. We must make some business proposition before we can expect the
Senate to assent. I ask honorable members who, apparently, propose to advance
– Not 25 per cent, of the men will apply, so that the £50,000,000 is all bunkum !
– Are we prepared to advance £50,000,000 without security in order to enable men to start enterprises? Is the country able to stand such an expenditure? We must have regard to the financial position of the Commonwealth. We have to borrow £30,000,000 to carry on as at present, and if we advance money in the way suggested, where should we land ourselves?
– The House accepted the proposal.
– That is true, but it accepted it in a hurry, and the Senate has rejected it. The mover of this motion must admit that its terms are very bald ; there is no restriction on the amount, and no prohibition as to the nature of. the proposals to be made. I hope, therefore, that honorable members, if they are going to send an alternative proposal to the Senate, will send one of a business character. It is no new principle for a Government or a municipality to subsidize hospitals in the ratio of £1 for every £1 subscribed by the public, and in such cases there is something like a pledge that those who subscribe have some faith in the idea.
– Why did the Government not put men on the land under those conditions ?
– I was in hopes that the honorable member would’ accept my explanation. I know nothing to account for the overwhelming generosity of the Government in the way of ,putting men on the land than a belief on their part that our cities are too large, and that, in order to save ourselves from total destruction, we must get people into the country.
– That is one reason for the establishment of industries in country districts.
– But . the honorable member’s idea is not confined to country districts; an enterprise under this Bill may mean a factory in a back street in Melbourne.
Mr. Hill (Echuca) [3.43]. - I should like to- remind the. Government-
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has just now, in my hearing, uttered words which I regard as offensive, and’ I request that they be withdrawn. The honorable member suggests that the Government instigated the amendment I proposed. This I regard as objectionable and offensive, and ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– The statement is absolutely incorrect.
– I did not hear the words uttered by the honorable member for Barrier.
– I did, and I insist upon their withdrawal.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member for Barrier has said anything offensive to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), I request that what he said be withdrawn.
– If I have said anything offensive to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) - if I could say anything offensive to him - I withdraw it.
– I object to the terms of that withdrawal, which, I say, is qualified and more offensive even than the original words. I hope, Mr. Atkinson, you will protect me; if you do not, I shall have to rise and say something in retaliation, and that I do not wish’ to do.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) to make an unqualified withdrawal of . the words he used.
– I withdraw them.
– I was about to draw the attention of the Government to the remarks of the Minister for Work3 and Railways (Mr. Groom) when dealing with this amendment on Friday last. That honorable gentleman said that the Government would stand to its “duties,” and, going further, added that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) sought to go back on a decision of the House. But what are the Government attempting now but to go back on a decision of the House? The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) accepted the amendment when the Bill was originally before us, and it was passed on the, voices; but now, judging from that honorable gentleman’s remarks and interjections to-day, it is desired to reverse that decision. Now that the Commission is to be appointed, I shall endeavour to insist that this clause be retained in the Bill. The measure, as it stands, may be classed as purely and simply a Pensions Bill. The Commission would not have anything to do were this clause to be deleted. Its retention would, at any rate, provide some work ; it would, in a measure, justify the Commissioners’ appointment. The principle underlying the. establishment of industries, as set out in the clause, is one which has been welcomed by returned men, and by thousands of people in the country districts, if the shoals of letters which I have received are at all indicative. I wish to deal now with the reasons furnished by the Senate for opposition to the clause. The first is -
Because it is not considered equitable to extend to collective bodies of soldiers benefits for which individual soldiers might not be eligible.
There are large numbers of men for whom no provision has been or can be made individually; but by forming them into groups on the co-operative principle very many could be provided for who otherwise would be left outside the scope of any provision which has yet been made. “When our boys enlisted we were so anxious to get them that we made solemn promises to the effect that when they returned we would see that they were placed in positions identical with, or quite as good as, if not better than, those they had previously occupied. In many instances these promises have been honoured. But, with regard to men who have no definite trade or calling, this “ co-operative ‘’ clause was intended to supply their requirements. I ask the Government and the people whether they propose to honour their promises, or to regard them as scraps of paper.
– Does the honorable member infer that the Government have not honoured their promises to the soldiers?
– I mean to say that there are many men to-day who are without work. The Government have honoured their promises to some extent, but there are very many men who have not yet been repatriated. The principle of cooperation provides the only way in which to give them a fair deal, and to fully honour our promises.
– That is the’ honorable member’s opinion.
– It is, and I give it for what it may be worth.
– Is not the opinion of the honorable member as good as that of the honorable member for Wakefield?
– I hope it is. The second reason furnished by another place in supporting its rejection of the clause states -
Because the effect of the granting of the benefits contemplated by the amendment would result in the unsettlement of the large majority of men whoso re-establishment in civil life has been already accomplished.
It knocks over the contentions of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) if so many have been already provided for. True, there are not so many left who still require that provision shall be made for them; but the fact remains that numbers have not yet been re-established in civil life, and it is these whom I wish to help. The establishment of such industries as I have suggested would certainly prove of very great assistance to men who are without regular employment, who do not follow any defined trade or calling. While dealing with the matter of woollen mills and similar enterprises a few days ago, I was pointing out that there would be very little risk of loss in launching upon such industries, provided that the right class of men were chosen.
– And provided that they were established in the right localities.
– I would undertake to find right localities, and would begin by nominating Echuca and Shepparton
– A selection based upon broad national lines, of course.
– Does the honorable member want them all in “Victoria ?
– I would leave it to the honorable member to choose localities in New South Wales; but I would nominate Echuca, the capital of the north, and Shepparton, the capital of the Goulburn’ Valley. Surely, the Government will not want everything in Melbourne. In the course of my earlier remarks, I demonstrated that huge profits were made from woollen mills. A little time ago, I made my way down
Flinders-lane, and bought a suit length of cloth, 3j yards, for 32s. per yard; the piece cost me £6.
– Preparing for the Prince’s visit, I suppose?
– It was not good enough for the Prince’ ; there was some cotton in it.
– Which is dearer than wool.
– The suit length contained 3 1-5 lb. of wool. Allowing a high price, namely, 4s. 6d. per lb. for clean, scoured wool, that would amount to 14s. 5d. That is to say, out of my suit length, the producer would get 14s. 5d., while the manufacturer and the middleman would make £5 5s. 7d. Do not honorable members think that that example suggests a good opportunity for our returned men to make a payable proposition out of the establishment of a woollen mill? Do they not think that here is demonstrated a far better opportunity to succeed than returned men are ever likely to have on the land ? I do not wish to say anything with regard to the Government’s land settlement policy; but I fear there will be a lot of failures among returned soldier settlers. The principle held by the various Governments of buying out one man in order to put another on the land is most unsatisfactory, and altogether unsound. In my own district, land values have appreciated from £1 to £4 an acre during the past three months, and more land has changed hands during, those three months than in the course of the previous three years. There are large areas of unalienated land in the Commonwealth. I do not know to what extent they exist in other States, but, presumably, they would be even larger than in Victoria. In our north-western mallee country there are 5,400,000 acres which have been graded as first, second, and third class land. I have consistently advocated that this land should be given to our returned boys in living areas of, say, 640 acres of first-class land, or 1,000 acres of second, or 1,500 acres of third-class land. There are very few but who would make a success upon such blocks. Of course, I would stipulate certain conditions, and not leave the way open for returned soldiers to leave their holdings in twelve months, or in two or three years. I would compel them to live on their lots for a certain time. It would be “up to “ the Government to furnish necessary improvements, such as good roads, railway facilities, water conservation, and the like. There is sufficient land in the north-western mallee areas to repatriate 5,000 men; and, as an outcome of their activities, the opening up of this territory would mean, within five to ten years, an increase of the wheat yield in Victoria amounting to between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent. The Government have continually cried out for increased production; the only way to bring that about is to place more men on the land. They cannot hope to look for increased production, however, by going in for a policy of buying out one man and putting in another. The third reason given by the Senate for disagreeing to my amendment is -
Because grave financial loss to the Government and disappointment to bodies of men may result from the starting of enterprises which may not prove successful.
I am perfectly sure that a number of the returned soldiers have been settled on the land under conditions which make it impossible for them to hope for success. I regret to have to say that I believe we shall have a great number of failures amongst the returned men settled on the land. I will not say that there would be no failures under my amendment, but I believe the number would be less than we may expect under the land settlement proposals for repatriation. In any case if we advanced a certain amount, and I have suggested £250, in connexion with the building of soldiers’ homes, the bricks, mortar, and machinery would not run away, though a number of the men might become dissatisfied, and leave their cooperative organizations.
In regard to the last reason given by the Senate for disagreeing to my amendment, I should like to say that the Government, by accepting the amendment in the first- place, showed that they approved of the proposal. T3o provision has been made for soldiers’ industrial concerns. I challenge the Government to say whether any provision has been made for the proper repatriation of large numbers of men who are not skilled in different trades and callings. My main reason for submitting my amendment was to meet the case of these men. I hope that honorable members on both sides are fully alive to the necessity of doing something for these men for whom at present no provision has been made. Nothing can be done for them as individuals, but we may hope to do something for them collectively. I hope that the Committee will insist on the amendment, and” with all due respect to the honorable member for Capricornia, I trust that his alternative amendment will not be agreed to.
– I should like, first of all, to know why the Government have changed their mind in this matter. I expected that the Minister (Mr. Poynton) would make an important statement giving good reasons why the Government should go back on the decision of the Committee in this matter. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said that we have to thank the Senate that the amendment submitted here by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is not now the law of the country. Perhaps it would be as well to remind the country of the nature of the work done by the Senate. That branch of this Legislature put this Bill through so quickly, and in such a slipshod fashion, that it had to send along a number of amendments to the Government for the improvement of the measure while it was under consideration in this House.
– The Senate did not send on those amendments.
– Well, the Government proposed those amendments for the improvement of a Bill which was passed by the Senate under the supervision of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). When it was received here it was found that a whole sheaf of amendments were necessary, because the Senate had neglected its work.In spite of this the honorable member for Capricornia characterizes the Senate as the saviour of the country. I look forward to the time when, in the interests of the country, the Senate will be wiped out.
The honorable member for Capricornia gave us a list of private businesses, the owners of which had gone insolvent. It is because there have been so many failures in private enterprises that the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is disposed to try a new experiment by bringing men together to work cooperatively to prevent such failures.
The cry of the Government has been for more production, and the adoption of the amendment would be. one of the most practical steps that could be taken to increase production. I could mention a number of things in connexion with which men co-operating might do much to develop the resources of the country. For instance, the greasy wool now exported from Australia could be scoured here by unskilled labour. We have plenty of water, we have the wool, and we have unemployed labour. All that would be necessary would be for the Government to assist returned men in different parts of the country to work co-operatively in the scouring of wool before it was brought to the large centres of population. In that way the Government would be doing much to settle people in the country districts. Again, if we consider the building trade, we know that great difficulty is being experienced in providing homes for returned soldiers. If returned men were allowed to co-operate in the building trade for the building pf soldiers’ homes, a very great deal of good might be effected. If the Government were prepared to advance to me a working co-operatively £200 or £300 to buy material for the purpose, a very considerable stimulus could be given to the erection of soldiers’ homes. The Government would have a lien on the buildings, and practical control of the whole business. That would help the soldiers, and would find employment for our people. If it is to be left to men to take up the building of these homes by day labour or by contract on the old lines, there will be .no stimulation of the business. It seems to me that under the amendment we might very easily start the building of soldiers’ homes under the co-operative system. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was telling me coming over in the train that there are large quantities of beautiful timber in his district which could be cut and supplied by co-operative groups of returned men for the erection of soldiers’ homes. He is in a position to assure the Government that there is plenty of good timber in his district for the purpose, and the Government might assist returned soldiers in the establishment of saw-mills there. Under existing conditions, the Government are compelled to pay the high prices for timber for soldiers’ homes fixed by the Combine that exists in the timber industry, and these high prices are ultimately passed on to the returned soldiers. I have been in the building trade all my life, and I am confident that a soldier’s home which costs under existing conditions about £700 could be built for £500 if it were not for the action of the Combines controlling the timber industry and the manufacture of bricks and cement.
– Where do the Combines end?
– I think they have no end. Their number continues to increase, and they are to be found operating all over the country. Under the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), the Government could assist returned soldiers to establish co-operative saw-mills, and there would be a ready market for all the timber they could cut, as there are thousands of men who are still awaiting homes. The Government might also assist returned soldiers to co-operate in the manufacture of bricks. There is a good market for bricks in every city in Australia, and bricks, as well as timber, are required for the erection of soldiers’ homes. The Brick Combine in New South Wales has put up the price of bricks to as high as £5 per 1,000. I can remember the time when bricks could be purchased for 25s. per 1,000.
What the honorable member for Echuca proposes is a departure from the rut, but we cannot hope to put an end to industrial unrest unless we change our present methods.
– You will not do so by methods of this kind.
– One of the best means to bring about industrial peace is to enable men to work for themselves. I have known the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) to grow quite red in the face on many occasions iri this Chamber in advocating cooperation.
– Not in a matter of this kind, but only on a basis of sanity.
– When will it be right, in the honorable member’s opinion, to begin co-operative work ? The Government have money to spend in the repatriation of returned soldiers. It is the policy of the country that they should be as soon &s possible established again in civil life, and the only question is as to the best method to be adopted for this purpose. This should not be regarded as a party matter. We ought all to unite in an earnest endeavour to solve this unemployed problem. Upon my return to Sydney, only last week, I had occasion to pass the Repatriation Offices, where I saw hundreds of men going up to register their names as applicants for sustenance. When is that practice going to cease? The Government are merely feeding the men from day to day without building up any permanent industries in which they may obtain employment. Here is an opportunity for them to establish upon a co-operative basis new industries in which our returned soldiers may labour to produce that wealth for which the country is crying out. Yet the Government come down here and without assigning any reasons for their change of front, ask us not to insist upon our amendment with which the other branch of the Legislature has disagreed.
– The reasons for their action have been printed.
– They are ridiculous reasons. No honorable member can justify the reversal of his previous vote upon those reasons.
– No vote has been taken in this Committee upon it.
– The Committee agreed to the amendment unanimously.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Echuca was reluctantly adopted by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), who said, “ I recognise that the numbers are up,” and accordingly it was agreed to. Had the Government been guided by the honorable gentleman, the scene which occurred on Friday afternoon would have been avoided. After the vote which was then taken, any self-respecting Government would have gone out of office. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and shall oppose the decision arrived at by the Senate. At the present time the other branch of the Legislature does not truly represent the people of this country. An election took place recently, and as a result I believe that the Senate has no constitutional right to reject any measure passed by this Chamber.
Mr. richard foster (Wakefield) [4.13]. - I do not care for the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), but I like it very much better than I do the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). I regret exceedingly the impression that might reasonably be conveyed by the reference of the honorable member for Echuca to the attitude of the Government in regard to the fulfilment of their promises to our ‘returned soldiers. I am quite sure that that reference must ‘have been made unwittingly, and that if its author had thought tie matter out calmly he would never have made the suggestion which he did. In so far as it -was possible to redeem them, the Government have fully redeemed their promises to our returned soldiers. Literally, they have absolutely redeemed them. There is no country in the world which has acted more generously to its soldiers than has Australia through the medium of the Commonwealth Government. The State Governments, too, have acted similarly to the very limit of their resources. I admit frankly that the services of the splendid men from this country can never be adequately recognised in a material sense. But we have gone to- the very uttermost of our resources in order to show our gratitude to these men. I am opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and I ask the Committee to be guided by the reasons which have been submitted to this Chamber by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
– You forget that the industries proposed to be established are to be subject to the approval of the Minister.
– I know all about that, and I shall deal with that phase of the matter, presently. I tell the honorable member, as I told him the other day, that I believe the Minister, on the spur of the moment, accepted the amendment because it contained some sort of a financial safeguard. I am in entire sympathy with the object of honorable members of the Country party.
– You ought to be.
– I am; but I wish to place it upon a solid foundation. Thirty years ago I was a foundation member of what is to-day one of the strongest co-operative societies in Australia. For about twenty years it had to struggle against great difficulties, but today it is one of the best institutions of its kind in the world, because it is upon a financially sound basis. If the honorable member for Echuca wishes us to embark upon similar enterprises, why does he not seek to establish co-operative industries for our soldiers by the application to that purpose of their war gratuities?
– Why do you not apply the soldier’s gratuity to land settlement?
– In the encouragement of land settlement and in the repatriation of our soldiers the Government have behaved handsomely. Experience has already proved that we are going to lose millions of pounds upon our scheme of land settlement for our soldiers, and that scheme rests on an infinitely sounder basis than does the establishment of co-operative industries in the way that is now proposed. In South Australia there are returned men who intend launching out on the co-operative principle to the extent of £250,000 by applying their war gratuities to this purpose.
– Under the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia, we should have to advance those men another £250,000.
– I am going to accept the lesser of two evils. The land is here, and cannot get away.
– But the £625 can get away.
– That is a perishable asset, and yet it. is a better asset than is that which we are now considering. We have already had a painful experience in connexion with many of the advances made to our soldiers for homes, stock, and implements, to the extent of £650. The proposal will be more troublesome to the Repatriation Department than any it has handled up to date.
– But if it is good in principle, why not test it?
– I invite the honorable member to bring it before any financial institution. He will then find out its real value. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) knows.
– I know that a man gets very little sympathy from a bank when he is down or in a hole.
– And this proposal is not the way to get any man out of a hole. I repeat that the Government have gone to the limit of their resources in order to provide for our returned soldiers, and I want my honorable friends in the corner, who appear to regard themselves as the guardian angels of the farmers of Australia to remember that if we have a dry winter Australia will be in the grip of the worst drought ever experienced in the history of this country. Should this winter be unfavorable the Governments will be at their wit’s end to meet the obligations resting upon them, and to so finance as to keep a large proportion of our farmers on the land. Honorable members of the Country party must be aware of this danger. I speak from bitter experience of many droughts, and, therefore, I ask the Committee not to accept any hazardous scheme involving huge financial obligations. We should noi adopt any “ wildcat” scheme of this nature.
Mr- James Page. - Oh! Is that how you regard it?
– I say this advisedly, because I know the danger ahead of us.
– Then why did you vote for it on the last occasion?
– On the contrary, I denounced it, and did not like it a bit better even with the provision that any proposed co-operative enterprise was to be subject to the approval of the Minister, because, after all, it will be administered by the Commission. The Minister will simply have power to withhold approval.
– We want to give the Commission something to do.
– The Commission when appointed will have charge of administration with regard to pensions, vocational training, and hospitals for disabled returned soldiers. We cannot expect men who may be experts in that particular aspect of repatriation to be capable of dealing with this “ jackofalltrades “ scheme. A Minister worth his salt will approve of very few of the schemes that may come before him under this proposal. As I have already pointed out, there will be abundant opportunities for our returned soldiers to enter into cooperative enterprises by the investment of their gratuity bonds.. Some have already determined upon this course.
– The reference by the honorable mem ber for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to people who have gone insolvent, or dropped out of business reminds me that in the early days we always heard of the men who were lucky, but never of those who had gone under financially in the search for gold, and who had lost their health as well. We all know that while some nien are unsuccessful in a certain line of business, others can make a huge success of it.
– Especially those who have been ‘”’ over the top.”
– Yes. If they were good enough for that, they must be good enough for these businesses. I owe my conversion to the amendment if conversion were needed, to the arguments of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) when the Bill was going through. His arguments reminded me of a well-known advertisement - “ it touches the spot.” We know that men who left their labouring jobs to go to the Front were the men who could be depended upon to do things. Whenever there was anything to do, they were the men who attempted it. They did it, and Australia rang from end to end in praise of their glorious achievements. The soldier was good enough to go away to fight, and do everything necessary to make him a successful soldier; but because he was a labourer, a factory hand, or a farm employee, he is not good enough to be given a start in business on his return. Are the Government in favour of keeping such men navvies or labourers for ever,, merely because they happened to be so employed before they went abroad ? I am supporting the proposed new clause because I am strongly in favour of giving them an opportunity to improve their positions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) says that the soldiers should sub? scribe £1 for £1. In my own case, if it had not been for the generosity of a squatter at Barcaldine I would not have been worth 5s. to-day. In my early days, when I was employed in the country, this gentleman asked’ me how much I was prepared to provide if he gave me a chance to start dairying. I informed him that I had only £10, and he replied, “Keep that to buy utensils, and I will supply you with the cows.” He did as he promised, and thus gave me an opportunity to start on my own account. To-day I am a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, mainly because I received some assistance when I needed’ it. At that time I was a shearer, or shed hand, and was also casually employed on railway or other work. But I was young, with plenty of ambition, and I succeeded because I was helped. Do honorable members who are opposing the proposed new clause say that the men whom we say should benefit are not competent to be their own masters? Why should we ask them to find £100? We did not ask them for anything when they were going to fight for us.
– Merely to take the oath.
– Yes, that is all we asked them to subscribe. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) seems to think that co-operative undertakings of the character mentioned are not likely to bo successful. We know that many who start in business fall by the wayside, but most of these men, if given the opportunity, will be successful. Many who have benefited largely by their experience abroad would prove satisfactory employers, and I do not think a large percentage would make mistakes if given the opportunity. Many of the returned soldier’s who have been placed on the land in Queensland are doomed to failure because they know nothing of rural work, and when they realize that they do not understand the business they naturally become disheartened. Certain sections of the industrial community are seeking to limit a week’s work to forty hours, but we have to remember that men engaged in rural pursuits are in many instances endeavouring to do forty hours’ work in twenty-four hours. When many men who have recently gone on the land realize that they have to work laboriously and continuously to reap any reward, they will lose heart. The honor-, able member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has said that the land is always an. asset, because it cannot be removed; but every one knows that. In Queensland some years ago Mr. Barlow established a group system of land settlement, and I, in common with others interested, hoped that we were going to show what could be done by successful cooperation. At the time I was earning 9s. per day at railway work, and I placed 4s. of each day’s earnings into a co-operative concern in the belief that it would succeed. The incident occurred after the 1891 strike, and I do not quarrel with the honorable member for Capricornia concerning his fears, because he knows what happened’.
– I suppose you were all short of cash at the time.
– Yes. But when we are dealing with men possessing the independent spirit that most Australians have - and, thank God, they have it - we have no occasion to fear. In connexion with the Alice River settlement, to’ which I am referring, the Government of which Sir Samuel Griffith was then leader helped the settlers, and in 1900, when only five settlers were left, freeholds were granted’, with the result that the settlers immediately disposed of their land to the highest bidder. The honorable member for Capricornia believes that something similar will occur in this instance, but he must remember that there is a different feeling abroad to-day, and men know that they have to work to live. Our returned soldiers have gone through fire and water, yea, in many instances, hell itself could not have been worse, and’ surely they are able to launch out now on their own account in their own country. Even supposing the proposal may mean a loss of millions, we should be prepared to give the system a trial, without which there is no chance of achieving success. Fancy asking men to put up £100 when all the money they possess is what they earn. The honorable member for Wakefield is afraid that men will desire to be assisted in “ wild cat” schemes - enterprises that are not likely to prove profitable. Quite a number of people would say that the honorable member himself is not a success.
– But they do not say it.
– They say worse than that. It must be remembered that no co-operative concerns can be established without the consent of the Minister.
– And” if the Minister is not sure, he will take the proposal before Cabinet.
– If I was administering the Act, and any doubtful schemes were submitted, I would not have any hesitation in telling the men why the Government could not give their support.
– Every one would not be as firm as the honorable member.
-Honorable members are well aware that it was as hard to get anything out of Mr. Webster when he was Postmaster-General as it would be to draw a camel’s tooth. This measure needs to be administered sympathetically, and, as I have often said in this House and on public platforms, there is no man in Australia, either in public or private life, who’ could have administered the Repatriation Act more satisfactorily than the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen). He has been both sympathetic and firm. He has made a lot of enemies by his firmness, but he has steered clear of all danger, and the public of Australia, and the soldiers particularly, should be grateful for what he has done. Knowing now what the feeling of the Committee is, I feel sure that the Minister will stand by the clause, and’ I can imagine I hear him saying, “ Colonel, don’t shoot; I will come down.” If he wishes for a repetition of what happened on Friday last, he will get it,
– How long is it since you changed your mind on the subject?
– I have not done so. I was one of the chief supporters of the proposal when it was first brought forward .
– Why did the Minister accept the original proposal ? The records show that it was amended at his suggestion, and accepted.
– I suppose he saw that the numbers were against him. The first reason of the Senate for disagreeing to clause 47a is -
Because it is not considered equitable to es - tend to collective bodies of soldiers benefits for which individual soldiers might not be eligible.
No one could present a better case for the clause than has been made out by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). If a boss can make £100 a month out of a saw-milling plant, and pay men to work for him - a plant need not be very big to give that profit - why should not returned soldiers, working in co-operation, make similar profits ?
– I know men who have lost a lot of money this year.
– I know men who have lost money in squatting, and in other businesses. ‘ But, generally speaking, success or failure depends largely on management. A number of soldiers could take up milling, some devoting themselves to the finding and fell ing of the timber, others acting as teamsters, others working at the mill. They would have to choose one of their number to manage the concern, but there is as much intelligence among working men as among those of other classes, and, given a chance, many men would make a success out of a business of this kind. Of course, in a case where all wished to be the boss, the thing would fail. What better can we do than to give these men a chance? I do not think that if they were put on their honour, it would cost, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said, millions of pounds.
– It would cost £12,500,000 if only 25 per cent, of the men took advantage of the arrangement.
– If these- men become productive agencies, it will be a great thing for the Commonwealth.
– Is it suggested that they will all fail?
– That is the contention underlying the argument that I am combating.
– The honorable member for Franklin would not put his money into a venture of this kind.
– I should be willing to do so, and to give my personal assistance, feeling sure that within twelve months, if we could get rid of our produce, the venture would prove a success.
– There are thousands of business men who would be only too glad to give the dinkum soldier a chance.
– Yes; and the community would be glad of their production. I hope the Committee will insist upon its amendment, which gives a chance to those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. It is the men who cannot put up a few shillings that we want to help, not those who are already provided for.
Mr. jowett (Grampians) [4.48].- ‘ The members of the Committee should be grateful to the circumstances which have brought about this very ‘ illuminating discussion, and have elicited the valuable speeches of the honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), Echuca (Mr. Hill), Maranoa (Mr. James Page), and others. Having carefully studied the reasons given by the Senate for disagreeing to the clause, I consider them insufficient, and although there is considerable merit in the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), I hope that the Committee may prefer to it one which I shall submit at sl later stage, which will, I think, remove all possible objections to the original proposal of the honorable member for Echuca. The clause, as it stands, may, if carried, tend to increase the enormous disproportion between the urban and rural populations of Australia, and therefore I wish to amend it that it may read -
The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers in establishing industries in country districts and inland country towns on a cooperative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, wool-scouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), sawmilling, and other enterprises.
Full significance is rarely attached to the gradual drift of population from the country to our seaport towns, and the gradual decay of once flourishing and important country towns. -Yearly during the past decade the capitals have grown at the expense of the country districts, and at the present time in two States the population of the capital is greater than that of the rest of the State. In 1918 the population of Adelaide was 235,751, and that of the rest of South Australia 210,000; and the population of Melbourne was 723,500, and that of the rest of Victoria 700,258. A similar state of affairs is gradually coming about in the other States.
– Is not the same thing occurring in every country in the world?
– And’ at a greater rate in most countries than in Australia.
– At the proper time, and with due notice, I shall be prepared to “ survey mankind from China to Peru,” and, if necessary, to deluge the Chamber with statistics; but my concern now is with what is happening in Australia, where there is no excuse for this centralization. If the natural advantages of the seaport towns are not counterbalanced in some way such as I have suggested, they may eventually attract to themselves almost the whole of the population of the country.
– Is not Portland a seaport town, but also a country town?
– In Tasmania there are twelve or thirteen towns which can be so designated.
– It is within the province of honorable members to make exceptions in favour of such places as Warrnambool and Portland and others they may see fit to include.
– Does not the honorable member think by giving notice of a further amendment he will kill the whole project?
– I do not think so. Every honorable member is exceedingly anxious to re-establish country towns in their former position of importance, and to do everything possible to provide adequate employment and remuneration for people who live in country districts and country towns.
– I think the honorable member is -endeavouring to save the Government.
– The honorable member is .most ungenerous in suggesting any ulterior motive on my part. My object is not to save the Government or the position of any honorable member of the House. My purpose is to save the country districts and the country towns from the process of gradual extinction, and to assist soldiers living in country districts to form cooperative establishments. Soldiers who live in the cities would probably find it advantageous to move their abodes to very salubrious and agreeable country towns for the purpose of securing the same advantage. If the alternative amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is defeated, 1 shall move my amendment.
[4.5S]. - I was anxious to hear how the honorable member would justify creating a distinction between soldiers residing in metropolitan areas and those living in country districts.
– That is not the proposal before the Committee at the present time.
– I am well aware that the proposal before the. Committee is the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and of the two evils I prefer the lesser. But I am amazed at the indifference of the Economy party. They talk quite flippantly about the millions which they are willing to take the risk of throwing away.
When the honorable member for Capricornia estimated that the cost of these co-operative concerns would probably be £50,000,000, an honorable member in the Country party’s corner said that it would not be more than 25 per cent, of that amount - as if 25 per cent, of £50,000,000 was a mere bagatelle. No proposal has ever come before this Parliament involving greater danger of the waste of public moneys. Even with the reservation that I was the means of having inserted in the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) the provision to which another place has taken exception is an inducement to all those soldiers who are now settled in various occupations to give up their positions and make application to share in the advantages bestowed by it. Very few of the honorable members who support this proposal would put their own money into a project unless they had control over it. We are here as the custodians of public money.
– How much of his own money would the Minister put into the land settlement policy at present in force?
– No soldier is assisted on the land unless he has a qualification certificate. To start with, there is an approval Board, and under the original arrangement with regard to land settlement we were very careful to get the whole of each man’s experience before he went abroad. In that way we were assured that the men placed on the land would be those who had training for the occupation, but apparently no training is to be demanded from the man who asks to be financed in a co-operative concern. Men who have had twelve months’ vocational training are now anxious to be started in a co-operative boot factory, without having learned their trade by a long way.
– What is the position of a man who was managing a sawmill before he enlisted, and who cannot get back into his old position, but must take a subservient position ?
– There is nothing in the Repatriation Act to prevent his getting assistance even without this amendment. There is no part of the world where more has been done for returned soldiers than has been done here. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) has not hesitated to say that no man could have done better than the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has done. Has not the clause come back from that very Minister in another place ? He is the man who most dreads this proposal. I ask the Committee to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia, because it will protect us if men are required to put their own money into these concerns.
.- We have just listened to one of the most surprising addresses ever delivered in this Chamber. One would hardly imagine that it came from a gentleman who only last week readily accepted the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). I have never seen such a change to the right-about.
– Let the honorable member read what I said about the proposal.
– I do not care what the honorable gentleman may have said in a dozen speeches. It is the final step that counts, and his final step was to assent to the proposal, which his silence when the clause was put to the Committee signified. The Minister (Mr. Poynton) has not an ounce of backbone. Last week he was doing something which to-day he says was diametrically opposed to the interests of the country and those of returned soldiers. Why has this change come about? Simply because of a cursory discussion in another place, not a heart-to-heart talk such as we have here among men who are engaged ina practical sense in certain industries we are desirous of helping.
– Are these reflections on another place in order?
– Another place ought to be reflected on for having sent us a Bill which had to be completely overhauled and sent back to it with an entirely new face on it. It is quite natural that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) should not recognise his own measure on its return. However, that is no reason for claiming that we have done anything wrong. According to the Minister for Home and Territories, there has never yet been a proposition put forward presenting so many avenues for throwing away money as this does. Did ever a Minister stand so selfcondemned out of his own mouth? The clause provides that the Repatriation Commission is to examine every application from a body of men. to start a co-operative concern.. Six men may probably wish to start a saw-mill. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) pointed out last week the case of men engaged in: a saw-mill who were anxious to start on their own account, but had not the wherewithal to do so. There is ‘ no need for any qualification certificate from them. They have already been engaged in the practical work; but are we always to keep them in subservient positions, and say that we will do nothing to help them ? If we find such practical men willing to undertake a co-operative concern for their own advantage, why should we deny them the right to make a start? I know a young fellow at Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula, who before going to the- war was employed in a saw-mill.. He and a few other returned soldiers have purchased a saw-bench, and now they are turning out tens of thousands of fruit cases, and are doing well. Is it not desirable to help men of that character? Surely we are not going back upon our emphatic and unanimous decision of last week? If the Repatriation Commission is not satisfied with any application for assistance under this provision, it will send practical men to find out where the mill is to be started, who are going to run it, and what previous experience they have had. And even if, after making exhaustive inquiries, the Commission is favorable, the’ proposal has still to be submitted to the Minister, and if he is not satisfied he can take it to Cabinet. Each application may have, to pass the criticism and verdict of three different courts before it is granted. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has said that if this proposal were taken to any financial institution it would be turned down. Co-operative companies are nearly always dependent upon bank overdrafts to help them to carry on, and if a bank is willing to assist them they are- all right; but I was associated with one co-operative rural industry which,, just as it was on the eve of success, and because it happened to be pushing certain private persons out of business, was told by the bank, “ We will not assist you any further.” Many a co-operative concern in its initial stages has been frowned out of existence by financial institutions.. It seems to me that a plea has been put up this afternoon for vested interests. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) has shown very clearly how necessary it is that we should stand by these men, and help them to provide for their own requirements. In the building . of homes for returned soldiers, for instance, who could better supply the timber, the bricks, and other material required than the returned soldiers themselves ? And who has a better right to supply them? If, however, we adopt the Minister’s proposal, we shall deny them that right. According to a statement in the- newspapers to-day, we have, unfortunately, in Victoria no’ less than 4,500 returned soldiers out of work. That is a disgraceful state of affairs. There may be. some who are unemployable - some whom it is hard to fit into any position - but I am quite certain that they are not all unfit to take up some kind of employment. We do hot seem to be doing very much for these men. Here we have an opportunity to help them. Are there likely to be . greater f ailures in this than in other phases of industry ? No.
– There are going to be a few .failures in connexion with land, settlement.
– A returned soldier applies to the State Board, secures a block of land. and has’’ to conduct farming operations almost entirely without advice and assistance. Under this scheme, however, we would have a combination of energy and. intelligence so that where one might fail a. party of half-a-dozen or more, because of their combined wisdom, would make good. The industries mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) are but a combination of one great industry’. Who, for instance, has a better right to hold an interest in the management of woollen mills than the wool -growers ? And so with the clothing, tanning, and fellmongering trades. They are all related to primary industry. I hope that the Committee will insist upon the new clause inserted by us in the Bill last week. I am not in favour of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Capricornia éMr. Higgs), which the Government are . accepting as the lesser of two evils.
– It is no good. .
– And it is a serious reflection, not only on the Minister, but on our returned men.
– Will the honorable member show in what respect it is no good ?
– It will be of no avail because most of our men have come back with very litle money.
– They will have their gratuity.
– That will not help them over a thousand hills. It will certainly be of assistance to some who are already in business, but it is lack of capital that, in most cases, brings about failure. That was the cause of the failure of the co-operative concern with which I was associated. If we had, possessed ample capital, we could have brushed aside the objections of the country bank manager, who knew little about our industry ; but, not having it, we were closed up like a book. Many of the banks and financial institutions will treatco-operative concerns in the. same way. Co-operation, however, has come to stay, and the more it is extended the better for the community. Those who vote against the clause will vote against one of the best propositions ever pub before Parliament, because it is designed to help returned soldiers to do for themselves what they are most anxious to do. I hope the Committee will stand by it.
.- It seems to me that some honorable members are disposed to approach the consideration of this question in a fighting spirit- rather than to deal with it according to common-sense principles. I am convinced thatwe are all anxious to do what we honestly believe to be in the best interests of our returned men, and in the few remarks that I propose to make I shall follow along practical lines. As a rural producer engaged in the butter industry, I have had practical experience of the working of co-operative enterprises. Many honorable members will be aware of the fact that when the butter industry in Victoria was in a very bad way the State Government came to our assistance with a bonus, and that its help was most opportune. It put us in good heart, enabled us to wipe off our debts, and was also the means of putting the State on a solid footing. We have some 25,000 returned men either already in training or offering for vocational training. I have seen the work that is being carried out in the vocational training institute on St. Kilda-road, and it is,as I said a few days ago, a distinct credit to the Minister for Repatriation. Those learning various trades will soon become proficient in establishing industries such as those of furniture-making, upholstering, motor-body making, or blacksmithing, in each of which a dozen or twenty men could combine when a grant of, say, £200 a man would enable them to put their business on a sound footing. It would enable them to become their own bosses, and the movement, as it grew would breaks-down, to a verylarge extent, the industrial unrest that now prevails. My desire is thatas many men as possible shallbe made self-reliant. I do not want men to be content to remain wageearners. I desire,on the contrary, to encourage the : men to become their own masters. The clause is not designed to induce men to lean on the Government forhelp. It makes f or combinations of individual effort. In this co-operative scheme we shall ‘certainly have some failure’s, but I am convinced that, if adopted, it will lead to the establishment of our returned men in a. number ofindustries, and will open up a vista of great possibilities to the industrial workers of Australia. We are all aware of the industrial unrest which exists today throughout the civilized world. I believe that, by encouraging men to combine and work along co-operative lines, we shall give very considerable assistance to the soldier, and do good to the nation as a whole.
Much is said nowadays of profiteering. Co-operation, I believe, would help to lessen the evil. What, for instance, would be the resultif a number of returned soldiers combined and entered the woollen trade? Wool will no doubt be dearer in the future, and profits will not be what they have been, but the industry still offers unlimited scope for the energy and enterprise of co-operative combinations. Last year we exported something like £34,000,000 worth of wool. In. this, according to experts, there were 80 tons of manure; on which we paid freight to the old world, and which contained valuable by-products. All these are matters of importance.
This’ may be described as a prospecting venture; arid no one can foretell the benefits that will result from it. By encouraging co-operation we shall, to some extent, remove the feeling of hatred that exists between the . worker and the capitalist. It should be our desire to do all that is humanly possible to remove that’ feeling. If, by carrying out this proposal^ we can not only accomplish much ‘ iri tha’t direction, but make ‘ men . more self-reliant, we shall do a good, service to the community. . Co-operative . efforts properly controlled would, to a’ large extent; enable the people to’ avoid the- enormous sums that are spent oh the. army of agents and middlemen ranged between the producer and the consumer. The Victorian Government has set us a. worthy example in the matter of cooperation,, by its action in making advances for the establishment of freezing works. The State Government advanced £1 for £1; and although the scheme was at first regarded as a harum-scarum one, it is going to prove one of the wisest upon which the State has ever embarked.
Shortly’ put, this clause is designed to make our boys more self:reliant and independent. Representatives of country constituencies, after discussing the proposal with returned soldiers and their parents, are satisfied that under this scheme it will be possible to start a number of industries in rural towns, the residents of which will be able to render valuable assistance. ‘We ask that- this scheme be given a trial. It must not be forgotten that it will be under the control . of the responsible Minister and the Cabi-net as a whole. It has been said that . we might have a change of. Ministry, but whatever Ministry is in power will have to accept full responsibility for its actions, and will have to account to the people. . It will not be possible for any Government to go very far along the wrong track without being pulled up by the people. I hope that the Government will insist upon the retention, of the clause, and am satisfied that if they do it will not only give satisfaction to our returned, boys, but will open up fruitful, sources of income in the near future.
– The first reason given by another place for rejecting this amendment is “ because it is not considered equitable to extend to collective bodies of soldiers benefits for which individual soldiers might ‘ hot be,’ eligible.” That objection carries very little weight, because nothing in the amendment excludes any individual fromito benefits; it merely proposes that when’ a body of men desire to start in a co-: operative enterprise, the Government’shall give them the opportunity… The’ second reason advanced by the Senate -was’ “ because the effect of the granting of the’ benefits contemplated by the amendment.’ would result in the unsettlement of the’ large majority of men whose re-establish-; ment in civil life has been already accomplished.” In other words, Private John; Smith may throw down his pick in order to take up something better. It would1 not do to unsettle the hewer of wood and’, the drawer of water. He has become a’ working bullock again, and it would not do to fill him with the hope of attaining to something higher. The third reason . is “because grave financial loss to the Government, and dissappointment to bodies of men, may result from the starting of enterprises which may not prove successful.” The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) said that this amendment might involve the loss. of mil; lions of pounds. “ ‘
– I was dealing with wool factories and big concerns when I said the amendment might involve millions of pounds.
– The honorablemember has not much faith in the returned soldier’s ability to manage his own business. .
– I have as much faith as has the honorable member, and I; have, shown it. ;.’ - .
– I have a lot offaith in the! men who, without any previous knowledge of the science of war-‘ fare, more than held their own against; the finest troops of Europe. The mem-‘, bers of the Australian” Imperial Force, were drawn from every calling. Most; of those- who went from the rural areas did not own an acre oft land, or a head of stock, but the* Repatriation Act gives them the opportunity of becoming their own masters on” their return to Australia, provided that! they can prove that they had previous experience in agricultural pursuits. That1’ section of the members of the Australias-‘
Imperial Force who had previously been farm labourers are to be given a chance of becoming their own masters. I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) why he wishes to deny the same right to others? There are men owning farms to-day who never before were their’ own masters. Some of them may prove failures, but the majority of them will succeed. Why deny the same opportunity to others? I will instance a concrete case: Asa member of the Victorian Parliament I was approached by a returned soldier, who, prior to enlisting, drove a horse and dray. He had an opportunity to contract for municipal work in one of the northern towns, and he applied, through me, for an advance sufficient to enable him to purchase some horses and drays. The Repatriation Department, having ascertained that the man had not owned horses and drays before he went to the war, decided that he was not a fit and proper person to own them now, and his application was rejected. Fortunately, some business men in his district, who had a little more faith in the soldier than the Department apparently had, advanced him sufficient money to enable him to purchase a horse and dray, which today are his own property. In this amendment we are making a plea for the cooperative principle and its application to returned soldiers. If a number of men club together, the Government may advance them money for the purchase of a plant and building in order to carry out their enterprise, the Government retaining a lien over the plant and building. In other words, we ask the Government to say to a co-operative society of soldiers, “ We will set you up with £2,000 worth of plant, over which we will hold a lien. You pay interest on the money advanced, and repay the capital over a period of years. Immediately the capital is repaid the plant will become your own.” We do not argue that there are no objections to the proposal ; we do not say that there will be no failures.
– The honorable member’s suggestion is not contained in the amendment.
– I believe that the honorable member for Echucais willing to insert those conditions.
– The suggestion all along hasbeen that the money should be advanced on the Credit Foncier principle.
– I do not think the Minister for the Navy is quite so dense as not to have known that.
– I am trying to look at this amendment from a reasonable point of view. What other object can Ministers have in opposing it? We claim to have as much sympathy with the co-operative principle as have the men who are talking so much.
– Why do not the Government show their sympathy ?
– We want honorable members to submit a practicable scheme.
– Honorable members sitting in this corner have indicated their willingness to accept any reasonable safeguard that Ministers may propose, but I am not willing to accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) that bef ore an advance can be made by the Department the men shall find half of the capital required, when possibly they have no money to put up. The Ministry do not attempt to help us; they seem determined to wipe the amendment out if they can. I appeal particularly to Ministerial members to support the amendment,which is put forward in no party spirit. When it was first proposed, the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) said that it was the most socialistic proposal ever brought before the House, but ten minutes afterwards he mildy accepted it.
– He said, “ The numbers are up, and I will climb down.”
– I hope that the Minister will not regard the amendment in a party spirit. We are making a plea for “the bottom dog” - the man who threw down his pick and shovel, or his axe, in order that he might “do his bit” at the Front. We say that he should be given a chance to make good in peace as he did in war. If he fails in the enterprise, we shall at least have the satisfaction of having given him a chance. I ask honorable members on both sides of the House to show by their votes that they have faith in the men of the Australian Imperial Force to win through in their own country as they did. abroad.
– I do not suppose there is one honorable member who would not like to see this scheme stretched as far as possible. Every one will agree that honorable members on this side have been doing as much as has any one else to help the returned soldiers. We have as much sympathy for the man who threw down his pick and shovel, and went to the war, as we have for any other soldier. Many of that type were amongst the best men who went to the war. Quite a number, by their own ability and hard work, raised themselves from the ranks to high positions in the Army. Others, however, failed, and will continue to fail. Every honorable member is agreed that the present Minister for Repatriation! (Senator Millen) is an excellent man for the job. He is a man of wide views and broad sympathies, and of firmness and courage, and he understands the repatriation question. The Government are taunted first with having accepted this amendment, and now with opposing it, but it has been submitted to the Minister for Repatriation, who has declared that it cannot be accepted without a risk of direct failure. Now honorable members are proposing a vote of censure upon the Minister whom everybody applauded, and who is conceded to be the best man for the job. He has told us what should be done, and I think we should respect his advice. We should show our trust in the Minister. We admit that he is qualified for the job; yet it is proposed that we should turn him down, and act in our own way regardless of what ruin may follow. Had the Minister accepted the amendment, there would have been no question as to its wisdom. We do not understand therepatriation problem as he does, and, for that reason, I cannot support the amendment.
– I can only characterize the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat as a piece of special pleading. One might have expected to hear from the honorable member some reasons or arguments against the proposed amendment, but all he told us was that we were trying to “turn down “ the proposals of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), who, in his opinion, is the best man for the job that could be found in any part of the world.
– He did not tell us that the other alternative was to “turn down “ thousands of the Australian Imperial Force.
– He did not; all he did was to bring in the name of the Minister for the purpose of covering up the injustice proposed to be done to a great number of the men. I do not know that it is admitted that the present Minister is the best man in the world for the job. I make no reflection on the Minister for Repatriation, but I know there has been a waste of money in connexion with his Department - money that would have gone a long way to establish men in various industries. I understand that the annual amount paid for sustenance is something like £2,000,000, and that is paid only because men who are willing to work cannot find avenues of employment. This amendment affords an opportunity to save a great deal of this annual expenditure of £2,000,000 by giving the men opportunities to launch out for themselves. I point out to the honorable member for Robertson. (Mr. Fleming) that nothing can be done under this amendment without the approval of the Minister for Repatriation, and if that honorable gentleman is all that he is claimed to be, he will be able to say yea or nay to any of the ventures proposed.
– It is those who vote against this amendment who have no faith in the Minister for Repatriation.
– Exactly. I have not the exalted opinion of the Minister for Repatriation that some honorable members may have; but I would hesitate to cast any such reflection on him by suggesting that, although he has the deciding voice, these ventures will be a failure. When the war ceased we heard a great deal about “ Labour’s new world”; every newspaper had something to say on the subject; but now the war is over, and our liberties, for which our men bled and died, are won, the survivors are asked to go back into their old’ avenues of employment.
– Who said that?
-It was a common experience to hear such utterances every day; but, as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has said, the men are asked to return to their old grooves. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) is to be commended for his action. We all believe in the new world for labour, and, instead of asking the men to return to the old avenues, believe in providing fresh avenues where they may strike out on their own account. It is quite unnecessary to enumerate the various turned soldiers, la addition, there is the woollen industry, and, like’ the honorable member for Echuca, I have in my electorate one or two places which would make- good centres for woollen mills.. I know nothing better than the scheme suggested by the amendment for inducing men to go into .the country,- and thus counteracting the evils of that centralization that. is keeping the Commonwealth back to-day.
– Does the honorable member know that more money can be lost in saw-milling than in any other occupation? “ ; Mr. PARKER MOLONEY- Money can be lost in any industry. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) suggests to me that many of us lose money by being in this House, though I *do not know that many of us are trying to get. away from it. The Minister (Mr. ‘Poynton) asked whether any’ of us would put bur own money into the proposed enterprises. Well, from my knowledge of the men who have gone on certain areas of land in my constituency, I venture to say that, although a number of them may struggle on for two, or it may be six years, in the end they will be out “ on the road.” The reason for this is that, in most cases, the land is unsuitable, and the prices paid do not give them, a chance to reinstate themselves. The amendment, however, affords’ an opportunity ,to the men to club together. Lavish promises were made to those who have fought and bled for Australia, and now they are asking whether the Government will take the responsibility of encouraging them if they choose to’ club together and go into business, contributing their war gratuities to the ventures. Will the Government take the responsibility of saying “ No “ to such a proposal? At any rate, they would not have said “No” to such a request when these men were leaving Australia for the Front. It must not be forgotten that the men cannot go into these ventures without approval of the Minister for Repatriation.
– That is the great blot on the Bill.
– I back the Shipping Combine! “ Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.- That .may be, but one of the greatest is the Timber Combine, and I can quite understand how those interested in the industry would oppose a proposal of the- kind now before us. I am just a little suspicious that the Government are paying more attention to the pleadings -of- the Combines than to the pleading of the men who fought and died for ils. I do not make the charge, but the Government certainly leave themselves open to -it.
– The charge is usually made by those who are not returned men.
– I. know that some members df the Australian Imperial Force .were so late in getting to the Front that they found the war was over.
– Even they were earlier than those who did not go at all.
– I am endeavouring to speak without casting any reflections, and urge that we ought to discuss the matter in a non-party way, and have a fair’ vote. The amendment before us threatens to have a most peculiar history. We were told that no Government could in decency accept such an amendment, which was the most Socialistic that we had ever heard of ; yet the Government did accept it, and it was sent on to another place, where the supporters of the Government are in the large majority.
– And, probably, the Government sent a few instructions with the Bill. . .
– It looks as though the Government were relying on the powerful majority in another place, where they can act according to their own sweet will. in a way impossible here. It is a question whether they are not using their majority in the Senate to overawe the House of Representatives. I hope, however, that such is not the case.
– Do you think that we shall have a double dissolution over this amendment?
– Perish the thought! A great number of the returned men are engaged in vocational training in technical schools and other places, and several of these whom I have met tell me that when they do finish their training there will be nothing for them to do except go back into the old ways under a boss. I hope there will not be many honorable members found refusing the right of the men to the “ new world of labour,” where they will have a chance to launch out on their own.
Mr. prowse (Swan) [5.55].- I have previously discussed the advantages and disadvantages of this ‘amendment. On a previous occasion the House approved of the principle involved. The Senate set out various reasons for disagreeing to this amendment, and, while the fourth of these is one to concern, us, jit should not shake our confidence in the principle. I suggest that a Committee be appointed to draw up a fresh clause. The one now before us is admittedly iri, a crude form, and I wonder that the draftsman should have approved of it. If . it is desirable to promote enterprises by the help . of Government advances, then, rightly, the matter -should be the subject of special legislation. The objection of the Senate embodying that point has weight, and it is only -reasonable and proper that the clause should be amended to meet that objection. The principle should be set
Out in proper form, together with a statement of adequate safeguards., This House, in agreeing to the co-operative principle, did not feel for one moment that it. was opening the way to a sink in which to throw millions of money. It has been stated that the land section of repatriation has nothing to do with the matter. As one who . took a prominent part in the repatriation of soldiers upon the land in ray State, I am -quite aware of the necessity for qualifying machinery in the legislation dealing with the subject. It was necessary for Boards to examine applicants with respect to their fitness generally to ‘ accept the responsibility of going upon the land and .bearing the consequential financial burden. It could not be expected therefore, that the Commonwealth Government should be responsible for the launching of a principle such as isinvolved at this moment without requiring every necessary form of security The clause should be amplified, - but I shall be greatly, surprised if honorable members depart from their agreement with the principle as it was originally placed before them. I have not consulted the honorable member for Echuca (Me. Hill), but I believe that he will see the wisdom of sending on for the consideration of another place a more adequately detailed clause, which would safeguard -both returned soldiers and the country, and which would provide- no opportunity for money to be wasted upon “wild cat” schemes. I cannot conceive that either £50,000,000 or £25,000,000 is likely to be spent in the direction involved by the principle. For example, I would not be -‘ prepared to entertain applications for the establishment in cooperative’ businesses with ‘respect to men who have- already f- been :’ properly “ repatriated. ‘ * ‘ “.
Mr. gibson ‘ (Corangamite) [6.0].- There will be very great’ disappointment iri the country, and .-particularly among returned soldiers, if V.the .principle Of,. ée operation as applied ‘ to the task repatriation is rejected. It is in itself no “ wild cat “ scheme, and neither need there be any “ wild cat “ project attaching to it.- , . It has already been pointed out that it would require to be placed upon a business basis, and that it would rest with the Commissi oners, and with, the Government, to see that proper business safeguards were taken in- regard to any interest or industry launched. At present every man is required to possess a qualifying certificate before he can take up land, and it will be just as necessary for a man to hold a qualifying certificate when seeking to enter into a co-operative concern. It is not proposed to squander £200 or £300 on every soldier who cares to make, an application for. the sum. Every business proposition would require to be dealt with on its own merits. From what I have seen! of vocational training, I feel sure that men could be sufficiently equipped to enter into the various businesses which may be established under the principle at stake after only a brief period of training, say, for six months. Businesses to-day are not run solely by business men. Experts are frequently necessary; arid- it would be requisite, in regard to co-operative concerns also, that men df experience - experts, in factshould be associated with returned soldiers. Every returned man, in whatever business may be established, should understand that’ he is. to be regarded as a working partner, and under an obligation to the Government for a. certain proportion of the money laid out, just as sums are being returned to the State Governments to-day with regard to land settlement. I trust the Government will take this opportunity - being one of the best ever provided - of establishing new industries throughout Australia. There is any amount of room and necessity for them. Honorable members need not be afraid of money being lavishly poured out. . The merits and qualifications .of every applicant should be gone into, and I feel confident that there would be far from” a .rush of returned soldiers seeking to be repatriated along these lines. The honorable’ member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) referred, to saw-milling plants. These’ are not expensive; they * would furnish one avenue for repatriating men at a very much lower cost than by placing them on the land. The Government toHay have .no- security for the £625 lent to the States for each man settled on the land.
– Have they not the houses and stock ?
– Those are . the securities of the State Governments, and not pf the Federal authority. There are failures in every avenue of business. Some of our returned men have failed, or will fail, in their efforts upon the land. The fact that there are likely to be a few failures among those who may be set up in co-operative enterprises should not be regarded as an argument against the principle. It should be given a fair trial. Take the proposition of establishing men with saw-milling plants of their own. The Government have contracts for the building of war service homes involving millions of feet of timber. There are’, any number of men who are quite capable of .starting themselves successfully with saw-milling plants in various parts of the country. - In my “own. district” there are returned soldiers working in mills fo”r other parties’, who could be just a’s well making profits for themselves along the same lines. I see no reason why the Government should -not adhere’ to ‘their acceptance “of .” the principle.
There are any number of safeguards which they could easily institute. Honorable members will be prepared, I feel sure, to assist the Government in creating the necessary legal machinery to ‘insure that the right class of men are launched in co-o iterative projects.
Mr. hector lamond (Illawarra) 6.6]. - It is quite evident that this proposal .has’ been ill-considered, and that honorable members are . supporting it from widely different motives. The proposition has not been given that careful thought which should be brought to bear upon any project contemplating the raising of from £10,000,000 to £25,000,000.:
Mr.- Riley.- Nobody can say that it will do that.
– I say that; judging by. remarks which I have heard this afternoon. There are more than 300,000 returned men in Australia. If the proposal in its present form is to bp applicable to every one of those men - and> if it were not I would not be prepared to support it - then, undoubtedly there will be many millions involved. I know of ho reason why a returned soldier should be enabled to come under a scheme such as this merely because he proposes to start a woollen mill in some decaying Victorian town which, itself, could not launch an industry of the same character without assistance from public money. It hasbeen stated, during the course of debate, that there are numbers of decaying towns, and that if only industries were started, by individuals - no doubt, with more money than sense - it would be a good thing for those towns. My translation of the pleas of honorable members may be a free one, but that is the tenor of several of the arguments advanced. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) proposes to exclude from the operation of this co-operative principle every man who does not live in-
– I advanced no such proposal.
– It has been proposed to exclude all centres exceptsuch as are so unattractive to the population that the people are leaving them. Figures have been advanced to indicate the drift of the population from the country to the cities. The” arguments of several supporters of the principle -have- left the thought in ray* ‘mind that what they” were advocating’ wa’s not something for the “relief of soldiers, but for the relief of decadent country towns. Every man’ with a fancy fad lias been wanting to make our . soldiers bear the burden of it; and, now, here is the proposition to rehabilitate declining country towns in Victoria at ‘the expense of the soldiers.
– Not at the expense of the soldiers, but in. order to help them.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Illawarra not to discuss .that matter, seeing that it is not before the Chair.-
– The question before the Chair, I take it, is a proposal to spend an indefinite . number of millions in the establishment of cooperative industries.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN That is not so. The question before the Chair is the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
– I should like- to be permitted to deal with the speech of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), in which he said thatone of the objects of his amendment was to establish these co-operative industries in decaying mining centres.
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, have said that the matter before the Chair is the alternative amendment submitted by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). Directly you informed the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) of that, he said that he intended to discuss, and would discuss, the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill).
– I did not say I would discuss it.
– Is the honorable member in order in defying your ruling in that way ?
– The honorable member would not be in order in defying the Chair, but I did not understand him to say that he would discuss the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca.
– All he said was that he would like to discuss it if he were permitted to do so.
– I am thankful to the honorable member ‘ for
Maranoa (Mr. James Page) for explaining ‘ the. Chairman’s ruling. If I must now confine myself to the amendment immediately before the Chair, I take it that I shall have another opportunity to refer to the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca. I was misled by the fact that every speaker who preceded me was allowed to go over the whole ground without interruption.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Other speakers were not allowed to go .over the whole subject.
– It is evident that I must have been dreaming when. I thought that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) made his statement since the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) moved his .alternative amendment. . Whether we should provide . £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 to give effect to the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia does not concern me at the present mo- ment. If .1 may express my views on the amendment now before the Committee, I should like to say that if we can raise £10,000,000 or £20,000,000- r and no honorable member has so far given us the slightest indication as to how that money is to be raised - we could, in my judgment, spend it better in the interests of the returned soldiers, and that should be our first consideration, by extending the privileges of vocational training to all returned men than by trying, under the amendment, to revive decaying towns in country districts. For one returned soldier who desires to embark upon a cooperative enterprise in a remote country district, there are thousands who desire to be permitted to improve their condition by learning a trade. In my correspondence to-day I have had more than one or two complaints from returned men who have been denied vocational training because they were a few weeks or a few months over twenty years of age when they enlisted. Whilst, because of an arbitrary regulation of the Repatriation Department, we refuse young men this opportunity to improve upon the position which they occupied before they went to the war, it is suggested that we should spend millions of public money on wildcat schemes for the establishment of industries. In my opinion, the proposal is an ill-considered one, and the Government would be well advised if they refused to accept either of the amendments’ until further consideration is given to the question of extending the advantages of vocational training and of giving men an opportunity to enter into business on their own account.
Dozens of cases have come under my notice of men having been refused assistance’ to establish themselves in businesses because they were notengaged in those businesses before they went to the war. I am perfectly certain, if honorable members are really considering the interests of the returned soldiers, that we could spend this money, if they can show us how the Government are to raise it, to much better advantage by allowing the individual soldier to go his own way in establishing a business,or in learning a new trade under the vocational training provisions, than by embarking upon the ill-considered and immatured schemes involved in the amendments before the Committee.
.- I rise to offer a suggestion to the Committee. There is. an excellent opportunity here for honorable members to give a practical illustration of their faith in the principle of co-operation. I am perfectly certain that honorable members of each of the parties in this House have the interests of returned soldiers at heart, and desire at the same time to conserve the interests of the Commonwealth. I am satisfied also that honorable members are all interested in the establishment of new industries wherever practicable and possible. I should like to say that, although I’ do not believe that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is infallible, I do believe that he has genuinely the interests of the returned soldiers at heart; he has more experience of the practical work of repatriation than any other man; and I have always found him to be a keen, practical business man. My suggestion is that a representative of each party in this House should meet the Minister for Repatriation, and discuss with him the whole question of co-operation for the benefit of returned soldiers. They might see whether, in co-operation with the Minister, it would not be possible to formulate a scheme that would find acceptance at the hands of every member of this Committee. I do not see why that should not be possible. If that suggestion is not adopted, I must say that I am strongly in favour of the alternative amendment proposed by the honor able member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I have little faith in the success of co-operative ventures controlled by inexperienced men, and in the interests of the Commonwealth, if a proposal of this kind is to be adopted, some guarantee of the bona fides of the co-operators to be assisted should be required, and they might well be asked to put down £1 for every £1 advanced tothem by the Government.
– Does the honorable member think that a man cannot be qualified to take part in a co-operative enterprise unless he has a few pounds in his pocket ?
– I know that experience has taught me that not one man in a hundred is capable of running a business successfully. A man may be an excellent workman, but if he is asked to establish and build up a business, he may prove to be a total failure.
– The honorable member cannot have read anything about the cooperative movement.
– If 100 inexperienced men are brought together to establish a business;]! the probable result will be merely the multiplication of the failures by 100.
– The honorable member should know that the big co-operative businesses in other parts of the world were built up by working men.
– It seems to me that of the amendments put before the Committee, that of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is the most practicable. But I, nevertheless,wish to emphasize the suggestion which I have already made. The question is an exceedingly important one, because there are great possibilities for good in the cooperative movement. The movement is one which may confer decided advantages upon our returned soldiers. Why, then, should we not meet together and discuss the matter in a friendly way?
.- As one who is accustomed to get to the seat of any disease at theearliest possible moment, I confess that I am becoming bewildered by the forms of parliamentary procedure.
– It is always like this just before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. :., Dr. EARLE PAGE. - To my mind the powers to be vested in the Commission should have been definitely settled before any other portion of the Bill was dealt with. With that object in view I interviewed the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook)-
– As I construe the Bill, it empowers the Commission to do everything, even without this proposition. Dr. EARLE PAGE- Upon the powers exercised by the Commission will depend the value of that body to the community and to the soldiers themselves. If the Commission is not to have the powers which the Minister says, it possesses, it will not, be worth much.
– The amendment, if it means anything at all, is a mere direction to the Minister.
– The Minister is to have power to approve or disapprove of the establishment of industries on a cooperative basis. The amendment does riot provide that he must grant the requisite assistance. If the Commission is to be worth anything, if it is not intended merely to provide billets for . a few men, it should be endowed with’ all the powers with which it is now sought to clothe it. If it is to be a useful body it will need to be absolutely independent of political control. I voted as I did last Friday because I considered that if it is to be a plenary Commission, it should be vested with all these powers, whilst if it is not to be a plenary Commission it will riot be worth much. Before I conclude, I would like to deal with a few of the matters mentioned -by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) in the comparison which he instituted between the settlement of our returned soldiers upon the land and the points raised by the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). I was rather astonished to hear him preface his remarks with the confession that, to a considerable extent, the attempted settlement of our soldiers upon the land had been a failure. He then went on to suggest that the adoption of any proposal based upon similar lines would only bo inviting failure. But those of our returned soldiers who desire to settle upon the land number only a few thousands, whilst those who wish ‘to engage in other occupations number hundreds of thousands. There should be no invidious distinction drawn between these two classes. The returned soldiers of New South Wales are allowed to purchase land up to a value of £3,000, and there is no denying that this fact has considerably enhanced the value of farm properties in that State. At first, an applicant was required to deposit 6 per cent, upon the total value of his purchase before he was permitted to secure the land. But some fifteen or eighteen months ago the Minister for Lands in New South Wales abrogated that provision, so that to-day the’ whole amount is advanced ‘ to the soldier to enable him to purchase his land. In addition, he is entitled to a grant of £625 to enable him to secure a house, stock, and implements. It is well known that in the great majority of cases the land upon which soldiers have been settled in New South Wales has been considerably over-valued. The local Repatriation Committees have regarded the claims of our- soldier applicants with more favour than ‘they .would have done under normal conditions. As a result men have been ..settled upon land which is not worth by. hundreds .of pounds the money that has been paid for it. Of course) that is no argument in favour of making’ a worse deal.
– The honorable member does not say that the bulk of the land upon which soldiers have been settled in New South Wales has been over-valued ?
– A large portion of it has. In several instances big estates have been purchased by the .Government at exorbitant prices. These estates have been subdivided for the purpose of soldier settlement. Before the men have entered into possession of their blocks, the Minister himself has admitted that the land has been purchased at too high a price, and has reduced the valuation of it to the soldier purchasers. In that way a dead loss of £3 or £4 per acre has been sustained by the State. There is one settlement, of which I have some knowledge, which is to be devoted to the cultivation of prune trees. In that case provision has been made that for seven years a certain amount of sustenance will be paid to the soldier settlers until the prune trees come into bearing. In such circumstances it seems only right that soldiers who wish to enter into our secondary industries should receive at least equal, or approximately equal, assistance in their co-operative efforts. Let. us suppose that a saw-mill is for sale-not a saw-mill which is a “wilderness of machinery,” as we have been told. As a matter of fact, despite the statement of the Minister for. Repatriation to the contrary, a saw-mill is usually distinguished by the comparative absence from it of machinery. I admit that there is often a wilderness of tramways leading into the bush. Let us assume that a sawmill is worth £1,200.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I would not advocate the establishment of any secondary industries without adequate security, but I am endeavouring to show that the proposal, as presented by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), does not furnish a sufficiently liberal margin for co-operative undertakings by soldiers who may desire to enter this field of business activity. In connexion with the establishment of saw-mills, I have in mind a case, which came under my own observation, of three soldiers who were able to muster about £200 or £300 between them, but could not purchase outright, as they were unable to find a deposit equal to half the value of the mill, which was about £1,200. I am satisfied from my own experience of these men that the venture was a thoroughly profitable proposition, and would have given a return of about £5 per day. I believe the margin of security should be such as to enable men to engage in co-operative undertakings of this nature, and carry them through successfully, without being worried by the fact that their working capital is hopelessly inadequate. The original proposal will provide this safeguard for the soldier. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) has told us that his only wish is to consult the soldiers’ interests. But if I understood the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) aright, the purpose of the new Tariff is to decentralize industry. I do not know of any proposition calculated to do this more effectively than the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). There is another phase of the question with which I should like to deal. This scheme will permit of returned soldiers engaging in occupations of a nature different from those with whichthey were associated prior to the war. Under the present repatriation scheme the men have only the right to apply for assistance if they wish to engage in a business with which they were connected prior to enlistment. Every country member can give instances of men whose earlier business undertakings were not remarkably successful, and who only found their real avocation during the war. I know of many men, formerly blacksmiths and engineers, who, since their return, have become very successful saw-mill owners. From a business point of view they have never looked hack. These men did not find their real job until the multifarious activities of the war disclosed their capabilities. Theyhave come back, and it is now only fair that Government assistance should be available to enable them to undertake those business enterprises which are more attractive to them, and for which they may be more fitted.
I desire to refer briefly to the reasons furnished by another place for disagreeing with the amendment made by the House of Representatives. The first states -
Because it is not considered equitable to extend to collective bodies of soldiers benefits for which individual soldiers might not be eligible.
If there is one blot on the Repatriation Act it is the provision that even individual men are not eligible for positions which they did not fill priorto the war. I know of one man who had half-finished his tailoring apprenticeship before enlistment, but the Repatriation Department demurred at his request for assistance to become a cutter, so that he could set up in business for himself, the objection being that he was not following his prewar occupation. If the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Echuca is incorporated in the Bill, there will be provision enabling bodies of men to engage in occupations with which, as individuals, they were not connected before the war, and thus a substantial benefit will be conferred upon our returned soldiers and the country. It has been stated that men will be rushing into these co-operative enterprises, but if our soldiers are properly repatriated - I take it that is the desire of this Parliamentit would be remarkable if those who are
Because grave– financial loss to the Government and disappointment to bodies of men may result from the. starting of enterprises which may not prove successful.
Now, we have been told that the Commissioners should have a tenure of five years, so that the Government may reasonably expect to get capable men whose value would be unquestionable, and capacity extraordinary. But we now learn, on the authority of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that Parliament would not be able te trust the Commissioners- to give permission for the establishment of co-operative enterprises by returned soldiers . for fear that their non-success would occasion “grave financial loss to -the Government, and disappointment to bodies of men.”’ The argument is absurd.
– The Government had better drop the Bill altogether.
– Yes ; or else declare, that the Commissioners would be able to do their work satisfactorily. Finally, we are told that another reason for disagreeing to the amendment is -
Because if it is desirable to promote enterprises by means of Government advances, the proposal should be the subject of special legislation. . . .
Apparently, then,’ the acceptance by the Government of the amendment by the honorable member for Capricornia
’.- Although the Government are opposing the original proposition, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said, ‘by way of interjection this afternoon, that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) already has power to do what is asked.
– Hear, hear!
– Then why object to it being put into the Bill ?
– Why hold, up the Bill in order to put it in now ?
– We are not holding up the Bill, but we are anxious to have the provision specifically in the measure. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said that, under this proposal, we would have co-operation with other people’s money.. I object to soldiers who go1 -upon the land being treated differently from soldiers who desire to go into other enterprises. The Federal Government will be responsible for the whole of the money required- to repatriate our soldiers, and for land settlement schemes the amount will work out at at least £2,000 per settler, whereas the sum required under the proposal submitted by . the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) will not be more than £250 per head. To put it in other words, we advance the man on the land ten times as much as it is suggested will be enough for men to start in these industries. It is only advanced, and the security in one case is just as good as- in the other. The honorable member for Capricornia referred to the unemployment trouble and land settlement; but I am prepared to guarantee that as large a number of men will be successfulin co-operative concerns as in” agricultural pursuits.
– No, they will not.
– I believe they will. It must be remembered that as many nien enlisted from the- towns as from- the colin- try: If I had been of age,, and had enlisted for service overseas, what use would I have been on the land ?
– That is the whole point.
– I have visited factories in company with other honorable members, and have seen rolls of honour unveiled which showed that seventy or eighty men, of a total number of 250 enlisted, were employed in one factory. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) will support my statement when I say that in distributing medals at Geelong it was found that thirty-two or thirty-three members of a union, with a total membership of 142, enlisted for active service, while a number of others were called up for home service, and many others volunteered but were rejected, and others were over age. These men are debarred from taking up land because they have been working on the wharfs all their lives, as also are others who have been engaged in woollen mills, boot factories, tanneries, and similar industries.
-Yes, and in lollie shops.
– Exactly, and much money has been made in confectionery. I suppose Steadman’s, in Sydney, or MacRobertson’s, in Melbourne, are perhaps the largest manufacturers of confectionery in Australia. Is it not the boast of Mr. MacRobertson that he commenced business by making lollies in a little saucepan in his mother’s kitchen?
– Order! The honorable member is departing from the question before the Chair.
– I am merely using that as an illustration, and showing the possibilities of establishing industries if men are only given the opportunity.
– That is not a parallel case.
– Why should not the men be given a chance?
-The business of MacRobertson’s is not conducted on a cooperative basis.
– No, but it shows that success has been achieved from a small beginning: We desire to make a start in this direction by inserting a provision in the War Gratuity Bill to enable men to become interested in co-operative concerns. What did the honorable member for
Swan (Mr. Prowse) and the honorablemember for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) propose? That certain persons who were entitled to the war gratuity should be paid in cash to enable them to start in business on their own account. I know it was their ownmoney that was to be used in financing an undertaking, but that is no reason why a similar provision should not be included in this measure. At Geelong a movement is on foot to open co-operative woollen mills, and I believe that there is as good a prospect of the men who are to engage in that industry being successful as many of those who are taking up land. What did we do when the War Service Homes Bill was before us? Provision was made whereby nurses could receive an advance from the Repatriation Department to start nursing establishments, and, speaking from memory, I think every member of the House supported the proposal. Apparently it is the intention of the Government that nurses and men who will go on the land are to be more favoured than men who have been engaged in industries. Why should we not give those who have been overseas to fight for us the opportunity of engaging in business on their own account?
– Not one member of the Government has answered that.
– It is a question of principle.
– The nursescome under the building scheme.
– Yes, under the War Service Homes Act, but they are allowed:, to co-operate. The definition of “ dwellinghouse” in the 1919 Act reads - “ Dwelling-house “ includes a house, or a building used or to be used by a person who is included in paragraph (b) or(d) of -the definition of “ Australian Soldier,” as a hospital, sanatorium, or nursing home, and the appurtenances, necessary outbuildings, fences, and permanent provision for lighting, water supply, drainage, and sewerage of the house, or building, but does not include any land.
Some of the industries mentioned are comparatively easy to establish. I do not suppose there is one boot factory in Australia that owns 50 per cent, of the machinery employed, as a man who has a reasonable chance of making a success of boot manufacturing merely has to approach the manufacturers or suppliers of plant, who will install the necessary machinery. Most ofthe large boot manufacturing concerns in Australia commence in that way, and of the 12,000,000 pairs of boots produced annually in the Commonwealth I suppose quite 11,500,000 , pairs are manufactured in establishments that have machines from the Shoe Machinery Trust. If a man were anxious to start in the saw-milling business, and he approached the repatriation authorities, the first question he would be asked would be, “Were you in the business before ?” If he had not, been he would be an outcast, and would not have an opportunity of engaging in such a business on his own account.
– If a man had been anavvy the authorities would say, “ Here is a pick and shovel, continue your previous occupation.”
– Yes, they would say, “ These are your implements.” I am reminded by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that the most progressive co-operative concern in the world is that at Rochdale, in Lancashire, which commenced with twenty spinners.
– May I remind the honorable member that the Committee is not discussing the question of co-operation, but the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).
– Yes, and as to whether the soldiers shall find . £1 for £1 to establish co-operative works. The amendment reads- 47a. , (1) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of pound for pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis–
– The honorable member will see that that does not raise the question of cooperation.
– If the industries are to be started on a co-operative basis, it certainly does, and I was merely referring to the fact that one of the most successful co-operative concerns in the world was started in a very small way. Under this Bill we are endeavouring to establish a new principle by advancing money to enable men to engage in business. It has been generally recognised that it is the duty of the Government to assist men who were away from their trade or calling for three or four years, and, as the Minister (Mr. Poynton) has stated, Australia has done more than any other country in the way of reestablishing menin civil life. Although we may have done much, I am now asking that men who were engaged in industries before going abroad should be given similar opportunities ‘to those who were engaged, in rural pursuits. We have been reminded of the industrial unrest in the community by the honorable member for. Indi (Mr. Robert Cook), who has said that if provision were made for the establishment of co-operative concerns many of our present industrial disputes could be avoided’, as men would be employed in. establishments of their own. It has been said by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that if the proposed new clause was embodied in the Bill it wouldbe the means of unsettling men who are already engaged in other occupations. I believe that 60 per cent, of the returned soldiers who have been discharged have never approached the repatriation authorities for assistance, but have gone back to the occupations they previously followed in factories, tanneries, or woollenmills, and many other industries in town, as well as in the country.
– Because no provision has been made for them.
– Exactly. Whoever was responsible for administering the Act would, if this co-operative scheme were adopted, make sure that the Government had sufficient security, which in many cases would be as good an asset as land. The Government arenot prepared to advance, say, £250 each to a number of men whoknow something of the sawmilling business, and all the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca provides is that they shall be given the opportunity, if the Minister approves. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has teen fighting for a long time in the interests of returned soldiers in connexion with theAnzac tweed industry, andI trust that the movement may be assisted by the adoption of this provision. I trust that the proposal that the Government should advance £1 for £1, will not be considered. The Government are prepared to advance £2,500, plus £650 for building and machinery, for men who go on the land, but, apparently, they are not anxious to assist others. The Government consider that in such cases they have the land as security, but, as the honorable member for Echuca and other members of the Country party have stated, there are in many instances grave doubts as to whether the land is worth the price, paid. We know, that in the Devon Meadows Estate land which was sold at £30 per acre has proved absolutely valueless for farming purposes.
In connexion with the vocational training scheme, I believe that although a number of trainees have completed their course in certain trades, not a single man has been called up. Eight months ago I visited the Working Men’s College, where men were engaged in electroplating, but I do not think the plant is there to-day. It would be far better to allow men to engage in work in which they were directly interested than to spend money in training them when the training is of no use to them.
Mr. mackay (Lilley) [S.30] . - I hope that as a result of this debate the Government will give its approval to the principle of co-operation. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the proposal that the soldiers, shall be accorded an opportunity to co-operate. Co-operation, in my opinion, would benefit them, as it would benefit many other sections of the community. We all know the progress that the dairying industry has made in consequence of co-operative effort. But, as tile honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has shown, the clause to which the Senate objects, which was adopted at the instance of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), is crudely drawn and incomplete, because it contains no provision for the guidance of the Minister or of the Commission. In my view, the principle which it would put into elect deserves a Bill to itself, and I hope that the Government will definitely promise, to bring in a Bill almost immediately to carry out the object aimed at by the honorable member for Echuca. I regret that the clause, as it stand’s, is incomplete, and that its adoption would lead to a great deal of confusion.- It is often impossible to get two men to agree, even on a very ordinary mattery yet no provision is made for settling any disagreement. The object of the honorable member for Echuca could, however, be properly carried into effect by means of a Bill containing ample provision for the settling of any difficulties that might arise. Failing the promise of such a measure, I shall .support the proposal of th© honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) .
– I do not know that I should have taken part in the debate had it not been for the last speech. I can understand direct, opposition, but I cannot understand how men can profess to support a proposal and, at the same time, do what they can to kill it.
– i gave reasons for .my attitude.
– i do not think that they appeal to many honorable members. Even if the clause under discussion is incomplete, it must not be forgotten that the Bill provides for the making of regulations by which the difficulties alluded to by the ‘honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) may be removed. Some of the best men who went to the war - one of them was a winner -of the “Victoria Cross - -were men capable of doing every kind of mill work - in the bush, on the tram, and at the bench. Why should not such men be helped to set up for themselves ? As the honorable member for Cow,per (Dr. Earle Page) has pointed out, there is room in all parts of Australia for small co-operative concerns. Cooperation would’ be the chief, means of getting rid of many of the difficulties that now exist in the relations of capital and labour.. We have here an opportunity to enable returned soldiers to become their own employers. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster’) arid the Minister (Mr. Poynton) have said that wild-cat proposals would be brought under the clause. But are there not safeguards ? We have appointed - i think, unnecessarily - a Commission of Repatriation, which must indorse every application for assistance. Its indorsement will require the approval of the Minister, which means the approval of the Cabinet, and the Cabinet is responsible to Parliament. There could be rio greater security than is given by that arrangement.
– i wish that all our public funds- were as well guarded.
– If every proposal for expenditure sanctioned by Parliament had ‘ been surrounded with similar safeguards, there would not have ..been so’ much waste in connexion with some of our public works. I do not know of any other proposal for the expenditure of public money which is so well safeguarded. The question we must ask ourselves is: Are returned soldiers who when they enlisted were wages men to be given a chance to co-operate and become their own employers ? Had the measure come before the House three years ago, when the wax was in progress, not one member would have objected to this proposal; but some members would now say to men who, as soldiers, covered themselves with honour, and acquitted themselves on active service in a way that has never been surpassed: “ If when you enlisted you were employed at a mill or in a mine, you must go back to that employment.” We have no right to require that of men who made good. The returned soldiers who took up the weaving of cloth, making what is known as Anzac tweed, have done well, and would have done a great deal better had they been given a fair run; and is there anything that would be more advantageous to the men themselves, or to the country, than the formation of small co-operative concerns by returned soldiers? It is to .the credit of the Government and of Parliament that the returned’ man who when he enlisted was a farm labourer has been given a chance to acquire a farm of his own, and it would be unjust if we refused to give like opportunities to men who formerly were mill hands or miners. I ask the Committee to insist on its amendment. The clause to which the Senate objects was agreed to without a division, and no good reason has been given to us for reversing our decision regarding it. It would be absurd to intrust the Minister for Repatriation and the Commission with the expenditure of scores of millions of pound’s in other directions and to say that they cannot be trusted to study the interests of the community in the granting of assistance to cooperative bodies of returned men.
.- I never thought it would be necessary in any Parliament in Australia to use an argument to defend co-operative effort, or that I would ever hear it said by Government supporters that the man who lives in a town and follows a trade is not fit to be trusted or helped to the same extent as a man on the land. If the Government’s idea is to take men from the cities, I would say to them, “ Let . them go into country centres and start co- operative establishments.” If a Minister would go through the Red Cross handweaving factory in Sydney, he would be a better . man for his experience, and would have greater confidence in his fellow men. Only this afternoon I have received samples of the workmanship in that factory. Sworn evidence says that the tweeds turned out here are more than the equal of those which come from Europe. The price is 15s. per yard double width, with an extra charge of ls. 6d. per yard for cloth in which what are known as solid dyes are used. It is made wholly from worsted. If those engaged in the hand-weaving industry in Victoria had had only half, the chance of those who are turning out such fine cloth in Sydney, they would have made their establishment a success also. Mr. Frood who has contradicted some statements in the report read by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) the other night, has just returned from Sydney saying that he was never more delighted in his life than when he inspected the Sydney factory, where there are fifty men employed, each earning up to £5 5s. a week. They are not treated as the Repatriation Department treated the Melbourne men by deducting their paltry pension from their earnings.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the amendment?
– Absolutely. I want the Government to give returned soldiers in Melbourne the same chance of making good that returned soldiers in Sydney have. The amendment calls upon men who have risked their lives to put up £1 for £1. The only experience I have had of a Government giving £1 for £1 towards co-operative effort was when Mr. McColl, the then Victorian Minister of Mines, subsidized on the £1 for £1 basis men who were prepared to go fossicking about the gold-fields, and the amount of gold gained certainly justified the action taken during that extremely ill period of unemployment in Victoria ; but out of some hundreds who went out on that search, .the average amount put up was about £6.
No Government would dare to give a vote to the man on the land and deny the franchise to the man living in a city. Every honorable member who votes for the Government to-night, will be put in a cleft stick, because he will be denying to his fellow men who risked their lives for the liberty of Australia and the world, the right to make good. I have had the pleasure of inspecting the co-operative establishment in Rochdale. They have their own tea and coffee plantations, and their own lines of steamers, but all the money came from the poor workers contributing in twopenny and threepenny subscriptions.
– There was as much sweating in those co-operative concerns as we saw in Glasgow. The employees of the co-operative concerns .work long hours and work very hard.
– The unfortunate laws of Great Britain, which at the time of our visit did not allow a man a vote on the ground that he was a man, permitted men to be sweated under conditions of competition, but there was not an individual working for one of those cooperative concerns who was willing to leave and take work in private firms. I do not think that I can say any more to stress the point, but I would like to know if any Minister would care to resign and fight the Melbourne seat on this question. I am sure that the people outside would say that there must be equality of opportunity to every soldier to make good. If we had the law of recall in operation I would go to the constituency of any honorable member who claims that under the Government proposal equality of opportunity is given, and fight him on the issue. I understand that this question has been thoroughly threshed out, and as one - of the oldest members of the House, I desire to warn young members that if, merely because they happen “to be followers of the Ministry, they voto against the retention of the clause, they will live to regret it.
.- I am one of those unfortunate individuals to whom the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has just referred as being likely to get their necks into a cleft, because I intend to vote against the retention- of the clause to which the Senate objects. I am just as keen a supporter of co-operation as is any other honorable member of this House. I have been interested in cooperative enterprises, some of which have ended very disastrously through bad management and the fact that everybody in them wanted to be a boss. I shall give very briefly my reasons for voting against the clause which was inserted in the Bill last week on the motion of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and with which the Senate has disagreed. My view of it is that it leads to nowhere. If it were carried, any proposal made under it to the Commission would have to go to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) as the final arbiter, and with the Minister in his present frame of mind disappointment would await theapplicants.
I have listened with a good deal of interest to the various arguments that have been adduced both in favour of and against the clause. It seems to me that the bulk of the suggestions for cooperative effort on the part of returned soldiers have centred round the saw-milling industry and the establishment of woollen mills. Many honorable members during this debate have referred to woollen mills established on a co-operative basis as being likely to give employment to many returned men, and at least one honorable member has said that if the Government would grant to a party of returned soldiers a sum of £250 each, they would be able to embark upon such an enterprise. I propose to quote - and this is my main reason for rising - a few figures which I think will at once remove from the minds of honorable members any idea of a woollen mill being established for such a sum. These figures relate to the cost of the Commonwealth mill at Geelong. Some may say that that mill is thoroughly up to date - as it undoubtedly is - and offers opportunities for advancement; but we should be prepared to erect only such a mill as would provide for the best conditions for those employed in it, and when we take’ into consideration the fact that the cost, of machinery and material has increased considerably since” the Commonwealth mill was erected, it will be seen at once from the figures I intend to quote that any proposal for the establishment of woollen mills by returned soldiers is out of the question. I learn from the Defence Department that the mill buildings alone cost £81,000, while the ‘cost of machinery was £93,390. The number of employees - and I ask honorable members to follow these- figures closely, since it has been said that the establishment of an industry of this kind would in a measure solve the returned soldier unemployment problem - on 31st March last was 293. Of these employees, 148 were males and 145 females. The cost of buildings and plant therefore represents £595 per employee. If we divide the cost by the number of male employees, we find that it works out at £1,150 odd per man. It will thus be seen that it would be absolutely impossible for the Government to advance such huge sums of money for the establishment of the industry by men who for the most part would have had no experience.
– But the Commonwealth mill at Geelong is one of the most up to date in the world.
– Would the honorable member suggest that for returned soldiers, in whom so many people have a great interest, anything but an up-to-date mill should be established ?
– No; but I would not commence with such a large mill. A man can start with a selection before he gets a station.
– Undoubtedly ; but from the arguments which have been put forward to-day, it seems that the object which the honorable member for Echuca had in view in securing the insertion of this clause was to provide employment for a maximum number of returned soldiers. It would be absolutely impossible in the circumstances for the Government to consider any proposition of the kind. I propose to explain what is being done by returned soldiers in my electorate at the present time.
– A mill at Ballarat, with a capital of £100,000, employs 500 hands. The honorable member has cited an extreme case.
– I have referred to a mill where, perhaps, the employees work under better conditions than do those at Ballarat. The returned soldiers in Geelong and the surrounding district recognise that the future of Australia depends, not only upon the primary industries, butalso upon, the secondary industries.They met together, and having, as intelligent men, reasoned the matter out, they put before the soldiers of Victoria a proposition for the establishment of a woollen mill on a co-operative basis in Geelong. The shares held by any one man are limited to five at £20 each, and the majority of soldiers are paying for their shares with their gratuity bonds.
If the men in the Corio district are able to do that, what is to prevent menin other parts of the Commonwealh cooperating similarly?
– We are trying to encourage that spirit.
– I support the establishment of industries everywhere, but the amendment will lead us nowhere, because the Minister is the final arbiter, and we know that he would turn down any proposal that was put before him of the nature suggested by the amendment. The Government are prepared to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and I intend to vote with them.
.- It is most interesting to discover that all the Government supporters, whilst in sympathy with the proposition put forward by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), yet adduce a multiplicity of reasons for not supporting the thing in which they believe. That is the outstanding feature of the debate to-day. We have before us an amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) upon a proposition by the honorable member for Echuca that the Government should give financial assistance to a system of co-operatidn amongst soldiers. I make no professions of sympathy with the soldiers in any shape or form, but, warrior as I am, returned from the Front with all the scars of war upon me - I could say more than could those who have kept far away from the battle line - express my sympathy with them also. But that matter is not under discussion. We are dealing with a proposal that co-operative enterprises for soldiers shall be assisted by the Government. This has been violently opposed by the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Poynton) on the ground that it is the most violent’ piece of socialistic legislation ever presented to this House. So that no credit or discredit attaches to honorable members on this side; the whole of it belongs to the representative of Echuca, who comes from a farming district to present to us the foundational principles of Socialism. For this reformation, we may be thankful. Finally, a transformation took place, and the Minister accepted what he said was dangerous to this country. It was not that he had become converted to the principle that earlier had been abhorrent to him, but because he found that the numbers were against him. Again, we see how numbers count, and how they dictate principles. The amendment having been carried here, it was sent to another place, and, on the recommendation of a representative of the Government, was turned down. Four grounds for its rejection were given : Firstly, that we could not give to ten men> what was not- being given to one, and therefore we should not give anything to anybody; secondly, that we should not settle any soldiers, because it would unsettle them; thirdly, that we should not support any enterprise, or, indeed, anything at all, because it would probably be unsuccessful. Of course, if it would be unsuccessful, we could not do anything; and therefore the whole scheme of repatriation should go by the board. We should not give a man anything, because if we gave him, say, a horse and cart to carry on his industry, he might be unsuccessful, and the money would be wasted. So why do anything? Fourthly, that, after the principle had been condemned and rejected, if it had any excellence in it at all, the proposal should be embodied in another Bill. Thus the rejected amendment comes back to this Chamber, where the Government moves that it be set aside. Then comes the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) with another amendment, which is a whittling down of the original proposition. The honorable member for Echuca proposed that, instead of soldiers individually receiving ,£500 each for their repatriation, to buy a horse or cart, or start in a business in which they might fail, or to settle on the land, we should be prepared to treat with any number of them as a collective body, and give to them as such a lump sum of money representing the total of what each man could have claimed as an individual. What does it matter, if we are dealing with half-a-dozen individuals, whether the Government advance £500 to each of them or to say to them as a body : “If you care to engage in any industry or occupation together, the money that should be advanced to you individually will be advanced to you as a corporation? But the Government say “No” to that proposal. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) then proposes that if the Government will not go the whole hog, they shall have power to at . least subsidize .any cooperative enterprise to the extent of £1 for £1 of the amount subscribed by those engaged in it. What do the Government do then? Do they say that they cannot accept that amendment, and the principle it embodies? Do they denounce it for the four reasons for which another place rejected the major proposition? Not at all. Yet there is no argument against the major proposition which is not equally applicable to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia. If the original scheme might involve failures, might unsettle men, and might be a waste of funds, and if the principle which the Minister for Repatriation denounced in another place should be embodied in another Bill, on what grounds do the Government consent to embodying in this measure the same principle which they said was an absurdity and would lead to failure? Driven by the force of numbers, and seeing the possibility of whittling away the amendment moved by the honorable member for Echuca, they accept the alternative put forward by the honorable member for Capricornia, and propose to embody in the Bill the same principles and the same objections as led to the rejection of the original amendment. And if the amendment be insisted upon, it ia quite true, as has been said by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), that the Minister will have absolute power to say whether these advances shall or shall not be made. That argument being valid, what harm can the amendment do? Honorable members opposite say that they know the Minister; that they can rely upon him; and that, holding the opinion he does, he would not give any assistance in the terms of this amendment. If that be true, not only the amendment, but the original proposition, may be accepted with safety, for the reason that the Minister might make it a dead letter. What, then, is the objection, to the amendment?
– Why incorporate this new clause in the Bill, and cause disappointment and delay to the men who put in applications?
-Who will create the disappointment and delay but . the nian who has the administration of the Act? As has already been said, if this proposal is incorporated in the Bill, and a Minister dares to repudiate the .decision of Par- liament, the responsibility will rest on him; Parliament at least will have done its duty. We have heard much about the fear of non-success under a clause such as that proposed, but if we had judged all repatriation cases on their merits and asked whether each was likely to be a success or not, repatriation would not have been advanced at all, for probably thousands would have been judged on the possibility of non-success.” The money for repatriation has been advanced, I take it, on the ground of justice. Hundreds of men have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful in their enterprises, but, on the other band, thousands have been successful. It may be quite true .that under this new clause a few would be unsuccessful, but some good would be achieved, at least, if a certain section of the men were successful, and a number of industries established throughout the country, with the workers, as proprietors and shareholders, bound to do part of the work and to carry part of the responsibility. That, in itself, would demonstrate to every man that he was not merely a workman drawing wages paid by another, but that he could exist by his own enterprise, activity, and thrift. It would, I repeat, be good work to develop a class of men capable of carrying on their own businesses.
However, the whole position is largely farcical. Even if it were likely, as has been said, that the Minister for Repatriation would make the clause a dead letter, I cannot see why the Government cannot accept it now. There is no stronger condemnation of the Government than its present absurd position. I could have understood the Government saying that they could not accept the proposal, but it is surely ignominious on their part, after saying they could not accept one proposal, to accept another, the same in principle, and against which the same arguments can be applied. I propose to vote for the retention of the new clause agreed to before on the motion of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), but I do this with no ill feeling against the Government. At this crisis, in view of the advent of a very important immigrant whom we are to presently welcome to our shores, I do not wish to offend or embarrass the. Government in any way; the idea of a double dissolution is disconcertingeven to me.. But, surely, in spite of the coming of His Royal Highness ..the
Prince of Wales, and the risk of the loss of their salaried positions, the Government might, for one night at least, stand on some ground of principle - not permanently, but just for a little while. An honorable member near me suggests that the principle of L.S.D. is the most important one; and I cannot ask the Government to cast such a principle to the winds. I would not do so myself; but, at the same time, I think the Government, in their own interest, ought to take some solid stand. If the Government objected to the clause and the amendment on the self-same grounds - ‘that, if either were carried into effect, it would unsettle people, would be likely to prove unsatisfactory, and that this is not the measure in which to embody a principle of this character - any man could understand the position, though he might not agree with them. For my part, I shall vote for the new clause, but without any great hope that the Government will be overthrown.
– I am sorry that the one “baa lamb,” which promised to be of some use in repatriation, should have been shorn of the short wool it had when it first left this House. Why do the Government object, to this proposal, and why are the returned soldiers on the Government side going to vote against it? Have they been “nobbled,” or do they still desire to go about the’ country howling that every man should be sacked from his position who did not go to the war? Are they still going to say that old men should be put out of positions they have occupied for years in favour of returned men- old men whose sons went to the Front, while others were put in their jobs at home? Or will they, on the other hand, seek to repatriate our men in a civilized way? If the latter, an opportunity is now presented. The other day the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) moved the adjournment of the House in order to request that some girls should be sacked in Sydney, and returned soldiers put in their places; and on that occasion the Government explained the whole position away. Their proposal was that all skulkers, even if they could not pass the examinations to entitle them to go to the .Front, should be discharged, and returned soldiers put in their places. We now have proposed a comprehensive system* of employing soldiers without putting girls and old and invalid men out of work. Do the returned soldiers opposite desire to find work for returned soldiers? Do they believe that it is fair to place a “ digger “ on the land, and give him a chance to make good, and refuse a man in the city a similar chance? One of the most surprising arguments was used by the honorable member for Grampians . (Mr. Jowett), who had the infernal impudence to suggest that no soldier in the city should be able to avail himself of such a clause as this.
– That is not my suggestion.
– The honorable member would compel a man to go to the country whether he liked to do so or not, or forfeit his right to any assistance. The returned men opposite know as well as I do that thousands of men returned from the Front utterly unfitted for their previous occupations, and some of them have been receiving sustenance allowance for eight or nine months. . This, is wasted money, which makes these men loafers by force. The principal objection by the Government is that if money is advanced in the way proposed the men will waste it; but they are willing to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). The Government say that if the men come along, and give “ quid “ for “quid,” they will be helped; but we know that the men have not the money to accept such an offer.
– -If they had not .gone to the war they would have had money.
– Of course. We know that many of the returned men have shown no disposition to work; but that is not to be wondered at. They were away three or four .years from any civilian work; and yet they are asked to settle down in their old places, be good boys, and do as much as they did before. I would like to see some honorable, members’ put back to their old jobs, and watch how they settle down to them again. I know that I am not hankering after mine. The Government have been shown advanced methods and systems for repatriating great bodies of men, but they have refused to take advantage of most of those opportunities. If returned soldiers in this Chamber do not support the principle introduced by the Country party, I” warn them that every time they ask for a man to be put out of a place so that a returned soldier may fill it I shall tell them they are trying to. punish those who did not go to the war, and that it is only another form of economic conscription. They must know that if they succeed in getting returned soldiers out of the ordinary labour market into some new avenue of employment it will be leaving positions open for those who did not fight, and those jobs are what a lot of people are looking for. There are mothers and fathers in Australia whose sons did not enlist, and who insist that the latter shall not be penalized/ The time will come when returned soldiers will be in the minority ; and they cannot expect a fair deal then if they do not make clear now that they do not want to create positions for returned men at the expense of those who cannot be so classed. Many men before the war were working in uncongenial surroundings, and for comparatively little pay. They want something better now. They went away to fight; they fought the battles of the capitalists, and the least that their returned soldier representatives in Parliament should do now is to see that they get decent opportunities. The Government have a chance to bring about a true and broad form of repatriation.
– One would imagine that the Government have done nothing in the direction of repatriation.
– The Government have done much for some, little for more, and nothing for most.
– It has cost many millions a year, anyhow.
– Exactly; and the few are getting that money. Does not the Minister know that there are thousands of returned men in Australia who are not fully or congenially employed?
– The Government can do these things under the Bill as it stands, and they are doing their best in these directions at this moment.
– If the Government can do what we desire under this measure, why should they not clinch matters by setting them down in black and white? The present beneficent Government may not always be in office. There may be a nasty, hard-hearted Government in control of the nation’s affairs about a fort-‘ night hence. If it is economic conscrip- tion that the Government are after they are on the wrong track. If they are sincere in their desire to repatriate soldiers, let them avail themselves of this opportunity to do a big thing.
Question - That Mr. Higgs’ amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 3
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- If I am in order, I wish to move an amendment upon the motion now before the Committee. I move -
That after the word “ industries,” line 5, the words “ in country districts and in country towns “be inserted.
– The Government will get my vote on that proposal, anyhow.
– My desire in moving this amendment is to limit the operation of the proposed new clause.
– I cannot accept the honorable member’s amendment, the Committee having agreed to the proposed new clause in the form submitted by the honorable member for Capricornia.
– Does not the alternative amendment moved by the honorable (member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) now become the amendment before the Committee, and may we not move an amendment upon it?
– The question now before the Committee is whether the proposed new clause in the amended form in which it was moved by thehonorable member for Capricornia shall be accepted or rejected.
– Cannot a further amendment he moved upon it?
– The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is not in order.
– He was not allowed to state it fully. I do not know whether he is going to take the rejection of his amendment lying down like this.
– I have an amendment to move. There appears to be a fairly unanimous opinion in the Committee that if returned soldiers desire to enter upon some other line of occupation than that of a farmer, they should be given assistanceby the Government. Should Ibe in order in moving as an amendment to the motion before the Chair that instead of a subsidy of £1 for £1 the Government should contribute £4 for each £1 invested by the returned soldiers?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No, the honorable member would not be in order in moving such an amendment.
.- I wish to move as an amendment the suggestion made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), so that the views of the three parties in this House in connexion with this matter may be met, and the Government be given an opportunity to reach finality in connexion with the question.
– Irefer to the suggestion made by the (honorable member for Fawkner that a member from the Government party, another from the Country party, and a third from the Opposition should confer with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) and report to this House some .scheme of co-operation for the assistance of returned soldiers.
– The returned soldiers on the other side do not wish to assist them, so what is the use of our worrying about it?
– The honorable member is only assisting now that .the war is over.
– That happens to be an absolute misstatement.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Mara-) did all right out of the war.
– So did the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). He gained his seat out of it.
– I must appeal to the Chair for protection against these interjections. I was much impressed by the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner. It appears to me that he suggested a fair compromise to overcome the difficulty in which we find ourselves. A number of our members are travelling to-night in the train, and. will be here to-morrow, and it is clear that the Committee is very nearly equally divided on this question. We are all anxious to do the best we can for the returned soldiers. The amendment I wish to move is not my own, but. is, as I have said, the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner, that a member of each party in this House should consult with the Minister for Repatriation and frame a clause for insertion in this Bill to assist in the repatriation of returned soldiers under the co-operative system which would meet with the approval of honorable members generally. Will the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) stand up to such a proposal, because I have no desire to steal his thunder ? If he is prepared to carry out the intention which he has already expressed, I 3hall not move in that direction. His suggestion, I think, is a fair one, and one which the Government should accept.
.- It was because several amendments were before the Committee that, earlier in the day, I was induced to suggest that they should be left in abeyance, and that meanwhile a representative of each party in this Chamber should consult with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), for the purpose of formulating some scheme of co-operation which would achieve the end we all have in view - namely, that pf advancing the interests of our returned soldiers. However much we may differ in regard to the methods which should be employed to give effect to such a scheme, honorable members are unanimous in desiring to secure that objective.
– I cannot understand how the honorable member can say that in view of the last vote.
– I repeat it.
– The honorable member is drawing on his imagination.
– At the same time, I believe that honorable members aim at conserving the interests of the country, and do not desire to engage in any indefinite scheme. They wish to secure something tangible and practicable, and if I shall be in order in so doing, I shall move for the appointment of a Committee such as I have indicated, to confer with the Minister for Repatriation, with a view to devising some practicable scheme which will meet with the approval of all parties in this Chamber.
.- So far all that the Committee has done is to carry the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). It is quite competent for us to insert any words that we, may choose after the word “enterprises.” We may, for example, insert the words, “ such enterprises shall be started in country districts.”
– If any words are inserted, they will require to be inserted after the word “ repayable.”
– Of course, any addition to the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia may be made. The Government are very “ cocky “ just now. A bridge has been built for them by an honorable member which allowed them to escape from an awkward dilemma. It is by no means the first bridge of the kind that has been constructed, and it will not be tFe last.
– It was a bridge built on the co-operative plan.
– When the Deakin Government were in office in 1905, I remember that the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) and Mr.
Justice Isaacs, who then, represented the electorate of Indi, were the bridgebuilders. I read Senator Millen’s speech in the other branch of the Legislature, during the course of which he made exactly the same suggestion. It is true that the last number of Hansard was not published until Saturday, and, of course, the honorable member for Capricornia gave notice of this amendment on Friday. But it is clear that he either had an. opportunity of hearing Senator Millen’s speech or that he thought on exactly similar lines. It is quite possible, however, for any honorable member to move an amendment in the form suggested by_ the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) or the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) to add to the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia. The principle enunciated in the proposal put. forward by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) was a definite one. Personally, I have already objected to differential treatment as between those soldiers who settle upon the land and those who follow factory occupations, in which they are not finding the new industrial world of which we have heard so much.
.- 1 move -
That the following words be added to the words added to the main question : - “ Such industries and enterprises mentioned in subclause 1 of clause 47a to be established in country districts and country towns.”
The object of this addition is not to place any returned soldier, as has been most improperly suggested, at a disadvantage as compared with any other returned soldier. My object is rather to assist in the establishment of industries such as are mentioned in clause 47a in country districts and country towns. If the amendment be adopted, not a single soldier will be debarred from taking part in such industries. A most improper attempt has been made to persuade honorable members that some discrimination is suggested in favour of soldiers resident in country towns. The whole object of the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and of this amendment is to enable every returned soldier to take advantage of co-operative enterprises. Believing as I do that if these industries are established in country towns and dis- tricts they will assist our soldiers very much more than would otherwise be the case, I desire to see the Bill altered in that direction.
– Is there anything in the Bill that prevents it?
– We want to make sure of it Those of us who have reachedthe span of life which my honorable friend the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and I have come to, have during the past thirty or forty years witnessed a deplorable transference of industries from country towns to the great metropolitan seaports of Australia, and it is to insure, if possible, a cessation of this drift that I am submitting my amendment. As many honorable members were not present this afternoon, I desire to make clear the position as regards this drift of population to the cities from country areas. The drift i9 continual in every State.
– Everybody knows that.
– But everybody does not heed it. The honorable member for Wakefield knows of this drift, but is he so acting as to check it ? . I wish to impress upon honorable members the fact that in two States of the Commonwealth - Victoria ‘ and South Australia - the population of the capital cities is greater than that in the whole of the remainder of these States. In Victoria the population of Melbourne is 723,000 and’ in the rest of the State only 707,000; and in South Australia, the population of Adelaide in 1918 was .235,000, as compared with 210,000 in the rest of the State. This deplorable drift of population has reached such aggravated proportions that it is now almost impossible to find houses’ in the cities. If we pro- . vide employment for people in the country districts, we can, at all events, insure^ sufficient houses for their accommodation.
– Not in South Australia.
– At all events, the amendment, if adopted, will have the effect- of preventing houses from being pulled down in country towns and transported to the metropolitan areas. The problem of overcrowding in our principal cities has now reached a most acute stage. We have been told over and over again, and every honorable member knows it is true, that if the father or mother, of a family desires to find house accommodation in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, one of the first questions asked of them is whether they have any children or not. In a large number of cases, if they have children, they are unable to get a house. Nohonorable member can point to one country town in Australia where a similar question is asked. Every one knows that everything possible should be done to arrest this drift of population. The problem should bo tackled, not only on general principles, but in detail, and so far as I am concerned any Bill containing a provision that will have the effect of dragging population away from the country to the cities will meet with my strongest opposition.
.- An old friend of mine once reminded me that on one occasion Wellington agreed that there was wisdom in retreat. I think the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) had betterretreat, for the simple reason that on this occasion he is going to be defeated. Great as is my objection to the Government, and anxiety to displace them, I am certainly not going to follow the honorable member for Grampians on this occasion, because he seeks to put a limitation upon the operation of the amendment so that, even if it were carried, it would be valueless.
– It is no good now, anyhow.
– No; and nothing matters except that we shall have a number of conversations across the chamber.
– And waste a good deal of time.
– Of course! That is what we are here for. Our business is to talk. The work is not done here, but elsewhere. If the original proposal had any good in it at all, it would have been wrong to limit its operation to any part of the country, or any part of Australia. In order to buttress his position, the honorable member for Grampians makes an allegation that the policy of Governments in the past has had the effect of dragging population away from country districts, and he contends that the position will be restored by , the encouragement of these co-operative enterprises in country districts only. But, so far as Victoria is concerned, his argument is of no value. The trend of population in Victoria towards the cities is due; in part, to the decay of the mining industry.
– Another is that you work forty hours in the city, while we work eighty hours in the country districts.
– That is to the advantage of the cities.
– If the honorable member will pardon me, I will remind him that his statement does not explain the drift of population in South Australia. It is not due in that State to the decay of the mining industry.
– I shall always pardon the honorable member for Grampians. But I said that the decay of the mining industry was one reason for the drift of population to the metropolitan area. The decay of mining in this State has left desolate large areas of land which arenot fit for agricultural operations.
– Ballarat, since the decline of mining, is bigger than ever.
– And that disposes of. the argument used by the honorable member for Grampians. It does not disprove what I said. Small as the Country party is, it seems to be divided on great questions. In any case, apart from Ballarat and its population, we have not merely to deal with such places, and say that the country is dead, and that the cities are drawing away thousands of men. It is a question of the country being developed on a larger scale, and machinery being employed for agricultural purposes. In the Wimmera and Western districts, for instance, there is a smaller population to-day than there was thirty or forty years ago.
– Is that why the wheatgrowing area has been reduced by 4,000,000 acresin four years?
– Wheat-growing has not increased because in many districts the land has been transformed into pastoral properties.
– Merely because those who had been engaged in farming pursuits have found sheep raising more profitable than the settlement of men.
– Yes, and a lot easier.
– Yes. It is one of the factors that have to be considered, and I do not wish to occupy time by referring to other States, but to confine my remarks to Victoria, where, in the Western District, those on the land have given up farming to engage in sheep raising. The Wimmera district is also an illustration, and the statistics of the municipalities show there has been a gradual decline in the population, and that where ten or twelve farms existed, only one now remains. Through a process of absorption, adjoining properties have been acquired, and larger areas have been worked with the aid of machinery to enable wheatgrowing to be undertaken more successfully. In the district represented by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) the small holdings of forty years ago were being worked as pastoral propositions, but they are now coming back into small holdings under the Closer Settlement Act. Why do manufacturers congregate in cities where men are packed together when they can go out into country districts where, in many instances, they find the workmen disorganized, receiving lower wages, and working longer hours? Is it not all- a question of water supply and motive power, the transportation of coal, and the handling of their products? These are factors which all manufacturers consider in connexion with country districts. One farmer buys out another until he has a larger area under control, when he employs machinery to do the work, and the men who were employed on farms drift towards the city and make machinery used by the man working the larger holding. The population drifts from one place to another, and it is the economic result of the conditions under which we live. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has moved an amendment, and I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that there is very little in it. What does the amendment as originally submitted or as amended by the honorable member for Grampians really mean? If the statement of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) is true, the Minister will have the power, if he so desires, to be hostile. The amendment of the honorable member for Grampians places too much power in the Minister’s hands. For instance, it may be said that an industry to be established in Toorak or St.
Kilda is likely to be profitable, although it may be unreasonable to advance, say, £10,000 of public money in a country district. It is giving the Minister power to say whether a particular industry should or should not be established in a country district. If there were a dozen men willing to subscribe pound for pound, and a business could be successfully carried on in Melbourne, and not in the country, the Minister would be prevented from giving approval. I certainly cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians, and I think he will be well advised to withdraw it, and allow the original proposition to stand.
.- I have listened with interest to the dissertation of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) regarding the congregation in big centres, and the only thing that is wrong with the statement of the honorable member is that it is not quite true. He has given reasons why manufactures and population congregate in the cities, but what are the facts? Why do our principal cities increase in size? I know that the circumstances credited to Melbourne by the honorable member do not apply to Sydney. Why has Sydney increased in size? During the whole period of responsible government in New South Wales up till 1913, five-sixths of the money borrowed in that State, with the exclusion of that spent on railway work, was spent in and around Sydney for local purposes, which should have been undertaken by a Greater Sydney. Manufacturers congregate there because it is not made profitable to haul coal to the country where the raw material is, and because differential railway rates are imposed on’ a railway system designed to kill secondary industries in the country. I do not know what has happened in Victoria, but that is the experience of New South Wales, and great cities have grown up in consequence of the disproportionate amount of public money that has been spent. We have been told that in England, France, Germany, and the United States of America, in the interests of the nations as a whole, manufactories are being decentralized, and this is being done largely because electric power is now able to be cheaply transmitted to outside centres. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said when introducing the. Tariff, there is no reason why manufacturers here should congregate in the large cities, where workmen have to grow up with dirt and coaldust in their lungs, and, in consequence, rear children who are physically unfit. There is no reason, under modern conditions, why industries should not be established where the raw products exist so that men could live in decent homes and in comfortable surroundings. If men are allowed to work in country districts with attractive surroundings, we shall be able to rear men possessing the best characteristics of our Australian soldiers, and, in the next war, we shall not have men such as those who came from crowded centres like Shoreditch - men whose chest you could span with two fingers, though their spirit was indomitable. Our desire is to benefit not merely our returned soldiers by ‘assisting them to conduct secondary industries with co-operative effort, but to benefit also the neighbourhoods in which those industries will be established by bringing to them the comforts which now attract our population to the cities. At the present time there is hardly a country town in New South “Wales that possesses modern conveniences. Towns likeInverell, Lismore, and Grafton, which are surrounded by prosperous districts having a production almost equalling that of Victoria, have hardly increased in size in twenty-five years, because no secondary industries are established there. I hope that the Committee will take advantage of this opportunity to make a practical step towards decentralization. We have decentralization leagues everywhere. A Victorian league was ‘ reported as meeting in Melbourne only on Saturday last, and there is now ari opportunity to give effect to decentralization. The establishment of . secondary industries in country towns will be practical decentralization. .It will improve the lot of every farmer within 10 miles of them, by increasing his local market, by making cheap power available, and by enabling him to live under better conditions.- There is bound to be an’ aggregation of holdings resulting in big estates where produce cannot find a local sale, or easy .access to distant markets, but where, as on the T.weed, facili- ties for transport are increased, or a local market is given, land will be cut up into small holdings, because men find that they can make a living on such holdings. I trust that honorable members will not be swayed by local prejudice and parochial feeling, but will take this opportunity of giving a national direction to the industrial life of this Commonwealth.
. - I am now able to make those comments on the proposal of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) which I could not make earlier in the discussion, and I am glad that my speech has been deferred, because the position now is clearer than when I sought to address the Committee before. The soldier, it appears, is unwilling to go into those places where the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the honorable member for Grampians wish- to put him, and therefore he is to be compelled to go there. He is to be denied the assistance which a little while ago we were told would be the salvation of unemployed men, unless he is prepared to pursue his industry in the decaying country towns of Victoria. We have been told that it is the long hours, the low wages, the hard conditions of country life, coupled with high freights and other disadvantages, that drive the people into our cities, and yet the honorable member for Grampians would force the soldier to accept those hard conditions or forego the assistance of the Government. The object of the proposal is to build up the decaying towns of Victoria, and the soldier is to undertake this work. I object to that. Out repatriation efforts should study first the interests of the soldier. If he wants to go to country towns, by all means let us help him to do so, but if he does not, he has the same right to assistance in a city occupation as he would have to assistance in a country occupation. Those who talk about the need for populating the country districts do not live in the country; they live in the city. The farmers, too, when they have “done their bit,” and are able to retire, come to the cities; and one of the causes of the decay” of the farming industry is that so many farmers have become city-dwelling landlords. 1
– Would you deny the farmer a little bit of comfort at the end of his days?
– No ; but I object to those who, accepting the comforts of the city, attribute the ills of society to the fact that other persons seek the pleasures which they themselves enjoy. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) hae accurately described the causes which draw men from the country to the city. They are not to he overcome by any such proposal as that now before us. The future of the dwellers in cities is to be secured by improving sanitation, abolishing slums, and making the cities habitable, so that the physique of . their people may be as good as that of the young men whom we sent to the war. If cooperation is to succeed, the soldier must be able to decide where he will follow the industry that he chooses; he cannot be compelled to practise it only in the country towns.
That amendment No. 30 disagreed to by the Senate be not insisted upon, but that, aa an alternative amendment, the following clause be inserted in the Bill: - “ 47a. - (1.) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of pound for pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, wool scouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), sawmilling, and other enterprises. “ (2.) The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall be repayable.”
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook), by leave, agreed to- -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
Order op Business - Petrol Supplies fob “West Queensland - Arbitration Court Congestion - Judiciary Bill : Moratorium.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to know what business will be taken to-morrow if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is unable to move the second reading of the Oil Agreement Bill %
– On Friday last I brought under the notice of the Ministry the necessity for providing contractors and men on the land in “Western Queensland with a supply of petrol for their pumping machinery. Has anything been done in regard to the matter ?
– I do not remember the honorable member mentioning this matter, but I promise to . give it every consideration.
. -r-I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the congestion in the Arbitration Court. A statement has been presented to honorable members detailing forty-two cases still to be heard by the Court, although some of them were initiated- as far back aa 1918. This matter is entirely apart from the phase of the question mentioned this afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) relative to the amendment of the Act, which will have to he seriously considered by the House. In my opinion the congestion ought to be relieved by the appointment of additional Justices, or perhaps, if some of the other Justices could take a few of the cases, it might enable the unions to get their cases heard. It is no wonder there is industrial unrest, seeing that those who wish to comply with the industrial law are prevented from getting a decision.
– It encourages direct action.
– Of course. Every man who obeys the law has to go a year or two with less wages than the man who disobeys it. In the circumstances, we can hardly blame those who choose to take the law into their own hands rather than have these delays forced upon them.
– I would like to know whether the Government intend to proceed with the Judiciary Bill before the adjournment, because it is my intention to move for the insertion of the clause extending the moratorium for twelve months. This is rather a pressing matter throughout Australia, and if it is not the intention of the Government to bring forward the Judiciary Bill I shall have to adopt some other means of achieving the same object.
– I understand that a contingent notice of motion hasbeen given covering the Judiciary Bill, but I cannot understand what affinity there is between that measure and the moratorium.
– We can get it in.
– I think the question of relevancy will arise, and if I were in the honorable member’s place 1 would adopt some other course than that which he now proposes.
I agree that something will need to be done soon to relieve the industrial arbitration congestion, or we had better give up the ghost. The fundamental basic reason for these delays is that we have not an arbitration Court, but a law Court. Instead of the Court giving decisions by and large, and adjudging what is a fair thing as between arbitrators, matters are argued as if lives were at stake. Something will need to be done to simplify the procedure and enable cases to be dealt with much more speedily. The Government are not losing sight of the congestion, and’ I hope something will soon be dope to try to relieve it. I understand the main trouble is that we have not enough Justices to undertake the work, and if the Court is to continue,I dare say it will be necessary to appoint some more.
– Let us follow the example of Queensland, and appoint a layman as President of the Arbitration Court.
– One of the most successful arbitrators we have had in Australia was a layman who presided over a Court in Newcastle.
The first business to-morrow will be the moving of the second reading of the Oil
Agreement Bill, and then I should like to get one or two rather pressing financial Bills through. Unless we get some appropriation soon we shall not have enough money in the till for the payment of war and old-age pensions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200504_reps_8_91/>.