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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr J H CATTS (Cook) .- I am not here to-day to answer the speech of any other honorable member, and in the few remarks I shall make I desire it to be understood that I am dissociated from what may be said on this proposition by any other honorable member, no matter from what side he speaks.

It is very easy, in a time like this, for one to go with the stream, but my own judgment tells me that we are not doing the right thing in voting this £100,000, and I propose to briefly give my reasons why I shall vote against the motion if a vote is taken.

I indorse every word said regarding the brave stand made by the Belgian nation. When this war broke out, and Great Britain took sides with France and Belgium, and the whole Empire became involved in the hostilities, every portion of the Empire was interested in seeing the campaign of the allied forces brought to a successful issue. That must ever be the case. And we had in this country large numbers of ablebodied men, who were offering their services as volunteers to go with the Empire's troops wherever it might be necessary to help to fight the Empire's battle. We are doing the right thing in providing the wherewithal to transport and maintain our own troops on the battle-fields of the Empire, wherever the conflict may be rag ing. We are committed, we are told, to an expenditure of £10,000,000 of money in regard to the part which our own troops are, and will be, taking in this war, and thus we have demonstrated in the most practical way possible, by contributing both men and money, that we are prepared to stand side by side with the Belgian people to bring the campaign to a successful issue.

But I think that the voting of this £100,000 is " panicky." I would like to know what is to be done with the money. Is there a shortage of money in Belgium? There is not. On the fall of Antwerp, within the last few days, we heard of the German Army making a demand for £20,000,000 from that one Belgian city.

The Germans are making demands on every city they have captured - Brussells is an instance - that so many millions should be handed over to the German Army. The trouble of the Belgians is not a shortage of money. There is ample money in their country. The German Government have probably collected £50,000,000 from Belgium.

Our £100,000 will not provide the Belgians with food and succour. I have no doubt that they have ample food. We noticed in the papers the other day that shiploads of food were sunk in the harbor at Antwerp. The real positionis that Belgium is so disrupted and disorganized that there are no means at present of making arrangements for distributing provisions among the people. It appears to me that the voting of this £100,000 will not relieve any distress. It is not wealth that the people of Belgium need. They do not need gold or silver; they need organized society. They require bread and meat to be distributed. But the voting of this £100,000 will go no way towards providing for the distribution of that bread or meat. We are simply voting this money to-day under an impulse. We should like to pay a tribute to the bravery of the Belgian people; but the money is being voted without due consideration of what will be the effect at home and abroad .

What is the position of our own finances ? We do not know. We are told that in New South Wales the condition of the public finances is so bad that the Premier of the State cannot make a financial statement to the country. We do not know what is the condition of the Commonwealth finances. We have no idea of it.

Mr McWilliams - I suppose we are going to have a statement as to the finances ?

Mr J H CATTS - I think that statement should precede, and not follow, the expenditure of public money. We do not know what we are voting away. We might not have a penny to vote away. In a week or two we may have to turn round and go to Great Britain in order to borrow the money from which to provide this £100,000. We have disruption in our own industries. In the Governor-General's Speech I have read paragraph 10, which says -

My Advisers recognise the necessity, caused by the higher cost of commodities, of increasing old-age and invalid pensions, and also for the provision of pensions to widows and orphan children.

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