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Wednesday, 14 October 1914


Mr YATES (Adelaide) .- I intend to oppose the motion, but I hope I shall not merit what the last speaker has said. I am sure that my objection will not be considered aspoison. I yield to no man in loyalty or admiration for the Belgian people in taking the stand they have done. I know that starvation, poverty, privation, misery, and chaos must be rampant in Belgium ; but the honorable member for Grampians has emphasized what nearly every speaker has said, that this £100,000 is only a cupfull in the ocean. It is a cup that may not even be heard of in Belgium. We may not even be heard of as fhe donors of the money. I can understand the sentiment behind the gift. But that £300,000 spent locally would have still more sentiment in it. 1 have no fear of the feeling of South Australia as to my contention in regard to this matter. They will have no need to doubt my loyalty to the Empire and the country in which I live, but it is to the country in which I live that I first give loyalty. Therefore I say that if we wish to see a good result from the spending of this £100,000, let it be spent in Australia. If we wish to offer our congratulations, backed up by money when the. condition of the country is satisfactory, it will not be too late, and in the meantime we shall have kept poverty and deprivation from our own people by spending among them this small sum - a small sum in Belgium, but a big amount in Port Pirie. We are told that we have not yet felt the effect of the war or the drought; but already we fear an uprising of the starving unemployed at Port Pirie and of those similarly placed in all our largo cities. We have to consider the position of the workless. I shall be prepared at the right time to support any measure taken to show our appreciation of the efforts of Belgium, but this proposal at the present time is, I think, mere flagwaving. A grant of £100,000 would ne a mere bagatelle to Belgium, but it would do much to help the hungry and the workless that we have in Australia at the present time. If the Commonwealth Parliament to-morrow made a grant of £100,000 to South Australia it would not only go a long way towards relieving suffering and want amongst the industrial sections of the community, but would enable the State, Government to make large purchases of seed wheat and fodder for those who in many cases will have to shoot their live stock unless rain speedily falls. That is the position I take up. I have no lack of appreciation for the fight which Belgium has put up. I do not pretend to be able to say what would have happened but for the stand made by the Belgians, but I do know that in Australia we are feeling the effects of a war in regard to the declaration of which we had no voice. The Belgians were differently situated. They had their own country to protect. ,They knew that even if they did not oppose the Germans their territory would become the theatre of war, and that they would have no voice in the matter. Mighty as the Germans undoubtedly are, I believe that even if the Belgians had not resisted them, they would not have been able to withstand the combined attacks of Russia, France, and Britain; that eventually they would have been driven back, and that the theatre of war would have been placed in Belgium just as Waterloo was fought there. I recognise that the proposed grant is offered by the Prime Minister with a good heart, and I certainly appreciate the attitude of the Government. But let us, first of all, succour the suffering and distressed in our own community, and thus place ourselves in a position later on to grant, perhaps, ten times as much as it is now proposed to vote for the relief of Belgium. That can be done after the war is over if we confine our attention now to the task of helping the workless m our own land. I cannot be accused of disloyalty in taking up this stand. I do so because charity begins at home. I io not want our charity to stay there; but if we confine ourselves at the present time to an effort to improve the position of our own country we shall be better prepared later on to give the people of Belgium some practical evidence of our recognition of the splendid fight they have put up.







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