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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr BURNS (Illawarra) .- While I desire to speak against the motion, I must add my tribute to the bravery of the Belgians; and I wish further to say that my opposition does not arise out of any feeling of disrespect or disloyalty. I object to the motion because I recognise that in Australia to-day there are a number of people who are suffering and in distress. It is only about five weeks ago that the Minister of Labour of New South Wales said at Cobar that there were then 24,000 unemployed in that State; and since then the figure has been increased. The other day I was informed that in my own electorate there is a likelihood of the coke works being closed down, in which event some 500 or 600 men will be thrown out of work. Germany is, I suppose, the greatest buyer of our ores; and as the smelting works cease operations large numbers of men must find themselves unable to obtain employment. As a Labour representative, my opinion is that we ought, first of all, to see that work is found for our own people. I am no believer in charity; whatever money we have to spare ought to be used to enable people to earn their own living, for only in this way can we adequately assist them. I do not suggest that the Government are not going to see that employment is provided, but every penny we have to spare will be needed in this country to tide u3 over the difficulties which confront us. It is for that reason, and that reason only, that I am opposed to the motion. The honorable member for Bourke has already touched on the question of the distribution of the proposed gift. As pointed out, the Belgian Government are at the present time located at Ostend ; but, in my opinion, it is probably a question of only a few days when they will be driven out of Belgium altogether. How; then, under such circumstances, are the Belgian Government going to distribute the money? The proposed amount, in my opinion, is infinitesimal, and, having regard to the population of Belgium, will amount to only about 2d. per head. We can find a better way of spending the money in the assistance of the 30,000 or 40,000 unemployed in our midst at the present time. Tor those reasons I shall vote against the motion.

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