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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) .- I wish to say to the House and the country that I have every confidence in the ability of the Government, as now constituted, to deal with the problems, in regard to which our brethren on the back Government benches seem so afraid. One would think that those gentlemen were not members of a great National Parliament, but members of some municipal council. They tell us that there are a few thousand unemployed in their electorates; but are their electorates the only places in Australia where unemployed are to be found? As a matter of fact, there are unemployed in every electorate throughout the length and breadth of this great Commonwealth. As I have said, I have every faith in the power of the Prime Minister and Treasurer of this Commonwealth to deal with the problems as they arise. I have never wavered in the faith which I pinned to that gentleman when he first occupied the Treasury bench, and I still believe he is quite capable of meeting difficulties as they appear.

Mr Yates - " Since when I have used none other ' ' !

Mr PAGE - And I hope that we shall have no need to use any " other." Has the honorable member for Adelaide come here to tell us how to pluck chickens? If so, I may tell him that we have lived long enough to know how to carry out that operation without expressions of opinion from gentlemen like himself. If there is one fact more than another that gives me satisfaction in voting for this motion it is that the Belgians have helped to make Australia free. The pluck of, the Belgians in blocking Germany at the commencement of the war has done more for Australia than many of us realize. Like other honorable members, I feel that £100,000 is not enough, and I am sorry the amount is not larger. Many of the gentlemen who have already spoken have known the pangs of hunger, and will realize that even if, as the honorable member for Illawarra has said, this money amounts to only 2d. per head, a twopenny loaf of bread to a hungry man or woman is better than nothing.

Mr Burns - How are the Belgians going to get this money?

Mr PAGE - It is not for me to say; it is enough for me to give the money. It is amazing to find honorable members raising these " Little Peddlington " objections, just, as I have said, as though they were municipal councillors instead of members of a great National Parliament. I have heard Labour men on the hustings in Queensland expressing their pride in belonging to this great National Parliament; and the arguments we have heard to-day are not in keeping with the occasion. Surely honorable members do not desire that the Prime Minister should go into details regarding the distribution; and it will be humiliating to the recipients to think that this money has not been given with good grace. I am sorry the question is going to be put to the vote, and I can only say that my own vote will go in favour of the gift.

Mr.FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [4.58]. - I remind those honorable members who, while they oppose the motion, declare that they do not do so through any disloyalty, that the question does not involve loyalty at all; it is simply a question of whether this Parliament thinks it is interpreting the views of the people of Australia. Personally, I think we are interpreting those views in thanking the Belgian nation for what they have done in support of their own rights and in protection of the rights and liberties of civilization. It is a great privilege and honour for a young Dominion like this - perhaps the most prosperous country in the world to-day - to be able to ask the Belgian nation to accept this money. I trust the Government of Belgium, as I would the Government of any other country, to use this small tribute in the way they think best. The honorable member for Bourke, unwittingly no doubt, did me an injustice when he said that I had not indicated how the money was to be used. I stated definitely and clearly that I hoped the money would be used to, in some small way, heal the wounds inflicted on a brave people in defence of their own rights - & people who have, I think, nobly realized the lines of the great English poet -

Because right is right, to follow right

Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.

This they have done, and not only for their own sakes. I should have liked to see the Belgian Government distribute this money in Brussels, and, though I have little hope of that at the present time, I trust that the day is not far distant when they once more will be in their own capital city. All that I can do in Parliament or out of it to help to bring about that result I shall willingly do. At any rate, I trust the Belgian Government, notwithstanding all that has been said against them ; and I hope and believe that this small tribute will be given cheerfully by the people of Australia, and will be used in the best possible way to alleviate the sufferings of the Belgian people. I suggest to the honorable member for Bourke, and those who think with him, that they should not call for a division, but, if they persist in doing so, I must ask honorable members on both sides to support the motion.

Amendment negatived.

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