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Friday, 30 April 1920

Mr HIGGS (Capricornia) .- The amendment, as moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), contains the germ of a great idea, and I regret that the Senate has rejected it. I propose to move an amendment as an alternative to the clause as adopted here. There is no doubt that to lend money indiscriminately to any group of men who care to commence an industry, such as bootmaking, saw-milling, or any other cooperative enterprise of that kind, might land the Government in very serious financial loss.

Mr Riley - Money is not, to be lent indiscriminately.

Mr HIGGS - It is true that the clause contains the words "with the consent of the Minister," but the Minister will be unable to cope with, the many demands that will be made upon him by hundreds and thousands of men, for I am sure it would run into that, number of men. If the Government announced that they would advance money to any group of citizens in Australia - not necessarily returned soldiers - who desired to enter into co-operative enterprises, without asking those citizens to put up any money whatever, a request would come in from every street in every town in Australia for the loan of money to go on with some enterprise.

Mr Ryan - What is the question before the Committee?

Mr HIGGS - The proposal of this Chamber for assistance to soldiers in establishing co-operative industries. I purpose to disagree with the Senate's rejection of the amendment, and to substitute an alternative one. Honorable members will agree that what is easily acquired is not very much thought of. Many years ago in Queensland the Government endeavoured to assist the unemployed, and to that end furnished them with funds to establish village settlements. No money was put up by the unemployed, but various groups received assistance from the Government. They went on to the land, and as soon as the money was done the co-operative societies burst up and became insolvent. It is true, as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) reminds me, that in some cases these co-operative village settlers were given very bad land, but in one case they got very good land, at Lake Weyba, in the Gympie district. Their committee decided that some members of the group should fell timber, others plough, and others fish. They had a quarrel as to who should build, who should cut timber, and who should fish, and finally they were all on the lake fishing. Under my alternative proposal the clause would read -

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.

I shall also propose the framing of regulations to determine when these loans should be repayable.

Mr.Considine. - What is the essential difference between the honorable member's amendment and that moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) ?

Mr HIGGS - The essential difference is that those who form themselves into groups for . the purpose of conducting enterprises on co-operative lines under my proposal will have to furnish some guarantee that they believe in their enterprise.

Mr Hill - More than one-half of these men have not a penny, and do not know where to obtain money.

Mr HIGGS - If, for instance, ten returned soldiers, each holding a £100 war bond, joined together, they could go to the Commissioners and say, "We propose to buy a plant for the manufacture of boots, and we ask the Government to advance £1,000 by way of loan."

Mr McDonald - How far would that go?

Mr HIGGS - Not very far, but for purposes of illustration we could multiply the number by 10. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted ; progress reported.

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