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Tuesday, 4 May 1920

Mr HIGGS (Capricornia) .- I move -

That the following words be added, " but that, as an alternative amendment, the following clause be inserted in the Bill: - " 47a. ( 1 ) 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, woolscouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), saw-milling, and other enterprises. "(2) The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall be repayable."

Had there been no Senate, the amendment carried by this Committee at the instance of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) would have been the law of the land.

Mr.Fenton. - A further reason for doing without the Senate.

Mr HIGGS - No ; the Senate is justifying its existence. The motive of the honorable member for Echuca in providing that the Government should advance money to soldiers for co-operative purposes was of the very highest. Those of us who have tried in various ways to bring about a better condition of society welcome anything in the nature of co-operation. But we must protect Government funds by providing that all attempts at cooperation shall be upon a business basis. The honorable member pointed out the serious discrepancy between our attitude in advancing without security up to £650 for house, stock, and implements to assist people to go upon the land, whilst not advancing money to enable soldiers to engage in other enterprises. That is quite true ; but honorable members will recollect that when repatriation was first discussed, everybody was hopeful that nearly all returned soldiers would desire to go upon the land. Land settlement was to be the solution of all our difficulties, and a Committee, of which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was a member, considered proposals for advancing as much as £70,000,000 to enable men to go upon the land. We have found, however, that not more than 5 per cent, of the 250,000 returned soldiers desire to settle upon the land, and I am sure the honorable member for Echuca will realize that a great many of those who are going upon the land will unhappily fail. Land and estate agents are of opinion that within a few years a large number of soldiers' farms will be on the market, because the soldier farmers will discover they have no taste for the work, and will endeavour to get back to the cities. My alternative amendment will provide that if any returned soldiers desire to put up their own money in cash or war bonds for the purpose of engaging in co-operative enterprises, the Government shall advance money to them on a £1 for £1 basis.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why discriminate between men on the land and those who wish to engage in other enterprises?

Mr HIGGS - I have already explained that the policy of advancing money to enable men to go upon the land, without requiring them to put up any of their own capital, was conceived for the very special purpose of encouraging men to leave the over-populated cities and settle the vacant areas. If we wish to save our civilization we must make country life more attractive in every way. Any business man knows that there are hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who are prepared to go into cooperative or other businesses if somebody else will find the money.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The advances are to be subject to the approval of the Commission and the Minister.

Mr HIGGS - I invite the attention of the Committee to the number of persons who fail in all kinds of businesses each year.

Mr Hill - Not co-operative businesses.

Mr HIGGS - The failures are not so numerous in connexion with co-operative businesses, but a limited liability company is a co-operative body more or less. The following particulars concerning insolvencies are taken from the Commonwealth Year-Booh, but the Commonwealth Statistician is careful to point out that the figures regarding the assets are very unreliable : -

Every year thousands of persons go into businesses and fail. It must be borne in mind that those persons believe in their particular industries or occupations, and invest their own money. But if the Commonwealth, in addition to paying £26,000,000 by way of a war gratuity, is prepared to advance money, without security, to 250,000 soldiers - and the hon.orable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) mentioned no limit to the amount - i wonder how many millions of pounds will be required.

Mr McWilliams - The Commission and the Minister will have tq approve of the advances.

Mr HIGGS - It would not be within the power of any single person or Board to cope with the applications that would be made as soon as it was made known that 250,000 soldiers could each get an advance of £200 in order to start them in co-operative businesses. The money required will amount to about £15,000,000 over and above the £26,000,000 for the war gratuity.

Mr McWilliams - The money would be advanced only to those persons who were prepared to work in the businesses themselves.

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - The money would be required only for those who would apply for it under the Act.

Mr HIGGS ---Does the honorable member know who will apply? Every man will have the right to do so. Business men in the city are being approached from day to day by men who have made some discovery or invention which they require capital to exploit.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - No one has approached the honorable member?

Mr HIGGS - I was amongst others who were approached by a man who had invented a smoke consumer, but it was ascertained that smoke was consumed by tapping a forced draft supplied by some neighbouring bottle works. The smoke was- consumed all right, and it seemed a perfectly good proposition; but when it had been examined by the engineer in charge of the Victorian Railways it was ascertained that it would require an engine as large as the one it was proposed to treat, in order to furnish the means of consuming the smoke. There are thousands of inventors who thoroughly believe that their inventions, if supported by capital, would revolutionize industry; and I wonder how many proposals were made to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) during the war by people who were prepared to demonstrate to his satisfaction that if he supplied the necessary money the inventors could' provide appliances that would end the war. We must make some business proposition before we can expect the

Senate to assent. I ask honorable members who, apparently, propose to advance


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - Not 25 per cent, of the men will apply, so that the £50,000,000 is all bunkum !

Mr HIGGS - Are we prepared to advance £50,000,000 without security in order to enable men to start enterprises? Is the country able to stand such an expenditure? We must have regard to the financial position of the Commonwealth. We have to borrow £30,000,000 to carry on as at present, and if we advance money in the way suggested, where should we land ourselves?

Mr Mcwilliams - The House accepted the proposal.

Mr HIGGS - That is true, but it accepted it in a hurry, and the Senate has rejected it. The mover of this motion must admit that its terms are very bald ; there is no restriction on the amount, and no prohibition as to the nature of. the proposals to be made. I hope, therefore, that honorable members, if they are going to send an alternative proposal to the Senate, will send one of a business character. It is no new principle for a Government or a municipality to subsidize hospitals in the ratio of £1 for every £1 subscribed by the public, and in such cases there is something like a pledge that those who subscribe have some faith in the idea.

Mr Hill - Why did the Government not put men on the land under those conditions ?

Mr HIGGS - I was in hopes that the honorable member would' accept my explanation. I know nothing to account for the overwhelming generosity of the Government in the way of ,putting men on the land than a belief on their part that our cities are too large, and that, in order to save ourselves from total destruction, we must get people into the country.

Mr Hill - That is one reason for the establishment of industries in country districts.

Mr HIGGS - But . the honorable member's idea is not confined to country districts; an enterprise under this Bill may mean a factory in a back street in Melbourne.

Mr. Hill (Echuca) [3.43]. - I should like to- remind the. Government-

Mr Higgs - The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has just now, in my hearing, uttered words which I regard as offensive, and' I request that they be withdrawn. The honorable member suggests that the Government instigated the amendment I proposed. This I regard as objectionable and offensive, and ask that the statement be withdrawn.

Mr Poynton - The statement is absolutely incorrect.

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