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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Mr POYNTON (Grey) (Minister for Home and Territories) . - After extended consideration of the position created by the attitude of the Senate in regard to the alternative amendment of this House, dealing with advances to returned soldiers for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis, to which the Senate has disagreed and with a view to reaching finality on the matter - because we are anxious that the advantages given by the Bill shall be extended to those who are to participate in them - the Government have decided to ask honorable members not to insist on this amendment, but to substitute another amendment, and submit it to the Senate for acceptance. Therefore, I move -

That the alternative amendment to amendment No. 30, disagreed to by the Senate, be not insisted on, but that, in place thereof, the following clause be inserted in the Bill: - 47a. (1) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist Australian soldiers by way of loan, to an extent not exceeding one pound for each one pound contributed by them in Treasury bonds issued under section 13 of the War Gratuity Act 1920, or in cash, for the purpose of establishing co-operative businesses.

(2)   The amount of any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall not exceed £150 and shall bear interest at such rate as the Commission determines.

(3)   The aggregate amount of loans granted in pursuance of this section shall not exceed £250,000.

(4)   An Australian soldier who has a share or interest in a business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section shall not transfer his share or interest -

(a)   unless the transferee is an Australian soldier approved by the Commission, or

(b)   where the transferee is not an Australian soldier, unless, in the opinion of the Commission, there are special circumstances which render the transfer desirable.

(5)   No person shall, without the consent of the Commission, enter into a mortgage, or give any lien, over the property of a business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section, and any mortgage or lien entered into or given in contravention of this subsection shall be void and of no effect.

(6)   The Commission, or any person thereto authorized by the Commission, shall at all times have access to, and may inspect, the books and premises of any business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section, and if, upon such inspection, the Commission considers that the business is being conducted in such a manner -

(a)   as to depreciate the security of the Commission for the moneys lent by it; or

(b)   as to prejudice the interests of the shareholders of the business, the Commission may require such alteration in the control or conduct of the business as it thinks desirable.

(7)   Notwithstanding anything in this section a loan shall not be granted for the establishment of a co-operative business -

(a)   unless application for the loan is received by the Commission within twelve months after the commencement of this Act or the discharge of the applicants from the Forces, whichever last happens;

(b)   unless the applicants satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on that business;

(c)   unless the agreement, deed or articles of association entered into by the applicants is approved by the Commission; and

(d)   if, in the opinion of the Commission, the applicants have been satisfactorily established in civil life.

(8)   For the purposes of this section " co-operative business " means a business which, subject to the rights of the Commission in respect of any loans granted for establishing the business, is owned by persons engaged therein.

(9)   The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which loans may be granted in pursuance of this section and the conditions upon which such loans shall be repayable.

That is an honest attempt to have businesses established by returned soldiers on co-operative lines, and it will be perfectly safe from the point of view of the taxpayers generally. The original proposition of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and that of thehonorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) were somewhat loosely drawn, and the Government felt that it was necessary either to elaborate the provision on the lines of the present proposal or to bring down a special Bill for the purpose.

Mr Higgs - A Bill would have been better.

Mr POYNTON - Yes; that is why so much detail has been required in this new alternative amendment. There is not the slightest hope of our coming to an amicable arrangement with the Senate for the acceptance of our other proposal, and the only alternative is to send forward this new proposal or drop the Bill altogether, thus depriving those who are to participate in its extended benefits of the advantages it gives. There is no doubt it is a much more liberal measure than the Act on the statute-book to-day.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Senators do not seem to care whether the Bill is lost or not. Let us put the onus on them.

Mr POYNTON - That is not such an easy matter. We have responsibilities here.

Mr McDonald - They have responsibilities also.

Mr POYNTON - I have no desire to create friction between the two Houses on those lines. Some honorable senators are opposed to the proposition right out, but from what I can gather from reading the Hansard report of the Senate's proceedings, the principal objection to our proposal was because of the loose way in which it was drafted. All cause for objection on that ground is removed by the new proposal, because it imposes fairly stringent conditions. As custodians of the public purse, it is the duty of this House, as well as of the Senate, to see that legislation of this character is so drafted as to adequately protect the Commonwealth revenue and provide no opportunities for abuse.

Mr Jowett - In view of the very great importance of this amendment, which has only come under the notice of honorable members during the last few moments, I ask the Minister to report progress.

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