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Wednesday, 12 May 1920


Mr MAXWELL (Fawkner) .- I agree with honorable members who have made an appeal to the Government not to press this amendment to a division without giving honorable members more time for consideration. I certainly do not feel in a position to express an opinion without more time being allowed. The difficulty in which we find ourselves now very largely arises from the fact that the Government really does nob believe in this amendment. I do not think that the Government believed in the amendment that was originally proposed by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the amendment before us, after all, is, I feel very strongly, only a kind of makeshift.

The speech of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) gives one pause, and leads one to consider whether we ought to pass this, or any other such amendment, involving as it does increased expenditure at a time when the country can very ill afford it. I cannot understand the position that some honorable members seem to have taken up when on the recruiting platform. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. , Tudor) speaks of the lavish promises he made to the men to whom he appealed.


Mr Tudor - That every one made.


Mr MAXWELL - That every one did not make. I did as much on the recruiting platform as most honorable members, and, speaking for myself, I defy any honorable member to say that on any occasion I held out any promises to the men to whom I appealed. I made my appeal from the highest stand-point - the stand- point of their duty to the country, and to their fellows at the Front ; and I never made any promise as to what would be done for them, or given to them, on their return. I may say that I found the appeal I did make to the men an effective one. I agree with the Acting Treasurer that Australia has acted justly by the men who went to the Front, and I think, if we were to ask the average returned soldier, he would say that he has been fairly and well treated. This cooperative movement is something over and above anything that was promised, I believe, by any one to the soldiers before they went away.


Mr Higgs - But because a man went away a navvy, you would not refuse to give him a show to get out of the ruck?


Mr MAXWELL - Certainly not; but this is not necessarily a part of our repatriation scheme, and it ought to be considered apart from it. All I am contending for at present is time for consideration. I believe, with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), that this proposal is so important and farreaching in its consequences as to require a separate Bill.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - That would mean much delay.


Mr MAXWELL - It might mean delay, but what is the delay of a few weeks or months in a great movement of this kind? There is a new and great principle involved in this proposal - and we are establishing a new departure. My experience of the House, so far, has beenthat there is far too much impulsive legislation. Honorable members vote on impulse, instead of being given time for calm consideration so that their votes may be the expression of a mature opinion formed by a well-informed mind. As I have not had time to read this new amendment, I cannot honestly vote upon it, because my vote would mean nothing.

My mind is not informed. I have not had time for consideration. One para- graph catches my' eye, the one to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has drawn attention, dealing with the classes of men to whom advances will not be made. Included among them are men who in the opinion of the Commission have been satisfactorily established in civil life. It all depends on what is meant by the words " satisfactorily established in civil life." A man whom I know has come hack from the Front after four and a half years' service, and instead of loafing on .the Repatriation Department, as some men have done, and drawing sustenance for months, he, by his own endeavours, ' gol a billet after drawing sustenance for three weeks only. However, at the end of six months, for some reason or other, his employment come to an end, and when he went to the Repatriation Department to see whether they could give him further assistance or not, they said to him, "No, your case .has been dealt with." Evidently the Repatriation Department consider that he has been satisfactorily established in civil life. That being the ease, a man most deserving of sharing in the benefits of the scheme now under consideration would be told by the Repatriation Commission, "You have been satisfactorily established in civil life, and are not eligible to participate in these benefits." To make matters worse, this man, who has a wife and four children, received notice from his landlord two or three days after he became unemployed, and was called upon to leave the house upon which he had been paying rent regularly for 3ix years. This is just one phase that occurs to me, but I certainly require time to consider the whole matter. I am sorry that, I am not able to respond to the appeal of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) . I ask him now to respond to our appeal and give us a little more time for the consideration of the whole question.







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