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Wednesday, 12 May 1920


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Instead of coming forward with, an amendment of this kind, which seeks to convey the idea that the Government are conceding what is asked for in the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), but yet gives nothing, it would have been a decent thing if the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) had gone back to his original attitude. He told us in the beginning that he could not accept the new clause submitted by the honorable member for Echuca. He said that no Government on earth would accept it. It was on such Socialistic lines that he could, not think of accepting it. Hia present proposal seems to be a case of giving with the one hand and taking back with the other. However, I rise particularly because the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has given us some- figures which prove that I contended, when speaking to -the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca, that the amount of money paid by this Government to returned soldiers in the shape of sustenance is £2,000,000.- As a matter of fact, the Acting Treasurer amply verifies my figures, and gives the answer which I intended to give to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) when he challenged my statement. I mention that in passing because it affects the amendment submitted by the Government. Under the proposal which is now before the Committee, provision would' be made for only 1,600 men. That is- to say, if the total amount of £250,000 to be provided is divided into amounts of £15®, only 1,600 men can benefit. That will go a very little way towards- satisfying' the 18,000 men who, we are told, are out of employment ' to-day, and are living, on sustenance. I should think that the number of men unemployed, and drawing, sustenance is nearer 20,000. Allow that number £2 per week each, " and the weekly bill for sustenance becomes £40,000, equal to about £2,000',000' per annum. The figures given the Committee to-day by the Minister for the Navy substantiate the state-, ment I made a few days ago, and which the Minister for Repatriation was at great pains to challenge.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I did not make that statement, and I will not allow the honorable member to thrust it upon me.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for the Navy mentioned a sum of £4,700,000, which he said included sustenance payments. I asked him how much of it represented sustenance, and he replied " £2,000,000."


Mr Poynton - He immediately afterwards withdrew the statement, and said that he did not know what the figure was.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I did not make the statement at all. It simply means that if the honorable member for Hume intends to adopt that attitude in debate, no Minister will answer any question he asks. I certainly will not.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not wish to misrepresent the Minister. If he says that he did not mention that amount--


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I did not mention it in the sense in which the honorable member is using it. I could not give the honorable members precise figures. I told him that I thought that about £2,000,000 had been spent on sustenance. Now the honorable member says that I stated that £2,000,000 was being spent on sustenance.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The total amount mentioned by the Minister was £4,700,000. Was that the expenditure for the year?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Yes.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I asked how much of it represented sustenance money, and the Minister replied "£2,000,000." If he now says that he did not mean £2,000,000 for the year, I accept his statement. However, apart from that, the fact that there are from 18,000 to 20,000 men drawing sustenance would account for an annual expenditure of about £2,000,000 per annum, and my statement to that effect a few days ago was sufficiently accurate as to be not worth contradiction by the Minister for Repatriation. The proposal which this Committee adopted at the instance of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) in the first place, would have provided an excellent opportunity for many of the men who very often, through no fault of their own, are compelled to draw sustenance from the Department. If they were provided with a chance of engaging in a co-operative business, the Department would be relieved of an expenditure for which it gets no return, whilst the men themselves would be deriving some of the benefits of that new world for labour which we were told was to come into being after the war. But according to the scheme put forward by the Government there is to be no new world for labour; men are to go back into the old grooves in which they worked before the war. If in the opinion of the Commission applicants for loans under the proposalwe are now considering have been satisfactorily re-established in civillife, theywill get no assistance to embark on any business venture. Many of the soldiers who have returned to their old employment have all the qualifications necessary to achieve success in saw-milling, bootmaking, and other industries. But, according to the terms of the clause suggested by the Government, men who have returned to their former employment will be deemed to be finally repatriated, and ineligible for the benefits of this scheme. There is nothing in this amendment to indicate any honest desire on the part of the Government to redeem their promise to give to the soldiers opportunities commensurate with the great sacrifices they have made for this country during the war. Paragraph b of sub-clause 7 provides that no assistance shall be given "unless the applicants satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on that business." How is the question of qualification to be decided? Are the members of the Commission to be Jacks of all trades, orwill they employ a magic wand which will disclose whether a man has qualifications to make a success of a particular business? That paragraph alone is sufficient to unduly limit the assistance to be given to returned soldiers.


Mr Bowden - We could hardly give it indiscriminately.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree that there must be some discrimination, but I cannot see how this provision will operate. Some members of the Commission may be men without any industrial or technical training. How can they judge upon that question? A man who to-day is earning £3 or £4 at his old employment, may have particular qualifications for conducting a saw-milling business. Under the Government's alternative proposal, he would have no opportunity, because he might not have given any evidence that he had the necessary qualifications. Paragraphsb and d of sub-clause 7 impose limitations which destroy the whole scheme, and they are in themselves sufficient to make me vote against the Government proposition. I am quite in accord with those who desire that the consideration of this matter should be postponed, in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to look more closely into it, because the two paragraphs to which I have just referred satisfy me that we should not entertain the scheme as it stands.







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