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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) '.- The experience that members have had with this Government makes it seem quite natural that an amendment should be proposed to block any scheme' for cooperation among returned soldiers. Ashas been pointed out by the mover of one of the original amendments, the conditions in the new clause now proposed are such that very few returned soldiers would apply for Government assistanceon behalf of a co-operative business. The House decided that it would be a good thing to allow the RepatriationDepartment to advance money 'for the assistance of .co-operative undertakings on the part of returned men, but the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) put his finger on the spot when he suggested that vested interests may consider themselves menaced by this proposal. The daily increase in the cost of the necessaries of life has again called the attention of thinking men to the possibility of reducing the cost of living by the extension of co-operative enterprises, and a Government whose every actionhas shown that it will support vested interests and monopolies to the death naturally at this juncture makes a proposal which, although camouflaged, has for its object the discouragement of co-operation, fearing, perhaps, that it may go in this young country further than it has gone even, in Great Britain, where it has become a danger to vested interests. Here, co-operation might well extend from the secondary to the primary industries, and our returned men should be encouraged in co-operative effort. It has been interjected that private enterprise has nothing to fear from inefficient co-operative enterprise on the part of soldiers. That may be so; but it is not necessary that every member of a co-operative concern shall possess expert knowledge of its business undertakings. Members of a cooperation! may be at once employees, or workers, inthe business, and shareholders, having their say in the control of affairs, and drawing their part of the profits. But I expected that this Nationalist Government would fight, both here and in another place, to prevent the returned soldier from being repatriated in any better occupation, than that which he was followingbefore his enlistment. It is thought by them that if a man was breaking stones before he went away, he should he satisfied to break stones on his return; or, as has been said, that if a man was carrying a swag before he enlisted, he might regard himself as sufficiently repatriated if he were given a swag to carry on his return. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), as Acting Treasurer, spoke of our financial difficulties; yet, when the war was on, money was as nothing, and could be found for everything. All sorts of promises were made to the soldiers when they went away, and all sorts of difficulties are now being raised to prevent the fulfilment of those promises. When members of the Labour party spoke about expense in connexion with certain issues put before the people they were held up to scorn; but the Nationalist party, now that the soldiers are back, and vested interests are secure again, are not concerned with the welfare of the soldiers. They speak now of pounds, shillings, and pence, and are willing that our returned men shall have to adopt uncongenial occupations, or occupations detrimental to their health and well-being, notwithstanding their sufferings on the other side of the world. The almighty dollar is again to be set on its pedestal and worshipped, and vested interests are to be protected at any cost.

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