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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- I should like to see the measure become law, but I am not willing that we should give -way to the Senate on the matter that is under discussion. This afternoon the Minister for the Navy, as Acting Treasurer, drew a black picture of the finances of the country, but I would remind him that our financial position to-day is the same as it was when the Government accepted the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and sent it to the Senate, a few days ago. The Government was then prepared to finance co-operative soldier concerns, yet now that the Senate has rejected our proposal, the Minister for the Navy tells us of the millions that are needed for the government of the country. Our financial affairs should be well looked after, seeing that we have 'the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) now in London, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) as Acting Treasurer, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) as Assistant Treasurer, to pay regard to them.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Let us abolish the Senate.

Mr RILEY - I shall not speak on that subject, but I would remind Ministers that the establishment of successful cooperative enterprises by returned men would reduce the expenditure on sustenance, which now costs the country thousands of pounds a week.

Mr Poynton - We shall still have sustenance to pay. Directly a man got out of work, the honorable member would be the first to go to the Department for sustenance.

Mr RILEY - I have not gone to the Department for sustenance for any man, recognising that the officials had their hands full. I have not criticised the Repatriation Department. My desire, however, is to get the men off the books of the Department. In Sydney, last week, I saw returned soldiers coming out of the office in droves, after having been registered. If these men can be got to cooperate in the production of wealth, which we are told is what the country mo3b needs at the present moment, it will reduce our expenditure. Returned men are already bound together by ties of sympathy and association, and may be expected to co-operate in business very effectively. The original proposal sent to the Senate was not moved in any party spirit, but I think that that now put before us by the Government is so hedged round with restrictions and difficulties that returned men could as easily geb an advance from a bank or other institution as from the Repatriation Department. It must not be forgotten that all money advanced will be repaid with interest. Under ordinary circumstances, it may be difficult for co-operative concerns to obtain advances from the banks, and, therefor, the Government should grant assistance to them. If advances are made, the Government will be the first creditor, and will take no risk. When the Minister for the Navy spoke of the expenditure on war service homes, he appeared to forget that the cost of those homes, together with interest, will be repaid to the Treasury, and these repayments will furnish. us with a rent roll for many years. Our financial commitments in respect of soldiers' houses, I regard as reproductive, and the money that has been spent will gradually return to the Treasury. This expenditure is one of the best investments that could be made, and it is taking place under what is really a co-operative arrangement. I shall not dwell on the advantages of co-operation, because the subject is worn threadbare, but the Government would - be well advised to report progress, so that a conference might be held at which some understanding could be arrived at. I object to the dropping out of the Bill of a scheme for co-operation, in order that a new Bill may be introduced to provide for co-operation. If this Bill is put through without any provision for cooperation, the Government will feel under no obligation to bring in another Bill to provide for it. Therefore, I hope that members generally, and especially those . members who represent the soldiers, will insist that the soldiers shall be given a fair deal. There is no need to mention the directions in which cooperation might succeed ; but the Minister for the Navy must be aware that a little money put into a co-operative affair will sometimes make men independent within a few years, and the Government will in any case get back the capital it advances. No loss could be incurred by the Government because they would have first claim upon any industry established in that way.

Mr Poynton - We have had some experience of business propositions in Australia, and the assets, in some cases, have not been worth much.

Mr RILEY - I quite agree that there have been failures so far as' private businesses are concerned. There have also been failures in co-operative effort, but they do not count, because there is, in other directions, abundant evidence of the success of co-operative movements in this country. I shall vote for the retention of that portion of the Bill which will give our returned soldiers an opportunity to co-operate in industrial enterprises as well as in land matters.

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