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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Mr MARR (Parkes) . - I intend to vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) because, by increasing the amount to be subscribed by the Government from £1 to £2 for every £1 contributed by the soldier, we will be decreasing the number of participants. A certain amount is to be allotted, and, although the Government 'intend increasing the amount, the number of men to benefit must naturally be reduced. If the Government increase the maximum amount from £250,000 to £500,000, and subsidize the soldiers' payments £1 for £1; 3,200 men would benefit, but by increasing the Government subsidy from £1 to £2 for each £1 contributed by the soldier, only 1,600 will be able to participate.

In considering this measure from the stand-point of a returned soldier, I cannot conceive of anything that can be more correctly characterized a ' f wild-cat ' ' scheme than the one embodied in the amendment. There is no one in this chamber who has the interests of the returned soldiers more at heart than I have, and I am prepared to concede that honorable members on the Opposition benches are also their supporters. But we have to recognise that they are their friends now because the war is over, and, though they are espousing their cause to-day, they kept their mouths tightly closed when the conflict was in progress, and never said one word to induce others to go forward and assist in the fight. It is all very well for members of the Country party to say that we should assist the returned soldiers by establishing them in co-operative concerns, and if we had the money I would be in favour of giving them all we reasonably could!. But can we, as members of the National Parliament and custodians of the public purse, honestly and conscientiously support this proposal when we have a national debt of approximately £740,000,000, and an additional debt of £90,000,000 to be met this year? Honorable members must nob overlook the fact that we owe Great Britain £90,000,000, and that our interest bill for the next year will fee £9,000,000 more. Who' is going to pay it?

Mr Fenton - The returned soldier will assist if you- give him a chance.

Mr MARR - He will, of course, take his share with other members of the community.

Mr Mahony - If the war had lasted for another six months, who would have found the money? '

Mr MARR - We would all have contributed'.

Mr Mahony - Then why cannot we pass this ?

Mr MARR - That is no reason why we should saddle the country with greater financial responsibilities than we have at present. If we had. the money available to finance such a proposition, I would be one of its keenest supporters. If I, as a returned soldier, thought I could organize a co-operative concern that would have the advantages that the honorable member for Grampians predicts, I would be the first to do so. I have been elected as a member of this Chamber, not merely to represent my own views, but the opinions of those who sent me here. I believe that most honorable members have the interest of their country at heart, and if they have they must admit that we should not saddle the community with additional financial obligations. Every one who has been to the war in any capacity has become more or less unsettled.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Speak for yourself.

Mr MARR - Well, I am unsettled, and every one admits that returned soldiers, although better men physically and much improved as a result of their experiences abroad, are more or less unsettled in business. By adopting this proposal we will be causing dissatisfaction and discontent in the minds of many, because men who are now fairly well placed will say, "This is a good thing, and I am on it."

Mr West - Why should they not. do so?

Mr MARR - Does the honorable member realize that of the 300,000 who went abroad, only 1,600 would be able to participate if the amendment is carried? It is an unfair proposition to a majority of the men, and if we concede the point to some we must concede it to all. Many statements have been made concerning the promises that were made to the soldiers before they embarked, but is there an honorable member prepared to say that the soldiers went to fight for what they were promised? I hope I am in a position to express the views of the soldiers, and in doing so I can say that we went abroad with higher motives than securing benefits on our return. The men who returned bodily and mentally strong are the fortunate ones; and I am loath to believe that honorable members would say that I went away because I knew that I would receive a war gratuity. A definite statement has been made that men left Australia because they were promised certain concessions on their return. That is an insult to the soldiers of Australia. We did not go to fight because we would receive a gratuity or benefits under the repatriation scheme. Considering the attention returned soldiers are receiving, I think it can be said that the Government have acted most magnanimously. There is not a member of this Chamber who can prove that co-operative concerns where the shareholders were the employees have ever been a success.

Mr Mahony - One of the largest concerns in England is successfully conducted on that basis.

Mr MARR - The honorable memberdid not give particulars to the House. I have had experience in connexion with co-operative concerns, and I know of one in Sydney where a man who had been in business for forty years handed over theconcern to four of his employees, 'who failed after two years' work, because they could not decide as to who was to be the master. If a co-operative concern were to be established by ten members of this Chamber, would they be satisfied with an equal division of the profits? I do not think so. A business to be successfully conducted must have a manager, and that is usually where the difficulty arises.

Mr Lazzarini - If what the honorable member is saying i3 true there is not much hope for the returned soldiers' co-operative concern to be established in South Australia. . .

Mr MARR - If the honorable, member can prove to my satisfaction that such undertakings are likely to be successful they will have my support. If we are to have co-operative undertakings, let them be conducted with the capital provided by those who are to participate in the profits.

When the War Gratuity Bill was before this House the Government . conceded the point that any men desiring to start a co-operative business who proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioners and the Minister that the business wa3 likely to be successful could have their bonds cashed, and that should be sufficient. If, for example, a dozen men were to contribute £100 each, an amount of £1,200 would be available to start a business. Personally I believe that we have arrived at the point when we are leaning too much on Government support; and the country that depends on the nationalization of its industries is on the downward path. When once we endeavour to dispense with private enterprise and competition we are courting failure. It would have been better if the Government bad dropped this proposal altogether and passed the Bill so that returned soldiers, particularly the blind and maimed, would have been in a position to receive the extra benefits so urgently needed. If that were done the Government could then introduce a separate measure embodying the principle under discussion, and thus enable us to have a more lengthy and profitable debate on the whole question. After the consideration this question has received I trust honorable members will, in their wisdom, vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians, because in view of our financial position I do not see how we can support it.

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