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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) .-- I would not haven , spoken if the last speaker had not accused the returned soldiers of being men lacking in stability and determination. He also opposed the principle of co-operation. Originally the House agreed to accept this proposal, but since it was first sent to another place it has been amended to such an extent that we do not know where we are. In the earlier part of the debate reference was made to industrial unrest, which, it was stated, has increased. Why has it increased ? We know the profiteer . has been going on unchecked, and although we have the War Precautions Act on our statute-book its provisions have been used only to serve a particular cause. I am going to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians. I hope that the Committee will give to it the support to which it is justly entitled. According to a booklet issued by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), there are engaged in vocational training 5,000 returned soldiers in New South Wales, 4,000 in Victoria, 2,000 in Queensland, 1,000 in South Australia, 1,000 in Western Australia, and 500 in Tasmania. The Department is paying them sustenance as well as training them. Their work is a distinct credit to the Government, and the quality of their output is marvellous. I saw one man who had been only four months at a trade turning out work equal in quality to that of apprentices who have been two or three years at it. Amongst these returned soldiers are some of the finest men in the Commonwealth; indeed, they have been said by our own Generals to be amongst the finest men in the world. Yet Government supporters doubt those men, and predict for them nothing but failure. They did wonders at Gallipoli and elsewhere, but now they are told that they cannot possibly do anything for themselves. The reason for this attitude on the part of the Government is their desire to please the Trusts and Combines. It would appear that the Government hold a brief for the Combines in this country.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The honorable member has no right to say such a thing.

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - I have a perfect right to do so. The way in which this proposal has been opposed is an absolute disgrace and a scandal. In connexion with the war there was a great deal of lip loyalty. Motor cars decorated with flags met the returning soldiers - -

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Atkinson - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - We should endeavour to give in some practical form the reasonable assistance which we promised to the soldiers. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) that they do not look for it; probably they do not expect it, but we promised it, and it is our duty to honour that promise to the fullest degree. I listened to the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) explaining the financial situation; his speech was loaded with common sense. But I believe that the majority of honorable members will nevertheless vote to build a bush" capital at a cost of £3,500,000. And we are told that the foundation stone of the Capitol is to be laid by the Prince of Wales. Surely, if we have money to squander in this way, we can find a few pounds with which to start additional industries. The reason for so much opposition to this co-operative scheme is that if the soldiers are given a chance- they will achieve successes that will be too great to please quite a number of companies in Victoria. This scheme will be one means of minimizing industrial unrest and of peacefully establishing a number of industries. If, having been given a chance, they fail, it will give to honorable members the argument that the profiteers have not been making so much money as is generally supposed. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and I trust that it will receive the support of the Committee. The State' Government of Victoria is already giving assistance on the £2 to £1 basis, and in one instance is advancing the whole of the money required for the establishment of freezing works. If assistance is given to the soldiers on the £1 for £1 basis, with the safeguards that have been provided, there will be no wild-cat schemes, or, if there are, the fault will He with the Minister and the Commission. All that they will require to do in administering this proposal will be to proceed carefully. I have no intention of harassing the Government, but I desire fair play, 'and I am convinced that if this scheme is given a reasonable test it will prove highly successful.

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