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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- One of the objections of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is that, applications for relief may be made through union secretaries. The honorable member apparently regards union secretaries as persons to be dreaded, but it is a curious fact that this House contains more union secretaries than are perhaps to be found in any other similar institution in Australia. I had the pleasure of hearing the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) proposed as the secretary of the Miners' Union at Lithgow a good many years ago. The honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and Newcastle (Mr.. Watkins), and others, including myself, have been secretaries of unions, and it is time to remove the false impression that such persons are not fitted to be intrusted with the task proposed to be allotted to them by the motion. They are, indeed, in a better position than others to carry it out. The honorable member for Melbourne must be congratulated for his at-' tempt to deal with the numerous cases requiring urgent relief in our community. His is not a drastic proposal. .Surely no one will say that, in a community such as ours, any individual should be lacking the necessaries of life. Whether the machinery proposed in the motion will achieve the object desired is another matter. It rests with the Government to elaborate a proper scheme. The principle advocated is one that finds support among the best minds in the community.' The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) made some reference to " going slow." I invite him to study the Mining

Journal.A statement was published in a recent number to the effect that in 1913 the amount which accrued to labour for every £100 of wealth created by labour was 20s. 6d.

Mr Jackson - I did not refer to the "go-slow" policy.

Mr WEST - The honorable member should be prepared to meet criticism, and to remember that his hearers often know more than he does about the subject under discussion. I invite him to compare the figures for 1913 with those of 1918. In the latter year labour received only 17s. for each £100 of wealth which it created, whereas in 1913 it received £1 0s. 6d. That suggests that there cannot be much " going slow " about the working man in these days.

An objection has been taken to the motion, that there is no money to provide what the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) seeks. There would have been ample money available if the finances of this country had been properly handled throughout the war. I have never lost an opportunity to call attention to the callous indifference of the Government, particularly in the matter of loans and loan money. No honorable member can say that there is not enough money in this country to warrant the payment of a destitution allowance. Within the past six months various public companies have increased their capital by more than £42,000,000. In ten years more than £380,000,000 has been set aside as the capital of different companies in Australia. Why are such actions as these being taken ? It is for no other reason than to avoid taxation. Owners are disposing of their properties on all sides, and for that I cannot blame them, for it is only human. Probably I might do the same if I were similarly placed; but it is my duty as a public man to call attention to what is going on. Property owners are disposing of their large holdings because they realize that future taxation must be based upon a drastic graduated scale. The delay on the part of the Government in grappling with such important problems as those of finance and the necessity for increased taxation is only injuring the country. I did not hesitate to call the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) a muddler.

Mr Fenton - Has not the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) indicated that a sum- amounting to nearly £600,000,000 to-day escapes taxation in Australia 1

Mr WEST - That is so; and what a fine opportunity it offers the Treasurer upon assuming office ! I wish that I had such a chance. I would soon get my brains to work, and it would not be long before the country would benefit. It should never have been necessary to inaugurate the latest loan. Unhappily, however, our finances have been conducted on a system of muddle. Before long, we shall have to stop borrowing. The rate of interest for redemption! of loans is continually rising. When the exTreasurer (Mr. Watt) left for England I was convinced that he had been sent on a fool's errand; and, after reading a press cablegram to the effect that the Bank of England would not lend money at a lower rate of interest than 8 per cent., to prevent undue borrowing, I tabled a motion directing the Government to inform the Treasurer that he should undertake no loans and enter into no contracts. I am heartily glad that British money-lenders are so chary about lending either to the Commonwealth or to the States at the present time.

The purpose of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is most laudable, and I strongly support it. There is nothing like sufficient provision in Australia to-day to meet hard cases. In New South Wales the State Government pays 5s. a week in a case where a child, has lost its breadwinner; and in several of the other States I understand there is a somewhat similar provision. However, this should be a Commonwealth matter. Some reference has been made to the position in which union secretaries would find themselves if thrown back upon their old avenues of employment. There are quite a lot of people, apart from union secretaries, who might have to face hardships if they were compelled to return to their former work. I can look back to the time when I used to see the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) standing thin and miserable at the pit's mouth. I do not know whether he would like to go back to his old job with unknown possibilities. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) referred to friendly societies and the assistance they aTe able t<5 give in time of sickness. I joined a friendly society when I was sixteen years of age, and I have never missed paying my contributions. I have had no help from the society, but I continue to pay. my contributions, because by so doing I help others and because otherwise I might be accused of meanness, although I am entitled to exemption by the subvention scheme of the New South Wales Government. I think that good will be the outcome of this motion. We must not believe all the harsh things we hear about people. We do not always know the causes of individual poverty.. A man often becomes destitute through no fault of his own; but even if the man is at fault my sympathies are still with him. I prefer to take account of what is good in him, and make such provision for him that he need not go about Australia hungry.

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