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Friday, 31 August 1928

Mr COOK (Indi) .- We have reached a stage when works that are not reproductive should be shelved until the conditions improve. The construction of a war memorial at Canberra could be postponed, with advantage to the nation. That building, when completed, will have cost probably £300,000. Through the length and breadth of Australia tangible proof of the people's recognition of the loyalty and devotion of those of our manhood who participated in the great war has already been given. As this work will not be reproductive, greater advantages would accrue if the sum which it is proposed to expend upon it were diverted into other channels.

I am of the opinion also that the sum of £75,000 which the Government proposes to advance towards the cost of reconstructing the road from Canberra to Goulburn could be expended more reproductively upon other works. A road from Canberra to Tumut, which has been advocated by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), would open up a large area of grazing and agricultural country, and thus enlarge the opportunities for settlement. I have traversed by motor car the country between Canberra and Goulburn, and its quality is not such as is likely to encourage closer settlement. There -are thousands of settlers who at the present time are not provided with a decent road for the carriage of their wheat, wool and fruit, and they are at their wits' end to make sufficient to pay interest on their overdrafts. I trust that these estimates will be scrutinized carefully, and that the Government will be instructed to postpone those works which will not be immediately reproductive. At the present time, a government loan is a more attractive proposition to the people than industrial undertakings, on account of the frequency with which disturbances arise in the industrial world. It is regrettable that unemployment is so widespread. Causes other than those over which governments can exercise control are largely responsible for that lamentable state of affairs. Recently I visited the northern part of Queensland, where I found that both interstate and overseas shipping was tied up, and cane could not be shipped despite the fact that there were over 200 able-bodied men willing to undertake the work of loading it into the ships. Reports of occurrences of that description discourage people from investing their capital in industries. We should make it our business to see that a decent return is obtained for the expenditure we incur. With many works that is not the case at the present time. I am satisfied that throughout the country districts of Australia many hundreds of men could be given profitable employment if the landowners were able to pay the rate of wage demanded.

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