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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I lodge my protest against the manner in which the Government have introduced the Bill, as it is evident that an advantage has been taken by them to the detriment of the Opposition. Some time ago, I asked the Prime Minister to make the order of leave sufficiently wide to enable an . amendment to be moved to test "the House, and he gave me a favorable reply. Subsequently I received the same assurance from the Treasurer. :Dr. Earle Page. - My reply was that i would consider it.

Mr CHARLTON - It is futile for us to attempt to do anything for the aged people, as the Government debar the Committee from expressing any opinion or from altering the .Bill in any way. If -ever I was led to believe that the question of the increased pensions would be left to the judgment of the House, and that judgment accepted by the Government, it was this morning. Had I known that we were to be gagged I should certainly have taken action on the second reading. The 'Government refused to agree to the amendment, and made it a vital question. T said nothing about that. There are many 'improvements that could be made to the Bill by way of amendment, adding slightly to the cost, but if an amendment were proposed, involving only 2s. 6d., it could mot be put. We are wasting time in dealing with the Bill. I just now discovered, by interjection from the Treasurer, that a special message has been brought down to enable an amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The Government purposely narrowed the order in. the message to prevent us from amending any clause in the Bill, and yet they deliberately enter into a compact with >the honorable member for Fawkner ito bring down a special 'message for his benefit. If a vote had been taken, and the -majority 'of honorable members had been in favour of an increase in the pen.sion to £1, the Government could easily have brought down a further message to cover the increased cost. The honorable member .for Fawkner would have been favorable to an increase of the old-age pension.

Mr Maxwell - I promised to support the honorable member.

Mr CHARLTON - The Prime Minister cracked the -whip, and the honorable member was not able to follow his desire. Now special provision is to be made for him.

Mr Maxwell - I suggested in any speech, a week or ten days ago, that this i amendment should be accepted by the Government, and the Treasurer agreed to to.

Mr CHARLTON - I .shall support the honorable member's amendment, -as !I know that it will assist the blind. It is strange that although I made my (request three weeks ago, and obtained ia favorable reply, I have not -received .the same consideration as has the ^honorable member for Fawkner.

Dr Earle Page - That is not so.

Mr CHARLTON - It is so. We were prevented from getting a decision df this House because the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made the amendment te vital question. At least three members of the other side would have voted to increase the pension to £1. It is no credit to the Government to have prevented the House from .expressing its opinion, especially in view of the fact that seven or eight millions is at their disposal, and that the amendment would have cost: less than £1,000,000.

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