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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa)

I protest against the action of the Government in tying the hands of honorable members and refusing to amend the Bill. Honorable members have pointed out anomalies and suggested improvements, but no amendments are permitted, since the appropriation cannot be increased. This action has been taken by the Treasurer, a gentleman who in the last Parliament frequently stated that the expenditure of the Government should not be influenced by party considerations, but should be discussed by the whole House and subjected to analysis, criticism and amendment by honorable members. We have to take the clause or leave it. As it is a slight improvement on the present law, it cannot be rejected. The honorable members for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and Batman (Mr. Brennan), have suggested important amendments, and it is unfortunate that the Government have shackled Parliament to the extent that honorable members cannot give an expression of opinion ou them. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) a few moments ago, by interjection, indicated clearly that the recent vote on the amount of the pension was not a test of the House, and it is evident that the vote on this clause will not be a true expression of the wishes of this Parliament. The Treasurer assumes that credit is due to the Government because this is the first alteration that has been made to the clause. To some extent they deserve that credit. The Government, in fixing the property value at £400 have increased it by £90, but since 1910, when the pension was first granted, the value of money has depreciated to a greater extent than is indicated by this increase. On the correct basis the value allowed should be at least £500, and -there is no reason why the Government should not fix this amount. The Treasurer stated that we should not look a gift horse in the mouth. I resent very much any reference to the old-age pensions as a gift.

Dr Earle Page - I did not say that at all. I implied that the Opposition were speaking as though it were a gift.

Mr LAZZARINI - Any increase in the old-age pension is an act of justice, and I hope, even at this la.te hour, that the Government will increase the value of property allowed to £500. The Government have made this Bill a vital question, and I know that honorable members opposite must vote with them They seem to have made up their minds that the Government must live and the Prime Minister go abroad; therefore, T suppose that even if we moved an amendment it would not be carried. I protest against the Government shackling its sup- porters. What is the good of the Committee even discussing the clauses, if we are powerless to increase the appropriation. .

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