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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr BRUCE (Minders) (Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) .- The Leader of the Opposition asked me some time ago to have the order of leave for this Bill so framed that it would not preclude the moving of , an amendment to increase the pension beyond' the amount which the Government is proposing. The Government has Laid ample notice1 from the Opposition that' it desires to deal with that' point; and, in view of that fact, the Government: will certainly not refuse to permit a vote to-be taken regarding a: larger increase' in the amount of the pension. The Government has no desire to restrict the pension to 17s. 6d. if Parliament considers that the amount should be £1, but it is only, giving, to the House an opportunity to express its opinion, and it must be clearly understood that if the House takes the. view that the Government's proposal' is- wrong, and carries an amendment that., will completely alter its financial arrangements, such action can only be interpreted: by the Government to mean that, it: has not the, confidence of the House and. of, the -people. Finance is the, main plank in the Government's, policy* The. financial statement delivered by the Treasure!, indicated how, in the opinion of the Government, the finances, of the. country', should be managed during the current! year, and that is the- Government's greatest responsibility. Its proposals havebeen submitted to Parliament after thafullest and most mature consideration,1 and it. is, recommending to the . House that the. pension be increased- by 2s. 6d. perweek, and that the regulations, be .liberal*ized in certain respects. But if the .House, resolves that the Government, must, find ; another £1,500,000 over and- above. the estimate submitted by the Treasurer- when = presenting his Budget, that decision 'must: be interpreted as, meaning that the' Government has not handled the finances- to the, satisfaction of the House* Such-., a. decision could not be accepted by any Government., Ministers will, certainly, take no advantage of a- technicality to prevent the House expressing its opinion^ but the. Government must reserve to -it* self the right to determine what the decision of the House means4 and regulateits future actions accordingly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee-:

Clause 1 - (1), This Act may ibc cited as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1923.

m.   CHARLTON (Hunter) [12.37];.-

In ord'er to immediately test the opinion of the - Committee whether the pension should.' be; 17si 6d. or £1 per week, J move-

That the word "may" be omitted.

The amendment is not moved in. any spirit: of hostility to the Government, or with the desire to embarrass it in any way* I am seeking only an expression of opinion by the Committee. If the-, amendment should be carried, the Prime Minister: will, of course, place his own construction upon the Committee's decision, but I wish him to understand' that the Opposition does not regard the amendment as hostile or vital.

Mr Bruce - I quite understand that, but the honorable member must see that the effect of the carrying of the amende ment will ' be what I have stated.

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