16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the uninformed statements recently published in the press concerning the opening of the Government Malt House and theproduction of malt in Queensland, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate of the true position?
– Some weeks ago, an inquiry was instituted. It disclosed that, if the proportion of beer supplies allotted to civilian consumers) - 7,200,000 gallons a month - was to be maintained subsequent to Maynext, it would be necessary for some organization to ensure that sufficient malting barley should be grown. This matter is being handled at present by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. As honorable senators are aware, a further factor to be considered is that malt is made in the cool months of the year, principally in Victoria. A committee, consisting of the Assistant Comptroller-General ofCustoms, Mr. Wilson, the head Excise Officer in Victoria, Mr. Thompson, a representative of the maltster interests, Mr.Burston, and an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs has been appointed, and is engaged on the task of ensuring that a sufficient crop of barley shall be grown - the principle producing States are Victoria and South Australia - and that to those States in which there is a shortage such supplies of malt shall be made available as will ensure the maintenance of a maximum supply of 7,200,000 gallons of beer a month, which quantity has been found sufficient to meet the normal beer-drinking requirements of the Australian community. Man-power is involved to a certain degree, and arrangements are being made to have it released for this purpose. The British Governmen has ensured that there shall not be a diminution of the supplies of beer in Britain, and has even gone so far as to release men from the army for the purpose of having them maintained. The honorable senator is agitated concerning misinformation published in certain Queensland newspapers, to the effect that the Toowoomba malt works were to be opened and that malt made there was to be sent to the southern States. Obviously, that is absurd ; because whatever shortage there may be exists in Queensland, which is a tremendous defence operational base. Prior to the order prohibiting the interstate movement of beer, large quantities were imported into Queensland from Victoria and New South Wales. It is obvious, therefore, that supplies of malt must be provided uninterruptedly. Arrangements to this end have been made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice-
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers -
Appointments of Officers in New South Wales.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers -
I move -
That the amendments of the Women’s Employment Regulations, contained in Statutory Rules 1942, No. 548, and made under the Women’s Employment Act 1942, be disallowed.
I make no complaint concerning the regulation of women’s wages and conditions of labour. The worst fears entertained by Opposition senators when the Women’s Employment Bill was placed before them last year have been not merely fulfilled, but also exceeded. Such confusion, unfairness, and danger have been associated with the conduct of industry that these regulations should be disallowed. We wish the Government to realize that two bodies dealing with the same class of work and having the same objective cannot operate without inevitably causing overlapping and confusion. Although some of the other regulations are objectionable also, the regulation to which I direct particular attention is regulation 7a, which deals with what is known as the common rule; it makes the following provision : -
The board, when giving its decision on any application under the preceding provisions of these regulations or at any subsequent time, and, in the case of any decision in force by virtue of the act, at any time, may extend the application of the decision to any other employers or to all employers or to all employers included in a specified class of employers employing any females on work of a substantially similar nature to that of the work in respect of which the application was made or the decision was given, and the decision shall thereupon be binding on those employers, the employees of those employers and the organizations to which those employees belong in like manner as if those employers were specified in the decision.
Honorable senators will remember the controversy in connexion with the original women’s employment regulations and the subsequent legislation. This latter practically gave to the Women’s Employment Board the right to mark its own ticket. It contained certain schedules, and the remarkable provision which gave to the board power in respect of the following: -
The repeal or alteration of or addition to any of the provisions of the schedules in this act relating to the employment of women.
If the board found in the law any provision which it did not like, it could alter that provision at any time. It was given an absolutely free hand, and, as I have said, could mark its own ticket, without any restriction which would make its operation workable. Honorable senators on this side pointed out the difficulties which the board inevitably would encounter. Those difficulties have since occurred, and injustices have become more apparent with the passage of time. I shall later cite a number of examples in proof of the correctness of my statement. I desire that honorable senators shall realize that the procedure of the board transcends all conception of ordinary British justice. In a court of law, both sides have the right to be heard and are afforded the opportunity to state their case. Sub-regulation 3 of regulation 6 of the National Security (Industrial
Peace)Regulations, which relates to a common rule in industry, reads -
That regulation has been ignored entirely by the board, which has adopted another procedure. It would appear that the board has displayed the valor of ignorance. Like a group of boys who have found a detonator and want to find out how it works, the Women’s Employment Board has caused an explosion in industry, with the result that no employer knows where he stands. There is now differentiation between the wages paid to women workers performing the same class of work; experienced workers are governed by awards of the Arbitration Court, whilst inexperienced workers are governed by awards of the Women’s Employment Board. The result is that the inexperienced women are being paid higher rates of wages than are paid to experienced women.
– The position is quite the reverse in connexion with the production of munitions.
– It is probable that awards of the Women’s Employment Board are costing the Government from £3,500,000 to £5,000,000 a year more than would otherwise be the case. That, in turn, affects the cost of living. When a board, without consulting either the parties concerned or the Government, issues an award providing for a common rule, which costs the Government approximately an additional £5,000,000 a year, it is little wonder that the Government has under-estimated its war expenditure and cannot meet its financial obligations. In this matter the Government is helpless.
I desire now to quote the opinion of one of the greatest industrial experts in Australia -
My present impressions of the mischief of regulation 7a are -
1 ) It does not require any notification by the board of its intention to consider the making of a common rule.
It does not provide any opportunity for interested parties to be heard.
It apparently overrides the duty of the board, under regulation6 (8) to consider various factors, before making its decisions.
It is in marked contrast to the pro cedure laid down by the Industrial Peace Regulations (S.R. 290/1940, Reg. C) for the making of common rules by the Arbitration Court.
I am forced to the conclusion that it is a “ last throw “ to save the board from the ignominy of confessing that it cannot cope with its work.
The board’s first two efforts at the making of common rules gives me these impressions -
The precepts of natural justice have a very minor place in the board’s jurisprudence.
The consequence of its inexperience are plainly revealed.
Its main concern is to relieve its con gestion, and not to give effect to the provisions of regulation 6 (8).
Its common rules have been either little considered, or carelessly prepared, as they overlap one another, and also its own earlier decisions.
Unimaginable confusion and embarrassment to industry will be occasioned as common rules multiply.
I draw particular attention to the sentence “Unimaginable confusion and embarrassment to industry will be occasioned as common rules multiply “.
I presume that the Government had in mind that all women in industry performing similar work should be paid similar wages. I have no particular objection to that, so long as the wage is prescribed by one authority. At present, however, we have two authorities. The metal trades award of the Arbitration Court prescribes that women shall be paid about 60 per cent. of the wage paid to men, but the Women’s Employment Board has decided that women shall get 90 per cent. of the wage paid to men. National SecurityRegulations issued on the 10th February, 1942, made it illegal for any person to pay more for any work than was laid down by awards applying to such work. In this case, wages have been prescribed by the Arbitration Court, and therefore no employer, even if he wishes to do so, may pay more than those rates. How will the Government overcome that obligation?
– -It could apply to the court for a variation.
– Not only are employers forbidden to pay more than the pegged wage, but, in addition, the Department of Munitions refuses to sanction wages in excess of the legal rate. It will be seen, therefore, that even should the employer pay more than the award rate, he will not be recouped the extra cost by the Treasury. At the same time, industry is threatened with strikes unless wages under the Arbitration Court’s award are brought up to the rates prescribed by the Women’s Employment Board. In such circumstances dissatisfaction is inevitable. The full Arbitration Court has been asked to indicate the meaning of some of its rules. That is what employers now seek - some light on the matter. They want to know what they can legally do. When they applied to the Arbitration Court, the court did not give a decision : it merely expressed the opinion that classification, not the job, was the deciding factor. I shall give one or two illustrations in order to show the need to reconcile the awards of these two authorities. There are five annexes in Melbourne all manufacturing practically the same articles. In only one of them were process workers previously employed. Some male juniors who previously did this class of work have been replaced by women. In those cases it is easy to enforce the award providing that women shall be paid 90 per cent of the male rate. In the other establishments where no process workers had previously been employed women are now engaged on process work. Under the act those women may be paid only 60 per cent. of the male rate. The position, therefore, is that one firm has to pay the women 90 per cent. of the male rate whilst the other firms are paying only 60 per cent. of the male rate.
– The position can be met by paying them all 90 per cent. of the male rate.
SenatorLECKIE. - No; the employers are forbidden to do that. They cannotpav more than the statutory wage laid down by the Arbitration Court. Even of they did so, the Department of Munitions would not pay for the goods on that basis, so that the manufacturer would not be recouped his extra cost.
SenatorCameron. - An exception is made in respect of women who replace men.
– These process workers are not replacing men and therefore the employer is not allowed to pay them 90 per cent. of the male rate.
– Unless the Arbitration Court award is varied.
– That is so. We have now two authorities - the Arbitration Court and the Women’s Employment Board. I do not say that 60 per cent of the male rate is enough, or nearly enough, to pay women, but as that is the rate laid down by the Arbitration Court it is all that employers may legally pay. In order to show that the board does not, and cannot, deal with all classes of work, I draw attention to regulation 6 of the schedule of the Women’s Employment Regulation, 1942, No. 55, which reads -
Where an employer has, since the second day of March, 1942, employed, is employing, or proposes to employ, females on work which is usually performedby males or work which was, prior to that employment of females, or is, performed by males in the establishment of that employer, or is work which, prior to that employment or proposed employment of females, was not being performed in Australia by any person, the employer shall, unless an application in relation to that employment has already been made, forthwith make application to the Board for a decision in accordance with this regulation.
The jurisdiction of the Women’s Employment Board relates only to those females who replace men. In one establishment in Sydney 600 females are now doing work which previously was performed by 300 males and 300 females. In other words, 300 of the present employees have displaced men, and, therefore, under the Women’s Employment Board they have to be paid 90 per cent. of the male rate. The women who have been working there all the time, and doing exactly the same work, are receiving, under the Arbitration Court award which applies to them, only 60 per cent. of the male rate. The anomaly is immediately apparent. The experienced workers are getting only £3 12s. a week, while the inexperienced workers, who have just been brought in to replace male workers, are getting £5 ls. a week, in addition to which they receive a bonus of £30 in the form of retrospective pay to September last. It was impossible for any employer to foresee the action of the “Women’s Employment Board, and so to prepare , for it. I know of one firm which has had to provide £9,000 back pay, whilst another has had to provide £11,000. Several have had to provide as much as £5,000. They had done nothing wrong; they paid their employees the full award rate, yet they have been compelled to find sums as high as £11,000 in some instances simply because they employ female workers. Manufacturers arranged their prices with the Department of Munitions on the assumption that their wages bill would be so much; then, suddenly, they have been compelled to provide large sums of money with which to make retrospective payments. It is obvious what possibilities there are of an industrial disturbance in the fact that one-half of the employees of the factories receive £5 ls. a week, whilst the other half, doing exactly the same work, receive only £3 12s. No one can expect the girls who are receiving the lower wage to accept such treatment without protest. What is the remedy for this trouble? I have no suggestion to offer. In the case of one factory in Melbourne, process workers were not previously employed, and so the women process workers now employed there are not replacing men. Therefore, they are paid the Arbitration Court award rates. In another factory, male juniors were previously employed, so the women who have taken their places must be paid at the higher rate prescribed by the Women’s Employment Board. The employers have now been served with a notice that a strike will begin on the 21st March unless all employees are paid 90 per cent, of the male rate. Surely the Government cannot ignore a threat of that kind. Unless there is to be widespread industrial disturbance and dislocation of industry, some action must be taken. When the proposal to constitute the Women’s Employment Board was before Parliament, we pointed out that the fixing of wages for women might very well be left to the Arbitration Court, which was experienced in such matters, but the Government thought differently. It said : “ We shall have a Women’s Employment Board to remedy all these evils.” Honorable senators must be able to see by now that the board has not removed the evils. It is not a question of rates of wages with the employers; they are prepared to pay whatever the court prescribes, but they want to know where they stand. They want to know how much they should pay, and the classifications under which they should ,pay it.
In Melbourne, two firms engaged in the manufacture of dry batteries are in open competition with each other. One of them employed male workers before this new provision came into operation; the other employed only women. The first firm must now pay to the women workers who have replaced the males 90 per cent, of the male rate, whilst its competitor, which has always employed women, continues to pay them only 60 per cent, of the male rate. This situation is opposed to the provisions of the Industrial Peace Regulations, in which it is prescribed that the wage-fixing authority “shall pay due regard to the extent to which industries or persons affected are likely to enter into competition with one another “. However, the board Days no attention to that aspect of the matter. It does mot hear both sides. It has jumped into this issue, and made a decision on its own account. I know that it will be said that the employers are represented on the hoard, but that is not actually a fact. It may be literally true, but the employers are not, in fact, represented. The employers have only one representative out of four, and even he was not appointed by them. The employers, seeing the unbalanced nature of the board, declined to have anything to do with it, insisting that they should have fair representation. The Government looked around and found a “ Quisling “. It is always possible to find a “ Quisling “ to “ rat “ on his organization. This person was appointed to the board, and is now paraded as the representative of the employers. Of course, he does not represent the employers at all; he is merely a puppet. The employers will not have anything to do with the board because they see that it is unfair and lopsided.
– Is membership of the employers’ organization compulsory ?
– No, of course it is not. In another case in Melbourne, no male process workers were employed in the factory before the new determination was made. Now, women have been employed. The employer was quite prepared to pay them £5 ls. a week, but he was precluded from doing so by the Arbitration Court award, which prescribed that they should receive only 60 per cent, of the male rate. This manufacturer employed women storing and packing small articles, wort formerly done by storemen and packers. Because they replaced men, they had to be paid £5 ls. a week, although none of them had ever done that sort of work before. Thus, part of the staff is receiving only £3 12s. a “week, whilst the others are receiving £5 ls. Obviously, the seeds of trouble exist in that situation.
It is estimated that the retrospective provision of the award of the Women’s Employment Board in respect of the “metal trades industry represents a .fine on the employers representing £750,000. Honorable senators opposite may be opposed to manufacturers, but surely they retain some sense of ordinary justice, and realize that it is not just that manufacturers should be fined £750,000 for doing what the law prescribes. The employers are utterly helpless unless the Government does something for them. If these regulations be disallowed, it will be a help, but it will not remove the trouble. The disallowance might prevent some strikes, and remove some of the confusion, but there must be trouble so long as the Women’s Employment Board remains in existence. The Government should have only the one authority to fix wages. There must be confusion so long as there are two authorities which make overlapping or conflicting awards. The employers are not asking that wages be reduced; they merely want to know where they stand. The Chambers of Manufactures in Melbourne and in Sydney are inundated every day with requests from employers who are seeking to know where they stand with regard to this and other matters. It must he obvious to the Government that its present situation is untenable, and that immediate action is necessary to remedy it. The diffi culties which have been created for industry cannot he overstated, and there exists a .very real danger of a complete industrial upheaval which would hinder the war effort, and interfere with the supply of munitions. The disallowance of these regulations will remove some, but not all, of the evils which have arisen as the result of the establishment of the Women’s Employment Board. It does not understand its task; but is merely playing with it. The disallowance of these regulations will prevent injustice from being done to employers in the way I have indicated. The employers themselves have not been consulted as to whether their female employees, previously covered by awards of the Arbitration Court, should be brought under awards of the board. The result is that many employers do not know where they stand. In those circumstances, we should prevent injustice from being done not only to employers but also to employees. We can do that by disallowing these regulations, and intimating to the Government that it should investigate the whole matter with a view to devising a scheme which will give justice to the employers and employees, and, at the same time, prevent the industrial upheaval which I foresee will otherwise occur in the immediate future.
– I support the motion. I ask honorable senators to take their minds back to the debate which took place in this chamber when the motion proposed by the Opposition to disallow the previous regulations setting up the Women’s Employment Board was carried. On that occasion, speaker after speaker on this side of the chamber emphasized that the setting up of new machinery to deal “with the employment of women in industry in the place of men, which is a matter of farreaching importance, was likely to cause many difficulties. We were told by supporters of the Government that the motive behind that motion was our dislike of the woman who had been appointed to the board by the Government as an employers’ representative. We took the view that she was not a bona fide representative of the employers. However, our main objective in moving for the disallowance of the regulation on that occasion was because we foresaw that the establishment of the
Women’s Employment Board to deal with this- matter would cause industrial chaos To-day, those fears have been justified. Confusion has been caused in industry. We again submit that the only way to deal with the employment of women in industry is through the machinery of the Arbitration Court. Honorable senators opposite contend that this matter cannot be dealt with by the court without causing further delay in the hearing of claims normally made fo the court. The machinery of the court can easily be extended to enable the court to deal with the employment of women in industry during the war.
– The Arbitration Court is already congested.
– The court has been congested on various occasions in the past, but steps have, been taken to overcome that congestion. Some years ago, various trade unions complained because of delay in the hearing of their claims. They had every justification for such complaints. There is nothing more irritating to a -body of men who are anxious to have their grievances dealt with than to find that the court must continually postpone consideration of their case owing to congestion. However, various governments in the past have remedied congestion with the result that claims are now dealt with more expeditiously. Senator Large has had much tQ do with industrial arbitration affairs. No doubt, he will remember that when the craft unions complained that applications on behalf of public service associations were preventing the court from hearing claims by other unions, the government of the day appointed a Public Service Arbitrator to deal with all claims made by public service associations. That relieved the congestion which then existed. Further, additional judges have been appointed during recent years. If congestion still exists in the Arbitration Court, the Opposition would not object to the appointment of additional judges in order to expedite the hearings of claims. That would be a. practical remedy. Despite its imperfections our industrial machinery has much to recommend it; and in many respects it enables industrial disputes to be dealt with more effectively than similar machinery deals with them in any other country. Our Arbitration Court has settled many serious disputes. Unfortunately, some disputes cannot be settled by the best arbitration machinery.
– Is not the employment of women in industry in place of men during the war a new problem entirely ?
– I do not think so. A large volume of women labour is normally employed in industry; and in the past both the State and Commonwealth Arbitration Courts, practically since the inception, have been dealing with the employment of women.
– No Arbitration Court has previously dealt with a problem of this kind.
– I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that when it first became apparent that many men would have to be replaced by women in industry, the problem was foreseen not only by the Attorney-General of the day, but also the judges of the Arbitration Court. The court actually commenced to deal with the problem, and made considerable progress towards finding ways and means of facilitating the absorption of women in industry and deciding rates of pay and conditions of employment for women. However, the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), for reasons best known to himself, stepped in and set up the Women’s Employment Board to deal with this matter, taking it entirely out of the hands of the court. The result, as Senator Leckie has pointed out, has been chaos in industry. To-day, employers do not know where they stand in relation to the employment of women. Their exasperation and dissatisfaction are shared by the employees. How can we expect employers or employees in a particular industry to be satisfied when some female employees, who normally are employed in the industry, come under awards of the Arbitration Court, and others come under awards made by the Women’s Employment Board ? The wages, conditions and hours of women who are normally employed in the industry are fixed by the Arbitration Court, whereas women who are now being absorbed in industry to take the place of men, and who, at the conclusion of the war, will relinquish their employment, come under awards made by the Women’s Employment Board. No attempt is made to establish uniformity between the awards of the Arbitration Court and those of the Women’s Employment Board. It is very difficult to ascertain exactly upon what principles many of the awards of the board are based. Indeed, in many instances one would imagine that the board fixes wages merely by thinking of a number and doubling it. Senator Leckie has cited cases of employers who, because of this confusion, have been called upon to make retrospective payments amounting to £11,000 in one instance and £9,000 in another.
– And in several other instances employers will have to make retrospective payments amounting to £5,000.
– In none of those cases has the employer endeavoured in any way whatever to evade his responsibilities. His difficulty has arisen simply because under present conditions he has been unable to get a ruling as to whether female employees come under awards of the Women’s Employment Board or those of the Arbitration Court. He has under-paid some employees quite innocently. Employers have always been prepared to pay the rates they should pay. Probably, any additional cost incurred in that way should be met by clients on whose behalf contracts were being carried out.
– Do not all contracts with respect to supplies for the Government cover such a contingency?
– Apparently, that is not the case in the instances cited by Senator Leckie. He stated that the employer who had become liable to make retrospective payments amounting to £11,000 had applied to the Government for reimbursement, and that the Government had refused to pay that amount. Many Ministers make no secret of the fact that one of the ultimate aims of the Labour party is the socialization of industry.
– Exactly what does the honorable senator mean by “the socialization of industry”?
– I should like to know what the Minister for Aircraft Production means by it.
– The honorable senator used the term. What does he mean by it?
– One of the principal planks of the platform of the Labour party is the socialization of the means of production and distribution.
– And exchange.
– The honorable senator has still not explained what he means by the expression.
– As the socialization of industry is a plank of the platform of the Labour party, the Minister for Aircraft Production should be able to explain it.
– I am prepared to explain it.
– The Minister has been a member of the Labour party practically from the time he could walk and talk, and I expected him to know the policy of the party that he has supported for so many years.
– We have socialized production. Now we desire to socialize distribution.
– One thing which I like about the Minister is his frankness. He is perfectly candid. He admits that the Labour party has socialized production and now desires to socialize distribution.
– That is the inevitable result of the economic process which we are now experiencing.
– Our objection is that the Labour party is trying to achieve its objective, not by legislation, as would be proper, but by regulation.
– Australia has adopted the democratic form of government. If the Labour party told the people frankly that its objective was to socialize the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the people returned the party to office with a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, honorable senators on this side of the chamber would have no ground for complaint.
– Does not the honorable senator realize that the war is compelling a greater measure of governmental control of industry?
– I do not admit that. My objection is that the Government is using the war as an excuse to introduce socialization by regulations issued under the National Security Act. Ministers know perfectly well that if they told the electors that their object was the socialization of industry, they would not “get away with it “.
– Private enterprise has fallen down on the job.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to address his remarks to the motion for the disallowance of these regulations. The motion contains no reference to the socialization of industry.
– I agree, Mr. President, that the motion submitted by Senator Leckie does not deal definitely with the socialization of industry; but the purpose of the regulations promulgated by the Government in connexion with the “Women’s Employment Board is to assist to promote one of the objectives of the Labour party, namely, the socialization of industry.
– The honorable senator is not in order in pursuing that subject.
– I shall endeavour to observe your ruling, Mr. President, as I shall always do, because. I have a great personal respect for you, as well as for your rulings.
On the 28 th and 29 th January last, the “Women’s Employment Board1 made two determinations covering the aircraft and metal trades industries. A number of applications, some from individual companies, had been made, and the board saw fit to apply a “ common rule “ to all these industries in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The “ common rule “ meant that some thousands of employers, who had not been served with notification, either documentary or by notice in the Gazette, awakened one morning to find that a gross transgression of natural justice had taken place. Although they had been unaware of any hearing that might have affected their enterprise, they were ordered to increase the pay of certain classes of female employees by £1 6s. a week, the increase to be retrospective for approximately 23 weeks. As the result of these determinations, one employer will have to pay arrears amounting to £9,000. Another employer will have to pay £11,000. These are not isolated instances. Considerable resentment has been expressed by many of the employers at being compelled, without an opportunity to make adjustments of contracts or prices, to bear the financial liability entailed in this unprecedented decision. The determination itself is vague, and some of its terms cannot be understood.
Meanwhile, various unions, particularly the Iron Workers Association and the Sheet Metal Workers Union, have been harassing employers to pay the new scale of wages to nearly all female workers; but employers have adopted the policy of waiting until they learn the desires of the Government and the ruling of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Industry is now carrying on under great difficulties, including heavy taxation, innumerable regulations, and a welter of departmental instructions. At the shortest notice, industries are expected to effect alterations of the types of work being undertaken, and to make rapid changeovers from one kind of production to another in order to keep pace with the new demands of modern warfare. Firms simply cannot carry on legitimate business if they do not know their exact obligations, or if, without warning, they are ordered to pay to employees increased wages and substantial arrears.
The policy of the Government affects not only employers but also employees. Earlier, I referred briefly to the anomalous position of many female employees. Senator Leckie cited the case of a manufacturer of dry batteries in Victoria. Many of his female employees had worked in his factory since leaving school, and had become most proficient. They were governed by an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which had functioned satisfactorily. From time to time, they applied for increases of pay and some applications had been granted.
– Their wages are now pegged.
– That is correct. Undoubtedly, the general arbitration system operating in Australia was satisfactory to them. But their wages have been pegged. No matter how valuable their work may be, or how proficient they may be, they are not permitted to be paid more than the amount determined by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The war has brought into their industry a new kind of female employee who, in normal circumstances, would not be earning her living. As the result of the appeal by the Prime Minister, or action by the man-power authorities, other women have found employment in the factory, but they work on a basis entirely different from the conditions of the female employees who are governed by the award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Many of the newcomers receive more pay than the original workers, whose whole life has been associated with the manufacture of dry batteries. That system is most inequitable. From the beginning, the Government has bandied this matter in an amateurish manner. When Senator Leckie was speaking Senator Courtice interjected that the problem had been most difficult. Every honorable senator was aware of that fact. But because the problem was difficult, we considered that it should have been handled not by a set of amateurs but by experts. The judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the registrars and the staffs, who have made exhaustive study of the settlement of industrial disputes, and the determination of rates of pay and conditions for workers, are infinitely more competent to deal with this problem than is the Women’s Employment Board.
Senator Leckie also pointed out that the employers have no representation on the board, although their money, inventive genius and labour are responsible for building up the huge industries of this country. In making that statement, I do not ignore the fact that without the skilled labour of the workers they could not have achieved their successes. But those employers have been the directing force behind industry. Many of them began in a humble way with back-room factories, or “ small shops “, but their inventive genius, driving force and the investment of their own capital enabled them gradually to expand their enterprises to their present magnitude. Yet none of those employers has a voice in making the determinations of the Women’s Employment Board.
– The employers had an opportunity to be represented.
– Senator Courtice knows perfectly well that the employers were not given equitable representation. The board consists of a chairman and four members; but the employers never had more than one representative. A pseudo representative of the employers was really a representative of the unions. At present the employers have no representative. When they were previously represented, their delegate was so consistently outvoted that his attendance at the meetings of the board was a waste of time. As Senator Leckie stated, there is now a “ loaded “ board of five employees’ representatives.
– That is the position.
– It is worse than that. The board apparently doss not give an employer a chance to be heard before it makes its common rule.
– No. It is quite apparent that the board does, not give the individual an opportunity to be heard, because the first time that he knows that he is interested in anything that the board has done is when he gets a bill for £11,000 back pay. That is the first knowledge he has that the board has even been sitting in relation to his industry. What sort of Government is it that allows such things to go on? If all the other members of the Government agree with the statement which Senator Cameron made just now, by way of interjection, that socialization of industry is to be the policy of the Government and of the country, then I ask them not to introduce it. through this board. But if they are going to do it in that way, .then I hope that they will admit fairly and frankly what they are about, so that we can fight them on this issue. Without the great secondary industries of Australia, our war effort would never have been able to accomplish a fraction of what it has done.
– If the Government had not bolstered them up, they would have failed long ago.
– This Government, and also the Government of which we were members, have only assisted those industries which already had their foundations laid. These Governments have quite rightly and justifiably helped industries to build themselves up. When additional capital, which private individuals could not provide, was needed it was quite right that the Government should give assistance, but when those industries first came into existence their creators had no knowledge that they were likely at only a few days’ notice to be asked to increase their production fifteen or twenty fold. Their plant had been put in and their capital arranged, and enough people were employed to cater for what was then simply a local market. It would have been foolish for them in those days to put down .plant and machinery to produce the abnormal requirements of a world war. It would have been the reverse of economical to do so, because nobody could foresee that these circumstances were likely to arise. The present Government has simply acted wisely by going to the people who had the plant and the knowledge, and their industries already established, and saying to them. “ With financial or other assistance we want you to use your factories for the purpose of attaining a still greater production for war purposes “. However, the Government should not put all these powers in the hands of the Women’s Employment Board, and claim that it is all a part of the war effort, when really it is trying to introduce its policy of socializing industry. In a recent debate in the House of Representatives on the coal-mining industry, I heard the Minister for Labour- and National Service (Mr. Ward) state definitely that the only solution of the problem was to nationalize the coal industry. From what I know of some of the strikes that have occurred in State-owned coal-mines, I do not think that the nationalization of the coal industry would carry us much further. I remember also what occurred in the way of strikes in connexion with the shipping line that the Commonwealth once owned.
– On a point of order, I submit that strikes in coal-mines have not anything to do with the motion before the Chair.
– They have not, but I inferred that Senator Foll intended to make only a passing reference to the subject.
– I shall not attempt to go into it further, but when I see so many little shops in suburban areas shut up by government action and the Government waging war on private enterprise of every kind, and killing the thrift and initiative of individuals by bringing everything under government control, I find it hard to keep silent.
– The honorable senator is not in order in pursuing that line of argument. I warned the honorable senator earlier that such remarks had nothing to do with the motion submitted by Senator Leckie for the disallowance of certain regulations. I again ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I shall do so. I reiterate that many of the ‘pitfalls and difficulties which have arisen in the realm of industry have been caused by the amateurish and incompetent way in which the Women’s Employment Board has handled matters coming within its jurisdiction. It has brought about a state of chaos, although we warned the Government not once but twenty times that that would be the result of its action. The Government had at its disposal the Arbitration Court to which it could have appointed additional judges. If that had been done, no difficulties would have been raised on this side of the chamber, but the Government went on in its own sweet way, ignoring the advice given to it by us from time to time, with the result that employers working under the awards of the board simply do not know where they stand. Their whole war effort is being injured and retarded by the board’s incompetent handling of industrial affairs. May I mate this one la?t appeal to the Government? We on this side of the Senate will not rub the noses of Ministers in the dirt if they now admit straight out that they have made an error, and abolish the board. We on this side, with our wider experience of industrial matters, can afford to be generous to the Government. I am speaking not only for myself but also for my colleagues, who, I am sure, have the same generous and even softhearted feeling towards the Government as I have. Let the Government now admit that it has erred, and mend its ways before this trouble goes any further, by doing away with a board which is only causing confusion.
– And do away with the Arbitration Court too, I suppose?
– I do not want the Arbitration Court abolished. I know that the honorable senator does not agree with the court, except when it gives a decision his way. Like many other people, he is satisfied so long as he gets everything that he wants. I give him credit, however, for being perfectly frank, because he has admitted in the last half hour that he would nationalize industry, and also do away with the Arbitration Court.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– My advice is to retain the Arbitration Court. We on this side of the chamber believe in it and think that all parties should abide by its decisions. We stand by the principle of arbitration. The parties now in opposition were responsible for the establishment of the Arbitration Court in Australia, and have done more than any other party to strengthen and give power to the court, in order that industrial disputes might be amicably settled, instead of having those disastrous hold-ups which we so frequently experienced .prior to the adoption of arbitration. The Government has had ample opportunity since the introduction of these regulations to see how badly they are working, and to realize that it has made a mistake. Why cannot Ministers be big enough to acknowledge this? We saw in the House of Representatives recently, in connexion with another bill, how frankly certain big men admitted that they had made a mistake and desired to rectify it. Will the Government now admit that this board is a futile body doing no good work, but only much harm ? If the Government will hand everything over to the Arbitration Court, all these difficulties will disappear, because industrial matters will then be handled by a body of men who have had practical experience in solving difficult problems of this kind. Even at this late hour, let the Government do the right thing by abolishing the board. If the Government increases the powers of the court, and appoints additional judges to it, there will be no objection from this side. Should the Government do what I ask, it would take a big step towards cleaning up much of the difficulty and chaos existing in industry to-day as the result of the operations of the board.
.- Ministers are curiously tongue-tied about this matter. A very strong case has been made out by two of my colleagues against these regulations, but not a word has yet come from the Government side in justification of the position for which the Government is responsible. At this stage I am mainly concerned with that portion of the new regulations which enables the Women’s Employment Board to institute a common rule. This regulation provides that in dealing with any particular matter before it, the Women’s Employment Board, having heard the parties who are immediately concerned with a dispute, and having made an award in relation to that matter, can then, without notice to anybody, and without giving an opportunity to any other person to be heard in the matter, make that award applicable to a lot of people who probably did not know that the proceedings were going on before the board. I refer particularly to regulation 5, which contains new regulation 7a. Perhaps as we have not heard from the Ministry in relation to the matter, it might not be a bad idea if I were to read it. Possibly the Government and its supporters know nothing about it. Regulation 7a provides -
The board, when giving its decision on any application under the preceding provisions of these regulations or at any subsequent time, and, in the case of any decision in force by virtue of the act, at any time, may extend the application of the decision to any other employers or to all employers or to all employers included in a specified class of employers employing any females on work of a substantially similar nature to that of the work in respect of which the application was made or the decision was given, and the decision shall thereupon be binding on those employers, the employees of those employers and the organizations to which those employees belong in like matter as if those employers were specified in the decision.
– Does it apply to employees too?
– Yes, and I can well imagine the employees in certain circumstances being particularly concerned about this provision. That is an aspect of the matter of which the Government has not thought.
– It is probably due to war-time conditions.
– The Government seems to have changed its mind on that matter, because when it gave power to the Arbitration Court to impose a common rule, it did not give the court power to bring the common rule into existence without giving notice to employers and employees.
– This specifically applies to females.
– I know, but, apparently, there is to be one set of rules and one. kind of justice for females, and another set of rules and another kind of justice for males.
– One for the goose and one for the gander !
– Is the honorable senator not confusing pre-war conditions with war-time conditions?
– No. I have here a volume containing regulations at present in force. Admittedly, some of them were not introduced by this Government, but all are being administered by this Government, and presumably they represent the policy of the Government. When I turn to regulation 6 of the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations, I find that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is empowered, because of war circumstances, to make a common rule, but first it must give notice of its intention in the Commonwealth Gazette, and, secondly, it must indicate the nature of the award which it proposes to make. Also, it has to prescribe a time when all persons and organizations interested in the proposed common rule, and desirous of being heard, may appear or be represented before the Arbitration Court for a hearing.
– That has always been the case.
– Yes, that has always been the practice of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but there is no such obligation on the Women’s Employment Board. So far as I am aware, this is the first time that a Government has sought to vest in a tribunal of this kind power to impose obligations upon individuals or organizations not being parties to a dispute, without giving to them an opportunity to be heard. What possible objection can there be to the insertion in these regulations of a provision similar to that contained in the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations ?
– Possibly it will avoid delay.
– Apparently, Senator Courtice suggests that if an opportunity be not given to interested parties to be heard, delay will be avoided ; therefore it would seem that delay is the only question with which we have to concern ourselves.
– I did not say that.
– But that is what the honorable senator’s statement amounts to. Senator Leckie has called attention to the fact that in this case all that was before the Women’s Employment Board was an application by a particular party against certain other parties, and that the award made by the board was intended to deal directly with the matter in dispute between those parties. Our complaint is that without any notification to any one who would be affected by the making of a common rule, the board extended the award to all employees in that industry. Surely it is most desirable that there should be safeguards ensuring that the Women’s Employment Board shall not perpetrate such injustices. My own opinion is that the Government should insert in these regulations provision for the same procedure as is followed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Why is it to be assumed in the case of the Arbitration Court that unless safeguards be inserted injustices may be created, and, in the case of the Women’s Employment Board, that that tribunal is so perfect that ho such injustices will occur, even although no safeguards be applied?
– Does the honorable senator consider that the “Women’s Employment Board should not be permitted to make an award granting wages in excess of those granted under the relevant award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– No. The point I am endeavouring to make is that the conditions which apply to the making of a common rule by the Arbitration Court should apply also to the “Women’s Employment Board.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done in the case of new employers entering the industry after an award has been made?
– Provision should be made whereby even those employers could be heard if they so desired, but I shall not allow myself to be drawn away from the real question at issue by the hypothetical suggestions of the Minister for Aircraft Production (,Senator Cameron). The fact is that the Government has applied to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court conditions designed to ensure that its decisions shall not apply to people who have had no opportunity to have their claims heard.
– In certain circumstances.
– In all circumstances, and certainly in the same circumstances with which the Women’s Employment Board is concerned. The National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations provide clearly that the Arbitration Court shall not make a common rule without giving to other organizations or individuals who may be interested notice of its intention and an opportunity to be heard. If that is good enough for the Arbitration Court, it should be good enough for the Women’s Employment Board.
– Then an amendment of these regulations rather than their disallowance would meet the honorable senator’s objection.
– Yes, but it is impossible for an honorable senator to move for the amendment of regulations in this chamber. The only remedy is to move for their disallowance. I had hoped that when the circumstances referred to by my colleagues, Senator Leckie and Senator Foll, had been brought to the notice of the Government, at least Ministers would have had something to say about them, but so far Government supporters have remained completely dumb on the subject. In these circumstances, what other remedy have we than to move for the disallowance of the regulations? If the Government were prepared to say that it would apply to the Women’s Employment Board the same conditions as apply to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, my objection would be met.
– That is in regard to notification?
– Yes. Other interested parties should be notified of the beard’s intention, and should be given an opportunity to be heard.
– There might be hundreds of interested people.
– Of course.
– Does the honorable senator not realize that the whole history of the Arbitration Court has been delay, delay, and more delay?
– I am not impressed by the argument that a desire to secure justice will cause delay. It is far better that a little delay shall he incurred than that power be given to a tribunal of this kind to impose a common rule upon an entire industry without knowing what it is doing, and without having before it all the facts. Such action, taken in the absence of proper knowledge, will create industrial disturbances and not solve them ; that, in fact, is exactly what these regulations are doing. Here we have a particular, limited dispute between certain employers and employees, yet, without full knowledge of the circumstances existing throughout the industry, the board decided to make its determination a common rule. The effect of such action in this case has clearly been to create conditions which are not likely to lead to the maintenance of industrial .peace; rather are they likely to create tremendous industrial turmoil. Many women who come within the jurisdiction of the Women’s Employment Board are doing work similar to that performed by other women who do not come within the jurisdiction of the board. In some industries, certain female employees controlled by the board are receiving perhaps £5 12s. a week, whereas others, perhaps working in the same factory, are receiving £3 12s. a week under an arbitration award. Can it be contended seriously that such a state of affairs is conducive to industrial peace?
– There are worse pases than that.
– I know that; there are much worse cases. Can it be argued that such conditions are likely to foster industrial peace? The fact that this tribunal is given power to extend the operation of an award without first giving notice to individuals vitally concerned, is a very serious matter indeed, and I think that it is proper that the Leader of the Senate ( Senator Collings) should have something to say about the Government’s intentions. The position is further complicated by the fact that under another set of regulations introduced by this Government, women who are working under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot have their wages increased.
– Except bymeans of an award.
– The power of the A rbitrationCourt to order variations has been limited. Here we see the spectacle of two classes of women working in the same factory and doing substantially the same work, one receiving, say, £5 12s. a. week,and the other, in a different part of the factory, receiving perhaps £3 12s. a week.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to3 p.m.
– An extremely awkward position in relation to the activities of theWomen’s Employment Board is created by reason of the fact that the Government has promulgated; another set of regulations under which employers are forbidden to increase the wages and salaries of their employees. The result is that in certain factories women working under awards of the Women’s Employment Board receive much higher wages than those working under Arbitration Court awards. That immediately creates a situation which, if left unaltered, must increase industrial turmoil. The employer can do nothing to solve the difficulty, because under the Government’s own regulations he is forbidden from increasing the wages of those women who happen to be subject to the control of the Arbitration Court. They may make complaints about it, but the employer can do nothing, and even the Arbitration Court itself is subject to certain restraint in relation to its awards. That is a set of circumstances which requires the earnest consideration of the Government. I have indicated at least one way in which the application of a common rule by the Women’s Employment Board should be safeguarded in a manner consistent with the rules that the Government has applied to the Arbitration Court. If the Government leaves the position as at present, it will be wholly responsible for a good deal of the industrial unrest which this condition of affairs must create. The Minister should have regard to the representations made by the Opposition with a view to seeing whether the jurisdiction in this matter should not be wholly restored to the Arbitration Court, by which it should have been dealt with in the first place. The Women’s Employment Board has created a set of circumstances which the Opposition pointed out would arise when this matter was previously under consideration by the Senate. What has arisen could have been avoided at the time when the board was created.
– The Government would be well advised to recast its views regarding the constitution of the Women’s Employment Board. The root vice in this class of legislation is that it strikes at the very heart of industrial arbitration. If we have boards of this kind intruding upon the proper jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, we must expect the consequences that have been indicated during this debate by Senator Leckie and other honorable senators. The result has been to add confusion to what is already a difficult system, but one that has been operated with some efficiency by those who are skilled in adjustments of wages and industrial conditions. Not only is the present position causing confusion to the industrialists of this country, but I should also imagine that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), ^having regard to the payments that he must make to large undertakings engaged in work for the Government on the cost-plus or any other basis, must realize that the exchequer must suffer greatly by reason of some of the facts which I shall place briefly before the Senate. I fully realize the necessity for widening the scope of the Arbitration Court, but it should not be widened without a co-ordination of authority. It should not be done in such a way that people who are not a party to the proceedings, and who may be operating in Western Australia, South Australia or Queensland, are bound by a common rule of which they have had no notice, and regarding which they have had no opportunity to be heard. Such a position offends one’s sense of justice. If some of the decisions of the board have been made, notwithstanding regulation 7, without other interested parties, or even members of the trade unions, having had an opportunity to be heard, I venture to think that the court would hold that class of determination to be absolutely invalid’. Every person, however humble he may be, has a right to be heard, but regulation 7, apparently, was designed to negative such a position. At ail events it has been so construed by the Women’s Employment Board. The Government, in the interest of the taxpayers should take steps to clear up the position.
I do not know whether this board could be attached to, or placed under the control of, the Arbitration Court in some way. I noticed some time ago, when the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) instituted proceedings for the enforcement of these awards, a judge was bewildered, and apparently could not follow any of the proceedings. The expressions used between counsel and the bench served to illustrate the point that I have just made, that the functions which the board is attempting to discharge are so difficult, and the area over which it has to travel is so wide, that the Government may have thought it necessary to set up a new tribunal ; but there was the vice to which I have already referred. Had the Government passed the matter over to the Arbitration Court its functions would not have been impinged upon. The work could have been done much more smoothly than could be expected under a tribunal that is unskilled and has no code of law governing its proceedings. Regulation 7 appears to me to be as wide as the world. The board simply meets and hears anybody employed in the industry. There is no representative of the Government, and no representative of the workers whose interests are concerned, but the board proceeds to give an award, and in some instances to make a common rule to cover certain industries. Take the extraordinary position that has arisen with regard to women’s wages. A woman who had been employed in a certain industry for a considerable period, and who commenced work under an award of the Arbitration Court, received £3 16s. a week for the first month or two, was paid £4 10s. a week after a few months, and finally got £5 ls. 6d. a week. Her junior sister, aged twenty years, entered the same industry and immediately received, under an award of the Women’s Employment Board, £5 ls. 6d. a week, or the same wage as her sister is now paid. The action of the Government will be to the detriment of peace in industry. Trained women who have gained proficiency in various processes will not be satisfied to see unskilled girls receive the same pay as themselves, particularly when their own rates have been pegged. One case which has come to my notice relates to a number of female employees who are engaged in light assembly work for electrical meters, a type of process work which until recently was carried out by boys. The company has in its employ a female leading hand who has been trained in that section of the work and i3 now in charge of a number of female workers. The leading hand does not come under the award of the Women’s Employment Board, because she has been with the company for a number of years. Such anomalies must lead to discontent. By various means the intention of the Government is being circumvented. In the interests of industrial peace among employees, the maintenance of fair play in industry, as well as the conservation of the country’s finances, I appeal to the Government to heed the views which have been expressed here to-day. Experienced women cannot be expected to be content with the same wage as is paid to a junior on her first day of employment. Already industry is in a chaotic condition, and should these conditions continue, the Government will find that its difficulties will increase. In this time of crisis we should not throw on industry the burden of the loss of time and inconvenience involved in approaching the courts to have these matters cleared up, especially when the Government has the power to deal with the matter in a business-like way. Regulations for the control of industry should be in step with the Arbitration Act. Although the act constituting the “Women’s Employment Board was passed only in October last, there have been many complaints from all sections of the community - employees as well as employers - regarding its operations. I have no wish to disturb conditions in industry, except to improve them; but I do desire that determinations in regard to wages and conditions in industry shall be expressed in terms which are understandable by the average business man. In a court case in Sydney recently a leading counsel said, “ We want all the light we can get “, to which His Honour replied, “It tells you nothing”.
Sitting suspended from3.15 to 8.15 p.m.
– Two hours having elapsed since the meeting of the Senate, Standing Order No. 127 requires that the debate be interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after the disposal of Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1.
Motion to Disallow Regulations
– I shall summarize my earlier remarks. First, I ask the Government to try to harmonize the Women’s Employment Act and the regulations made thereunder with the provisions of the arbitration system. Secondly, I ask it to give some form of control to the Arbitration Court, so that the making of a common rule without giving interested persons an opportunity to be heard should not be repeated, and, thirdly, that immediate action be taken-
– I ask the honorable senator to speak a little more loudly. I cannot hear what he is saying.
– I am glad that you have called attention to this matter, Mr. President, because we who sit in this part of the chamber regard some other parts as a whispering gallery. It is true that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) usually makes his voice heard, but his colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), sometimes addresses the chamber in such dulcet tones that many honorable senators on this side cannot hear what he says. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) rarely raises his voice above a whisper. On the other hand, when the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) fulminates his voice seems to vibrate so much that it threatens to injure our eardrums. I shall endeavour to address myself to you, sir, in a manner which will enable you to hear what I am saying, and I trust that you will be able to understand me.
I was about to say that unless something is done immediately in regard to these regulations industry will be in a state of great confusion. I understand that the Government is considering the taking of steps to remedy the situation which has arisen. I know that it has voluminous information at its disposal and, therefore, I shall content myself by urging the Government to act quickly. It might be advisable to adjourn this debate, because if the regulations be disallowed the confusion and trouble will probably increase, whereas if the Government earnestly attempts to meet the situation, along the lines which I have frequently discussed with the Minister for Trade and Customs, the position may soon be put right. I suggest that that aspect be taken into consideration, so that these undoubtedly troublesome regulations and the decisions which have been given may be harmonized. These regulations will probably cost the Commonwealth Government some millions of pounds. It is not right that employees of long standing and experience and those who have but recently entered industry should receive the same rates of pay. Whilst such conditions last there will be unrest - and that is something which neither the Government nor the Opposition desires. The Opposition urges the Government to have this matter investigated by the AttorneyGeneral ‘ (Dr. Evatt) and those who are familiar with the working of the arbitration system. The present system has been ridiculed by various judicial authorities from time to time. That is not desirable.
– I regret that I am one of those whom Senator A. J. McLachlan took to task for whispering. I have always endeavoured to make myself heard by every honorable senator in the chamber, for the reason that I like to hear what other speakers have to say when they are contributing to the debate.
I listened attentively to the speeches made by honorable senators opposite this afternoon, and from their remarks I have selected what I consider to be the three major issues which have emerged. I shall not endeavour to deal with them in the order of their importance, but shall treat them in the order in which they were introduced. Senator Leckie, in moving for the disallowance of certain regulations, stressed that as the result of awards made by the Women’s Employment Board some contractors were unjustly dealt with, one losing £9,000 and another £11,000 as the result. I am sure that honorable senators opposite will agree that the whole of that loss cannot be attributed to the fact that an award was made by the Women’s Employment Board. Certain adjustments have been made by the Department of Munitions in respect of firms which have made application to the authorities.
– I take it that the Minister is referring to the retrospective application of the regulations?
– Yes. There is no difficulty in arriving at an estimate of the effect of a variation of wages in connexion with a cost-plus contract, because the wages are specifically calculated; but difficulties do arise in arriving at the amount of wages to be allocated to a defence job when other work is also being performed in the same factory. Even with those problems confronting the Government, adjustments have been made when application has been made to either the Government or the Contracts Board. This afternoon I conferred with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), and I now give an assurance that if honorable senators will give definite instances the Government will see that justice is done. Throughout the afternoon many references were made to the inequality of the regulations, but they have no bearing whatever on the matter of retrospective pay, although they have a bearing on the point raised by Senator Spicer in regard to a common rule. Objection has been taken to the action of the Women’s Employment Board in making a common rule, and it has been pointed out that the same conditions do not apply to the Arbitration Court. The functions of the two bodies are entirely different. Complaint has been made that under the common rule made by the Women’s Employment Board an award made by that body applies to the whole of industry of a similar character.
– Without notice being given to any one.
– The reason is that no award made by the Women’s Employment Board is applicable to any industry which is not performing the same work as that to. which the award is applied in the first instance. Let us take an illustration. Take, for instance, the case of tramway conductresses. No difference exists between the work performed by tram conductresses in Sydney. Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide or Hobart. Their work is exactly the same in every large city. Therefore, no advantage would be gained if the board conducted hearings in each capital city for the purpose of making an award for tram conductresses. Possibly, the only point calling for special consideration would be varying climatic conditions. The reason for the application of the common rule is to avoid waste of time, energy, and money which the board would incur if it were obliged to travel from one end of the Commonwealth to the other to hear evidence with respect to industries in which much the same conditions obtain throughout the Commonwealth.
– It would be the same with the Arbitration Court.
– The functions of the Arbitration Court differ entirely from those of the Women’s Employment Board. Every employer who appears before the Arbitration Court is cited to do so, whereas he is under a legal obligation to make application to the Women’s Employment Board. We can only conclude that any employer who fails to make application to the board in respect of his employees derives some advantage by failing to do so. Honorable senators opposite emphasized that the board has not notified all employers in a particular industry of awards it has made in respect of that industry. I shall not waste the time of the Senate by reading the regulations; but no honorable senator opposite who complained against the board on that point mentioned- that employers are under a legal obligation to make application to the board in respect of their employees.
– Will the Minister tell me where that provision is made in the regulation?
– If the honorable senator reads the regulations he can find it for himself. I repeat that the functions of the Arbitration Court are entirely different from those of the board1. The court deals with industrial disputes.
– It also fixes wages.
– That is so; but it deals with industrial disputes, and all employers who appear before it are cited. They are not normally obliged to apply to the Arbitration Court, but the regulations oblige them to apply to the board. Honorable senators opposite also referred to the fact that in certain industries one section of employees is covered by an award of the board, which prescribes weekly rates from £4 18s. to £5 ls. a week, whilst another section of employees, who are not replacing men, are covered by an award of the court which prescribes a rate of £3 12s. a week. I agree that that anomaly exists, and that it must be remedied.
But, surely, honorable members opposite do not contend that because of the existence of that anomaly we should abolish the Women’s Employment Board. One of the greatest causes of industrial turmoil in this country has been the delay experienced by trade unions in getting their claims heard by the Arbitration Court owing to congestion in the court.
– Appoint more judges.
– The greatest congestion in the court existed before the war. Indeed, congestion has prevailed during the last 25 years, and, I repeat, was one of the principal causes of industrial unrest in that period. However, previous Governments, which were politically akin to honorable senators opposite, did not remove that congestion. The present Government set up the Women’s Employment Board to carry out functions entirely different from those of the Arbitration Court, namely, to determine a just rate of pay for women who replace men in industry for the duration of the war. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the wonderful work which our women are doing in industry to-day in the places of men. In this regard, I mention the metal trades, the clothing trades and the postal department. In these, and many other callings, women have come to the country’s rescue in our present peril, and, in many instances, the standard of their work is equal to that of the men whom they have replaced.
– And the Government will turn them out of industry so soon as the war is over.
– That is a long way to look ahead. These women are doing wonderful work, but they realize that they are only taking the place of men in industry in order to release men for the fighting services and more essential work. They are the first to appreciate the fact that when the war is over, and the peace is won, they must return to their homes. It will not be a case of turning them out of industry. In every country now engaged in war. the government of the day, regardless of political colour, must ensure that the soldiers are rehabilitated in industry when they return from the war. I am sure that Senator Sampson does not suggest that the jobs of the soldiers should not be available to them when the war is over. The Government has already acknowledged the existence of the anomaly to which I was referring; and it is giving consideration to it. It is not right that one section of women should receive a rate of wages higher than that paid to another section of women employed in the same industry. I shall not attempt to fool honorable senators opposite by saying that the Government is prepared to abolish the Women’s Employment Board. I listened attentively to the speakers on the other side of the chamber for a remedy for the anomalies of which they complain.
– I gave one. Let the Government enforce its own regulations.
– I presume that the honorable senator wants the Government to abolish the Women’s Employment Board and its awards, and thus place all females on the rate of £3 12s. a week.
– I did not suggest anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator urged the Government to abolish the board. I repeat that the board has been set up for the specific purpose of determining a fair rate of wages for female workers who replace men in industry. Honorable senators opposite objected very strongly to the appointment of a woman as a member of the board. I think that they will agree that women have a right to be represented by one of their sex on any board whose function is to determine their conditions of employment.
– The Trades Hall would not appoint a woman to the board.
– The Government appointed her. The board was established 48 weeks ago, but it has actually functioned for only 30 weeks, owing to the fact ‘that the Senate previously disallowed the regulations under which it was set up. The state of the board’s business ait the 31st December, 1942, was as follows: Cases heard and determined, 114; cases heard and not determined, 53; cases part heard. 6; and cases awaiting hearing, 111. The state of the board’s business at the 31st January, 1943, was a3 follows: Cases beard and determined, 218 ; cases heard and not determined, 24; cases part heard, 4; cases awaiting hearing, 116. The people best able to express an opinion upon the board are, I contend, those who have had to work under its awards and conditions. On the 22nd February, in Sydney the chairman of the board asked the representative of the New South Wales Chamber of Manufactures whether he had studied the decisions of the board. The representative replied that he had studied them very closely. When asked if he found any difficulty in following them, his answer was, “ Personally, I do not “. It is also interesting to note that the following, among other firms and undertakings, have had no difficulty in. applying the awards : Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Limited, Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Rylands Brothers (Australia) Proprietary Limited, John Lysaght (Australia), various rubber manufacturers, a number of major firms in the canning industry, the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian Government Railways, and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. As I said a moment ago, I cannot promise anything in regard to the common rule. This has been applied for expedition in order to save time, and there has been no general complaint in regard to it. Any employer who finds difficulty in carrying out his contract is protected in that be has the right of appeal to the board. The claim of the Opposition that injustice existed is, therefore, not sustained. Much of the work is also being done on behalf of the Government in the manufacture of arms and munitions, and the major portion of it is what is known as process work, which involves working on set machines. Although it is claimed that the degree of skill required makes it difficult for women to do the work, that is not correct. I remember that a few years ago, when the process workers in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory applied for a margin of skill for work on the machines which they were operating, the manager stated on oath in court that he could take people waiting at the gate seeking work - and in those days there were thousands of unemployed - and place them on the machines and in 24 hours they would be competent. What that manager said in regard to the men I say now in regard to the women of Australia, that they oan be put on these machines to do merely process work, and in many instances, particularly in regard to small components, which require dexterous handling, they are doing a better job than the men can do, because they are better adapted to the work. The awards of the board have not always given women 90 per cent, of the male wage. In the postal department, for instance, I think that the members of the Opposition will agree with me in making an award three factors must be taken into consideration. These are physical ability, mental ability and acquired skill. In the case of postmen the board found that women were not capable of carrying such a heavy load as the men could carry, with the result that a greater proportion of women than of men had to be employed for that work. I am not sure of the exact figure, but probably six women had to be put on to do the work of four postmen, the loads being divided proportionately. That gives an indication of the extent to which the board inquired into the capabilities of women to replace men in industry. The same applies to work in which higher skill is required. The carrying of the hig bags of mails and delivering letters from gate to gate is practically labouring work, but there are also various sections of the work of the mail branch of the Postal Department in which women are relieving men. We have found that after a few weeks’ training the women are equal to their job, but the determination of the board was that, although the women are capable of doing the job, they do not carry it out as well as the men do. In order to balance this, they receive only a proportion of the male wage, and that principle applies throughout all industries. In the metal trades many women have replaced men, in order to enable them either to take part in more essential services or to go to the fighting front. After a term of probation, the women in those trades are doing their job and doing it well, and the board has determined that their wage shall be 90 per cent, of the male rate. As soon as possible, due consideration will be given to the point urged by Senator Leckie, that contracts which had been entered into have been affected by the variation of wage standards. The Government will examine that position, and if any honorable senator opposite brings a specific case oi cases to my notice or to the notice of the Government, personal attention will be given to them, investigation will be made as to whether the claim is correct or not, and justice will be done. The alleged anomaly of women working side by side on two different wage rates is already under consideration by the Government. I shall be pleased if Senator Spicer can suggest a formula which can be equitably and fairly applied, and which will meet the wishes of the Opposition. So far as the common rule is concerned, owing to the urgent need of getting as many women into industry as possible to meet the shortage of manpower, I repeat that I cannot make any promise. If any case of injustice caused by the application of the common rule can be produced the Government will give due consideration to it. I am sure that honorable senators opposite are no more desirous than are honorable senators on this side of interfering with the awards made by the board for the women of Australia. I do not believe that they wish to reduce the standard of living of our womenfolk. The women are performing a wonderful job, they are replacing men, end the work that they are doing has been evaluated on a fair and equitable basis. I appeal to the mover of the motion to withdraw it. If he, or any other Opposition senator, will convey to me, or to any other member of the Government, particulars of any injustice being suffered under the awards or conditions laid down by the board, I am prepared to guarantee that we shall endeavour to give redress.
– I did not have the opportunity to listen to Senator Leckie’s speech to-day, for reasons well known to members of the Government. Personally I appreciate the attitude adopted by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), who has been very fair, and has expressed his anxiety to meet Senator Leckie and other members of the Opposition in connexion with this complex problem. I make no secret of where
I stand so far as the Women’s Employment Board is concerned. My views in that regard are well known to the Government. That, however, is a matter of history. The Government, in its wisdom, has decided to go on committing the mistakes which we suggested would arise. The Postmaster-‘General has made three points of interest to me. The first is : Can’ the Opposition suggest to the Government a formula for dealing with the common rule ? The second is : Can the Opposition supply instances of injustice? The third lias relation to any cases of hardship brought about by the award compelling retrospective payments. I suggest to the Minister that, in view of his offer to consider cases, he should agree to the adjournment of the debate, at some stage during the evening, until to-morrow.
– That is a matter for the Leader of the Senate to decide..
– If that is done it will give the Opposition an opportunity to examine the points which the Minister made, and also to put forward the cases for which he has- asked. I wish to draw the attention of honorable senators to other cases which have come to my notice. They are similar to those which have already been raised by several honorable senators, but I consider that the matter is so important, and is causing so much dissatisfaction amongst female employees in munitions industries, that careful consideration, free altogether of party prejudices should be given to it. The cases which I shall cite are only a few of the number that have come to my notice. There are many others, particularly in connexion with retrospective payments, but I have not had an opportunity to prepare them for presentation during this debate. I shall not mention the names of the people concerned, because I do not think that that would be fair; but I shall furnish the names to the PostmasterGeneral privately. The first case concerns men and women working in restaurants as waiters and waitresses. The male rate . has been fixed by the Arbitration Court at £5 a week. Men have been called up for military service and have been replaced by women who, under a determination of the board, have been granted the full male rate, whilst other women who have been in those jobs for some time receive the ordinary female rate of £3 a week. That means, in effect, that experienced workers are receiving less than inexperienced workers. The second case concerns male and female cleaners working in city buildings. Men have been replaced by women who have approached the Women’s Employment Board and have been granted the full male rate of £5 10s. a week.
– They are doing men’s work.
– Women who had been employed for years on that job had their wages pegged and were receiving only £3 a week. That is the type of case which I consider honorable senators are entitled to discuss with the Minister.
– The honorable senator will agree that such cases would be the exception rather than the rule.
– Yes, but it is in connexion with these complicated cases that I suggest matters could be righted by means of a conference. In the third case, the Women’s Employment Board awarded a substantial wage increase to about one-half of the women employed in metal trades, but not to the other half. How can we go ahead with our war effort when anomalies such as these occur? How can we expect experienced females, receiving less than inexperienced employees, to do their best in those industries? In connexion with this matter it is interesting to note the comments that have been made by experienced authorities, such as Judge O’Mara. The following is an extract from a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 24th February last : -
Many awards of the Women’s Employment Board were so loosely drawn that they were provocative of disputes because they were not understood either by employers or employed, Judge O’Mara said in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court yesterday. His Honour described an award of the Women’s Employment Board dealing with a section of the metal trades as being “Vague, loosely drawn - in which scissors and paste were used, and not enough scissors”.
His Honour was dealing with a report of a strike by 89 female employees of Duly Hansford Proprietary Limited, because they were not being paid 90 per cent, of the rate paid to men in the same section of the industry.
Mr. F. Connors, secretary of the Australian Society of Engineers, said these women were on Industrial Court award rates, averaging £3 lis. weekly, whereas girls doing similar work in other factories were getting more than £5 weekly under awards of the Women’s Employment Board.
Mr. D. M. McDonald, for the company, said the company did not know exactly what rates should be paid, but would pay whatever rate the court decided.
In order to impress upon the Senate the seriousness of this matter, I propose to cite several more cases of injustices which have come to my notice. Again I shall not mention names, but I am prepared to supply all necessary information tq the Postmaster-General personally. I know of instances where certain employers have been called upon to meet retrospective payments amounting to £9,000 or £10,000 in respect of work which had long been completed and paid for. What hope has an employer of recovering a loss such as that? Such action is not fair to any firm, especially in these days of high taxes. The following absurdities have arisen or will arise out of decisions of the Women’s Employment Board: Two sisters, one a junior aged twenty, and the other an adult and married, aged 24, recently commenced employment with a certain firm. According to the board’s determination, the junior female serves no probationary period, and immediately she is engaged is paid 100 per cent, of the junior male rate for corresponding age, prescribed by the Arbitration Court. On the other hand the adult female has to serve the usual probationary period - two months in this instance, with 66§ per cent, for the first month and 80 per cent, for the second month - at a lower rate before receiving 90 per cent, of the male rate. In making its decision, the board failed to take into account the differences in payments prescribed in the award for adult and junior males, and the following is the strange result: The junior sister, aged twenty, starts on £5 ls. a week, whereas the adult married sister is paid £3 15s. 6d. a week for the first month, £4 10s. 6d. a week for the second month, and £5 ls. 6d. a week thereafter. , The trap the hoard fell into was that the junior male rate of an employee at twenty years of age is inordinately high, and is little less than the adult male rate, so that when the board awarded 66§ per cent, of the adult male rate for the adult female in the first month, and so on, the 100 per cent, amount to the juvenile female, aged twenty years, was far in excess of the adult female rate. This point illustrates clearly how complicated and intricate the system of wage fixation is and what can happen when novices muddle with it. On the Women’s Employment Board we have muddling novices handling most intricate and difficult technical problems. That board includes four individuals who formerly were union organizers, one employers’ representative, and a judge, and I venture to suggest that, apart from the judge, not one member of that board has the requisite technical knowledge to deal with these complicated matters.
– But they may have the practical knowledge.
– I think that Judge O’Mara has proved time and again that they have not the practical knowledge either. The Postmaster-General will admit that at least four members of the .board have considerable political knowledge, because they were Labour party organizers for a number of years. In fact, it was because of that experience that the Government appointed them to the board. Under the common rule decision at another establishment the following position arises: Females are engaged on the light work of assembling electric meters - a type of process work on which it is usual for females and boys to be engaged. The company has a female leading hand, trained in all sections of the work and in charge of a number of female employees. This leading hand does not come under the board’s decision, as she has been with the company for years, but a few females - not all of them - under her charge are claiming the rate fixed by the Women’s Employment Board, as some of the work was once done by boys. The leading hand cannot be paid more than £3 12s. a week because of the wage-pegging regulations, whilst females charged with no responsibility, will be paid £4 18s. a week. As batteries are manufactured on the assembly-line basis and females have, generally speaking, .been on this work for years, the common rule decision of the Women’s Employment Board will apply only to a few.
However, on the assembly line there are three jobs known as “wire testing”, usually done by boys - a simple, light, monotonous operation, on which an adult would not be employed. The three boys have gone and three new girls have moved into their places. They will be paid £4 18s. a week, whilst girls on either side of them will still receive the award rate of £3 12s. a week. The board’s decision makes payment retrospective to the 23rd September, 1942, and it is a physical impossibility for the employers to make the calculation. Females were employed at another factory before the war, but the company has decided to pay females the board’s rate where they are operating power presses. From the 23rd September, 1942, to date, these girls have not been engaged on the power presses all the time. For example, one week they may be on power presses and the next week on, say, assembly work, which is properly covered by the award. There is no record of what actual operation each female performed over that period; yet the union is insisting on retrospective payment being made. In practically every workshop, females will be receiving two rates, namely, the award rate of £3 12s., and the board’s rate of £4 18s., plus back pay. Nothing can be more conducive to unrest and dissatisfaction. There are hundreds of females coming into industry, who expect to receive the rates fixed by the “Women’s Employment Board, but will not do so because they are doing work usually performed by females. Their work is exactly similar to that of other newcomers alongside of whom they will work, but the latter, by an accident, are doing work previously performed by boys, and will get the board’s rates. Nothing is more absurd in the history of wage fixation. These cases show clearly the mess that we are getting ourselves into. If the Minister would agree to adjourn the debate until to-morrow, or next week, in order that . the Opposition may have an opportunity to present these cases in a concrete form to him and to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), we should be doing something that would contribute to a solution of the problem. It is not competent for the- Opposition to move for the disallowance of a portion of the regulations. I do not know whether the Leader of the Senate will accord me the right to continue my remarks-
– The Government desires to have the matter disposed of.
– Surely the Leader of the Senate is prepared to meet the the Opposition in this matter. In fairness to those who have submitted their claims to us, we are entitled to some consideration. If the debate were adjourned until to-morrow the Opposition could come to a speedy decision’ in the matter.
– I regret that I am unable to agree to any further delay to the important business awaiting the attention of the Senate. Honorable senators opposite have received a friendly and fair offer from the Minister (Senator Ashley). They can see him and put their complaints in writing, and in that way obtain satisfaction. As the Government has other business with which it desires the Senate to deal, I cannot accept any proposal which would further prolong the discussion on the motion before the Chair.
.- in reply - I am most disappointed with the remarks of the Minister (Senator Ashley). He has offered the Opposition practically nothing, because I am afraid that he does not understand fully the claims advanced by the Opposition. I cannot understand any government refusing to agree to a just arrangement for dealing with cases in which individual firms have been placed at a great disadvantage, but the Minister has ignored the main issue. As long as there are two wage-fixing tribunals for employees in the same industry, the problem before us will not be solved. I was amused to hear the Minister speak of congestion in the Arbitration Court, and say that the appointment of one or two extra judges would not meet the difficulty. One judge alone - I refer to Judge Foster - has dealt with all of the matters relating to the Women’s Employment Board. Why could he not deal with them as a judge of the Arbitration Court, and subject to the rules of that court? That is what the Opposition desires. I have no objection to his being made a judge of that court, and another judge could be appointed to help him, if necessary. The decisions of the Women’s Employment Board are so unjust that I must press for a better offer from the Government than that made by the Minister. He referred to a statement by Mr. H. J. Hendy, president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, and said that that gentleman was satisfied with the board. What Mr. Hendy did say was that, if the present system of sabotaging the wage-fixing structure of Australia was continued, the community could expect a continuance of industrial turmoil.
The main point at issue is that one-half of the women concerned are working under an award of the Arbitration Court and the other half are working under an award of the Women’s Employment Board; but the two awards do not dovetail into one another. While these two independent bodies continue to fix wage rates independently there must be interminable trouble. Employers are faced with threats of strikes. They are told that if the women working under Arbitration Court awards are not paid the wages fixed by the Women’s Employment Board by the 31st March, the women employees in the metal trades industry will go out on strike. I desire to know what the Government intends to do about that? The employers cannot pay to one-half of those women a higher wage than that awarded by the Arbitration Court, because their wages are pegged, and they have been notified by the department that it will not pay more than the wages laid down in the appropriate award. That has nothing to do with the awards of the Women’s Employment Board. The Treasury and the Munitions Department will not pay wages in advance of those fixed in the appropriate award of the Arbitration Court. In the metal trades, about one-half of the women are under an award of the Arbitration Court and about one-half of them are under the award of the Women’s Employment Board. In order to get over that difficulty there should be one authority to determine the wages of the whole of the employees. The employers are faced with the threat of a strike unless they pav the full rate awarded by the board; but they cannot pay that rate, even if the employees strike. They cannot negotiate in the event of a strike because they are prevented from- raising the wages beyond the pegged rate.
– We could remove the pegs.
– The Minister has not said that he would remove them, and I do not see how he could do so. The Minister is sympathetic towards the cases in which retrospective pay is claimed, and is also sympathetic towards the request for the increased wages awarded by the Women’s Employment Board; but that attitude amounts to “Thank you for nothing”. In all contracts it is provided that increases of wages granted under awards will be paid, but what about the other cases in which the employers are threatened with strikes and cannot increase the rates of pay?
The award of the Women’s Employment Board is crude and causes- overlapping. It also shows that the board does not understand the industrial position. The Minister has boasted about the quantity of work the board has done ; but the whole of its awards1 prove that the board is not acquainted as it should be with the industrial situation. It has given awards that cannot be understood, and different awards operate in different States. In one instance it has forbidden the employment of women as core-makers in foundries, but has allowed women to be engaged as core-makers in stove factories. I could multiply such examples galore in order to prove that the board does not understand the intricacies of the engineering trade, particularly. The board has nothing to do with the textile industry, except, on the engineering side. It has nothing to do with the clothing or engineering trades, if women have been employed in those particular industries previously. The whole of industry is in a state of chaos on account of the operations of this board. The Minister should say, “ We know that there is chaos, and that under the award the employers cannot pay more than £3 12s. a week, and we intend to alter that “. The whole of the women employees should come under the jurisdiction of a single authority. There should not be two authorities dealing with the same class of workers and awarding different wages to them. I had hoped that the Minister would say that, although the Government recognized that difficulties existed, it would work towards that end, but the Minister does not seem to realize that within a short time strikes will occur and industry will be thrown into a state of chaos. The engineering industry is threatened with a strike on the 21st March unless all women employees who are working under Arbitration Court awards are paid the same wages as are set out in the award of the Women’s Employment Board. Employers cannot negotiate because wages have been pegged. I hope that the Government will give a guarantee that before long there will be only one authority to decide these matters.
– I offered to make representations to the appropriate authority. I could not do more.
– As the’ Department of Munitions will pay on the basis of wages authorized by the Women’s Employment Board it will be seen that the Minister has not offered us anything. I wanted him to say that if employers pay extra wages above the pegged rates the Government will reimburse them, whether the work be done for the Department of Munitions or is civilian work. I want the Government to realize also that if women in industry are to be paid according to the standard established by the Women’s Employment Board, the Department of Munitions will have to pay at least £20,000,000 a year more for its requirements. The Government should realize that fact when it is asking the people to subscribe to another £100,000,000 loan.
– The money will not be thrown away if it is paid to honest workers.
– Within five months the estimate of the Department of Munitions for certain work has increased by £91,000,000. The rates prescribed by the Women’s Employment Board would increase that amount by another £20,000,000.
I am disappointed with the Minister’s reply. I think that he is sympathetic towards the case that has been presented by the Opposition, but he appears not to understand the position. He has offered something that already exists, so that his offer amounts to nothing. It is all very well to make a common rule, but that cannot be done with a decision of this sort.
– I said that any injustice would be rectified. I thought that I was generous.
– ‘Under a common rule of this sort neither the board nor employers know where they stand.
– We must get back to the Arbitration Court.
– That is so. The Women’s Employment Board does not realize the ramifications of industry and the effect of its own decisions. That women were not allowed to work as coremakers in some factories, but were allowed to do so in stove-making factories shows that the board does not understand the ramifications of industry. An expert body which ‘ knows the ramifications of business and has some knowledge of the engineering trade and the many classifications in that trade is necessary. Honorable senators may not know that in the engineering trade there are 85 different classifications. Whilst this board wants to fix a general rule for all jobs, the Arbitration Court has expressed the opinion that it must not do it in respect of all classifications. I say nothing against Judge Foster’s ability or the fairness of his outlook as a judge, but he had had no previous experience in industrial matters.
– He was an industrial lawyer.
– He does not understand the ramifications of industry. He could not go into a factory and say that a certain job comes within one classification and another job within another classification, and so on. As I have said, I am disappointed with the offer made by the Minister. I realize that he thought that he was giving us something but, in fact, he was not. He has not offered anything in the way of a solution, of the difficulty which arises from having two boards laying down different rates of wages for the same class of work. Unless one board is allowed to do the job, there will be trouble in the engineering trade.
I had hoped that I would not have to persist with the motion,but I fear that I must do so. The Minister, although sympathetic, has not given us anything.
– I went all the way that the honorable senator suggested, but he is now shifting his ground.
Question put -
That the amendments of the Women’s EmploymentRegulations, contained in Statutory Rules 1942, No. 548, and made under the Women’s Employment Act 1942, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day read for resumption of debate (on motion by Senator Fraser) -
That the bill he now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McBride) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 9.45 to 10. 45 p.m.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the following message: -
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to impose a Tax upon Incomes “, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights in respect of Message No. 171 received from the Senate in reference to the said bill, and resolved to consider the said Message.
The House of Representatives has now made the Requested Amendment No. 1 of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I desire to place on record what has happened since the sittings of the Senate were suspended to permit of an informal conference being held to consider this matter. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) received the following letter from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) : -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
In view of the situation that has arisen between the two Houses in respect of the , Income Tax Bill and the proclamation clause which has reference to the National Welfare Fund Bill, I desire to conform to practice and believe that a. consultation between representatives of both Houses wouldbe an advantage. It may even resolve the difficulty.
I suggest that at the consultation both Houses should have equal representation, say five from each House, and that the majority of opinion in each House should be represented by a majority of representatives from that House. I would suggest, subject to any comment or variation you might submit, that the representatives of the House of Representatives should comprise myself, the Treasurer, the Attorney-General, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In regard to the Senate, I would suggest that the representatives of the Government be the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Collings) and the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Fraser), and that the Opposition should be represented by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), the Deputy Leader (Senator McBride) and Senator Spicer, who moved the request to the House of Representatives. It would be an advantage if the consultation could take place as early as possible to-day.
Yours sincerely, (Signed) John Curtin, Prime Minister.
The Opposition in the Senate considered that proposal, and forwarded the following letter to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives : -
Dear Mr. Fadden,
The party has given consideration to the letter from the Right Honorable the Prime Minister to you of even date, in which he makes certain suggestions with a view of resolving the difference that has arisen between the Senate and the House of Representatives in respect of the Income Tax Bill.
With every respect to the suggestion of the Prime Minister, we cannot concede that a conference between the Houses in respect of this matter conforms to any practice which has heretoforebeen followed.
May I point out that the Senate has expressed its complete agreement with the Government’s taxation proposals.
The point to which the Senate takes exception is one of considerable importance - the invasion of the rights and privileges of the Senate.
No question arises at this stage as to the National Welfare Fund Bill, save that the Senate insists upon preserving its right to discuss that measure unfettered, and on its merits.
Having regard to the wishes of the Prime Minister, and out of courtesy to him, we are prepared to meet in conference as suggested. I anticipate that the rights of the Senate to select its own representatives will be respected.
As the Prime Minister has communicated with you as Leader of the Opposition, I send you this communication, which you are, of course, at liberty to pass on to him.
The conference was held, and was attended by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser), the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Hughes), Senator McBride, Senator Spicer and myself as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. It was agreed that the House of Representatives, while reserving its rights under the Constitution, accept the request of the Senate in respect of the Income Tax Bill 1943, and that the Senate, while reserving its rights under the Constitution, would immediately thereafter consider the National Welfare Fund Bill, and complete consideration of the bill by the termination of the sitting terminating on Thursday, the 18th March. With respect to the conclusions reached by the conference, I can only say that the words speak for themselves. The victors can afford to be generous. I suggest that, following established practice, the Senate should adopt the usual resolution that has been adopted by this Chamber since 1902 whenever a crisis, or dispute, has arisen between the two Houses on a bill which the Senate may not amend. In such circumstances, the Senate has not yet failed to pass the following resolution : -
That this Senate affirms that the action of the House of Representatives in receiving and dealing with the reiterated request of the Senate on the Income Tax Bill is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional condition and rights of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Income Tax Bill 1943 - Statement by THE President.
– I invite the attention of the Senate to that portion of the message just received which reads -
The House of Representatives has refrained from the determination of its constitutional rights in respect of message No. 171 received from the Senate in reference to the said bill, and resolved to consider the said message . . .
The words quoted raise the question of the constitutional position of the two Houses in respect of bills which the Senate may not amend, the point at issue being the right of the Senate to press requests for amendments in this class of bill. I may remind honorable senators that this question received the consideration of the Senate early in its history; that, following on such consideration, the Senate adopted standing orders providing procedure for the pressing of requests for amendments, and that such procedure has been followed by the Senate on each occasion since then, when necessary. On previous occasions when the Senate received a similar message the Leader of the Government in the Senate has moved a motion affirming that the action of the House of Representatives in receiving and dealing with the reiterated requests of the Senate is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional position and rights of the Senate. This motion has always been treated as a non-party question. In my opinion it would be proper for the Senate, having dealt with the bill, to pass a similar resolution, reaffirming its undoubted right under the Constitution to follow the course of procedure it has adopted in connexion with this measure. A legal opinion has been circulated by the Government to the effect that the Senate can make a given request but once at any particular stage of a bill. I would point out that the action already taken by the Senate is not in conflict with this view. Standing Order No. 252 reads -
Requests to the House of Representatives may he ma.de at all or any of the following stages of a bill which the Senate may not amend: -
Upon the motion for the first reading of any such bill; or
In Committee after the second read ing has been agreed to; or
On consideration of any Message from the House of Representatives in reference to such bill; or
On the third reading of the bill.
In the case of the bill just passed, the first time request No. 1 was made was in committee after the second reading had been agreed to. The second time the request was made was at the next stage, viz., the consideration of message No. 188 of the House of Representatives. It would have been possible for the Senate, if it became necessary, to repeat its request at the further stage, viz., the consideration of a subsequent message from the House of Representatives or at a still later stage on the third reading of the bill.
– by leave - I move -
That this Senate affirms that the action of the House of Representatives in receiving a.nd dealing with the reiterated request of the Senate on the Income Tax Bill 1943 is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional position and rights of the Senate.
I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. President, on the statement which you have just made. I was pleased to hear you say that since the inception of federation, the Leader of the Senate has, when necessary, moved this motion always affirming the rights of the Senate, and that such motion has never been dealt with on party lines. I am somewhat disappointed, therefore, that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has not followed the practice of moving such a motion, because I believe that the rights of the Senate have again been upheld on this occasion. The very clear statement which you have just made, Mr. President, will be a guide to the Senate in the future. It should convince some legal luminaries that the Senate’s action in this matter has been justified.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m’.
ADJOURNMENT. National Government - Australian Army: Amalgamation op Forces - Films: Censorship; New Guinea Battle Scenes - Estate Duties - Road Transport in Tasmania - Essendon Aerodrome. Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed - That the Senate do now adjourn. Senator WILSON (South Australia) [11.0]. - I take this opportunity to thank the members ‘ of the Senate and of the Australian Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association for inviting me to be one of the delegates to go to London for the Empire Parliamentary Conference. I declined that invitation because I felt that after two and a half years’ experience abroad I should make my services available to Australia at the present time. I have been extremely alarmed at the political situation in Australia, the disunity, the strikes, and the farce which exists here of having two armies - one army which can fight the enemy wherever he may be found, and another which can fight only if we let the enemy choose the battleground. I felt that if I went to Great Britain I could not answer what obviously would be the charge that would be made by the people there - the charge that disunity exists in Australia. When in May, 1940, Great Britain was faced with a crisis of this nature, it solved it by forming a national government. On the 30th May, 1940, Mr. Winston Churchill said -
I have formed an administration of men and women of every party and of almost every point of view. We have differed, we have quarrelled, but now one bond unites us, to wage war until victory is won, and never surrender ourselves to servitude and shame, whatever the cost and agony may be.
Australia’s politicians have not been big enough to take that stand, although the people of Australia have been crying out for a national government. Why cannot our politicians banish selfishness? Why cannot we get together and form a national government which will unite Australia, instead of dividing it. When Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister he offered to form a national government. That offer was refused. The present Government has taken no steps to unite the nation, and I venture to say that, if we are going to do the honour which is due to those men who went abroad and who have offered their lives for their country, it is our duty on the home front to unite and pull together, as they have done. On the last occasion on which I spoke in this chamber, before I joined the Australian Imperial Force, I said, “My last request to the Senate is that to those who remain behind is entrusted the responsibility of ensuring that not only those who go abroad are properly equipped, but also that Australia is properly defended. I urge the Government, as I have done for some time, to call up every male between IS and 60 years of age for national service.” Has that been done? No. Had every man been called up we should not have to-day the farce of two armies. Surely we can sink our differences and get together as a united nation, with one army and one objective, which is victory. Let us win the war, and then win the peace. What answer would I meet with in Great Britain if I urged the people of that country to produce more in order to supply more of the equipment that we so urgently need? When we have many thousands of our men on strike, can we say to the people of Great Britain “ Work harder because our men will not work, our coal-miners are striking, and our industries are held up “fi am sorry that this is hurting honorable senators opposite, but the Government and its supporters might well reflect and consider that there is something more important than miserable political seats and more important than fighting over party politics. We are faced with a grave national crisis, and it behoves, every one of us to sink personal differences. I have a great respect for certain members, who sit on the Government side of the chamber. I am quite sure that our representatives would find no difficulty in sitting with them in the same government and ruling this country on a national basis and not on a narrow selfish basis, as it is being ruled to-day. I am proud, as I am sure every body else is proud, of the magnificent job that is being done by our Navy, our Army and our Air Force. Why are their magnificent deeds being marred by the disunity and disgraceful bickering that has been going on in this chamber for so many months? Having returned to Australia, I propose to devote my efforts to do whatever is possible to make us all proud of our country and equally proud of every man and woman in it. Instead of having to say, as we do to-day, to use Mr. Churchill’s words, “ Never in history have so many owed so much to so few”, would it not be better if we could say, “ Australia has done a good job, and every man and woman has taken a full share of the responsibility”?
– I suppose the honorable senator would even say that the coal-miners, who are on strike, are playing their part to bring about the maximum production for Australia?
– .Tell us something about the profiteers and what they are doing.
– I have not the slightest intention of being diverted by silly interjections. I propose to conclude by asking those honorable senators who are treating my -remarks in a jocular manner, when they are sincere, to give careful consideration to what I have said. I urge every one of my friends on the Government benches, as I call them my friends, to reconsider their present attitude, and to agree to form a national government, pledged to a wholehearted war effort that will utilize all the man-power, wealth and resources of this country to ensure victory for the
Allies, to provide one army, and to prevent strikes, lockouts, absenteeism, and all those other evils which are a disgrace to a fine country such as Australia.
– We are all delighted to see our good friend Senator Wilson with us again. We recognize that, with all the other soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force, he has done his part. At the same time, I think that some of the views which he has expressed to-night are out of perspective. I hate to hear any man decry his own country. I have on several occasions in the Senate especially urged the members of the Opposition to view the work of Australia fairly and squarely. I say now, as I have said before, that Australia has played its part in this great fight, and relatively has done more than any other country in the Empire. This continued decrying of Australia is to be deplored, regardless of whether it comes from a soldier or a layman. Neither soldier nor layman should speak disparagingly of his own country. Senator Wilson speaks of a national government. Admittedly, as a democracy, it lies within our power whether we have a national government. That is part and parcel of the democratic system of government for which we are fighting. I remind the honorable senator that in the great democracy of the United States of America, at whose head stand President Roosevelt. they have their Republican party and their Democratic party. There is no cry there such as Senator Wilson has uttered. There is no suggestion in America that that country is not playing its part. Surely we have unity in this country when we can meet and discuss matters and reach decisions. When men on both sides of the chamber are whole-heartedly in favour of ‘prosecuting the war to the full, there is unity. It does not follow that because we voice our opinions on opposite sides of politics there is disunity. It is utterly false to convey to the people the idea that there is disunity simply because there are two or more political parties. There is no disunity in Australia. So far as political action and democracy are concerned, we are all pledged to the prosecution of the war to a successful conclusion. It is doing a great disservice to the community to be continually saying that there is disunity because. Bob Menzies, Hattil Spencer Foll, Lieutenant-Colonel Spender, or Comrade Cameron is not in the Government. What utter and complete balderdash ! This Labour Government is playing its part and doing its best to preserve harmony. When Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister, he interviewed the miners and begged them to do what was necessary in the interests of the country. When he spoke to them, we did not hear any cry such as we hear now, but as soon as Labour gets into office the cry is broadcast that the miners will not work.
– In spite of a record coal production.
– Yes, last year’s coal production was a record for Australia. I deplore, as much as honorable senators opposite, the strikes which take place, but at the same time let us commend the workers for the splendid job they have done. I shall say no more on that subject, because after all, if we are fair and clear-minded we must admit that the workers of Australia have played their part, and will continue to play it. I take my hat off to the Australian soldiers and the Australian workmen, and will be the last in the world to decry them or to cry stinking fish. I do’- not blame Senator Wilson for his mistaken views. He has been away for two and a half years, and he does not know that we have discussed these matters with one another. Things are not so bad as he imagines and as he has staged. Unfortunately statements go out to the world that Senator Wilson, who has returned from the front, is under the impression that Australia is going “ to the dogs “ because LieutenantColonel Spender, Bob Menzies, Hattil Spencer Foll, and a few others are not members of a national government.
A few days ago I called attention te the fact that the censor had refused to allow the whole of the Soviet film “ Moscow Strikes Back “ to be shown in the picture theatres of Australia. I understand that 300 feet of the film depicting Nazi atrocities have been eliminated. Several weeks have elapsed since these cuts were made and I understood that the appeal censor, Mr. Leslie, was to deal with the matter. So far as 1 know the question has not yet been dealt with. I now ask the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) whether he has any information on this matter.
.- Today Senator J. B. Hayes asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount of income tax collected during the year ended the 30th June, 1942, and the two previous years, from the estates of deceased persons V
The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The information asked for by Senator Hayes is not available and could not be extracted without examination of all assessments and returns of the three yeaTs mentioned. Staff could not possibly be spared for such an examination at the present time.
The amount of estate duty collected from deceased estates for the last three years is set out hereunder, and it can be definitely asserted that the amount of income tax paid by such deceased estates would be less than those amounts and probably considerably less than £500,000.
It is pointed out that in respect of income derived up to the 30th June, 1940, no income tax was payable in respect of such income earned in the year of income up to the date of death if the estate were liable for the payment of estate duty.
On the 10th March, Senator Aylett made a statement - by leave - in regard to road transport in Tasmania. The Minister for Transport has now furnished the following reply: -
The statement made try Senator Aylett is composed of a series of ill-considered and unjustified personal attacks upon Mr. M. S. Wilson, Director of Emergency Road Transport iti Tasmania. As Commissioner for Transport in Tasmania, Mr. Wilson is responsible to the Tasmanian Government for the administration and control of both railway «nd road transport services in the State of Tasmania. When powers were taken by the Commonwealth Government under National Security Regulations to implement war-time control of road transport, the responsible road transport authority in each State was appointed a Director of Emergency Road Transport to administer war-time measures under the direction and co-ordinating influence of the Commonwealth Land Transport Board. Mr. M. S. Wilson thus acts as Director of Emergency Road Transport in Tasmania. He has the confidence of the Tasmanian Government and of the community concerned with the transport industry in that State. He has accepted extensive and onerous responsibilities on behalf of the Commonwealth without remuneration. This violent and completely unwarranted attack upon Mr. Wilson is very deeply regretted by me as the responsible Minister. It represents a serious disservice to the Commonwealth in a sphere of war-time administration of extreme difficulty and vital importance. Due to serious shortages of fuel, rubber, man-power, motor vehicles and replacement parts, commercial motor vehicle use must be progressively reduced to absolute essentials if we are to conserve the minimum nucleus of essential road transport services in the face of present difficulties. In view of the rubber situation especially, even more severe measures are contemplated as inescapable.
I take complete responsibility for action taken in the particular cases ,previously raised by Senator Aylett. With the full concurrence of the Commissioner for Transport in Tasmania, and pursuant to policy applied uniformly throughout the Commonwealth, road passenger services between St. Mary’s and Launceston and between Burnie and Smithton were re-arranged to obtain economies. With regard to the latter service, Mr. M. S. Wilson is conferring with the municipal authorities concerned on Tuesday, the 16th March. If he recommends any re-ad j usstment, appropriate action will be taken. In the case of the St. Mary’s-Launceston service, after full inquiry, I am satisfied that there has been no interference with really essential transport needs, but if particular difficulties are raised, the Commissioner for Transport in Tasmania will consider these and recommend any adjustments found to be absolutely necessary. General reference was made to some districts which are served by the most up-to-date train services in the State, and which also have omnibus services. This is a general statement. If particulars, are provided they will he investigated.
Senator Aylett has referred to incidents which occurred more than twelve months ago in relation to delivery of milk, bread and meat. These matters relate to the effect of the Retail Delivery of Commodities Order made by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), which has common application throughout the Commonwealth. The personal attack made upon Mr. M. S. Wilson in this connexion is unfair and utterly pernicious.
Reference was also made to Mr. Wilson’s activities whilst acting as Deputy DirectorGeneral of Man Power on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. This is not a matter which comes under my administration.
– To-day Senator Leckie asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation the following ques-tiona, upon notice -
The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
.- I understand that the Department of Information has just released a film depicting the battles around Kokoda in Papua, and that a film showing the battle of the Bismarck Sca will be released shortly. As honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives have not an opportunity to see these films screened in the normal way, I ask that arrangements be made for a special screening as has been done by courtesy of the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) in the past.
, - in reply - During the whole time that I have been a member of this chamber I do not, think that I have ever had such a pronounced feeling of sadness as I had to-night when Senator Wilson was speaking. I do not propose to traverse the honorable senator’s remarks; probably it will be better if I say very little about them because I feel sure that at some time in the future, when Senator Wilson has had time to reflect calmly upon what he has said to-night, he will he as sad as I am about those utterances. The honorable senator has done a man’s job; there is no difference of opinion upon that. We were all very happy when we learned last week that he had returned safely to Australia and that by Monday of this week, he would be in Canberra. We were glad that he had come safely through the campaigns overseas, and we looked forward to welcoming him back. Apparently, the honorable senator has been out of touch with happenings in Australia during his prolonged absence. As we. all know, many things have happened in this country since Senator “Wilson went away. Sixteen months ago there was a change of government, and a new administration came into office. I shall not attempt to traverse the events of the past sixteen months, but I assure Senator Wilson that the people of this country were never more united than they are to-day. The men and women of this country are absolutely united in making a tremendous effort to bring this frightful calamity which has fallen upon the world to a successful conclusion in the interests of the allied nations and of the British Commonwealth of Nations to which we belong and in which we have so much pride. In this country as in every other country involved in the war, there have been regrettable circumstances and difficulties which it is impossible to avoid in time of war; hut we are getting over those difficulties. I mention these facts in Senator. Wilson’s own interest, because I should like him to have a real appreciation of what has happened during his absence. We have been congratulated by .people who have come .to this country for the specific purpose of ascertaining the war effort that Australia is making. When I say “ we “ I am speaking not of this Government or of any previous Government; I am speaking of the people of Australia. We have been told most ungrudgingly that if there is any real difficulty in Australia, it is due to the fact that,- with our small population we have attempted to do more that it is physically possible to accomplish. Wo are encountering man-power difficulties because every available man is required in the fighting forces, in the industries which are engaged upon the task of keeping our fighting men in the field properly equipped and properly fed, or in some other phase of essential war effort. The Government to which I belong and which I represent in this chamber has endeavoured to ensure that non-essential industries shall go out of production in order that the man-power engaged in them may be available for essential undertakings. We have accomplished that task successfully. It has been a great pleasure and a privilege to me, and I am sure to other honorable senators in this chamber, to be united on at least one political issue, namely, the granting of a pair to Senator Wilson during his absence overseas. We should have been prepared to extend * similar courtesy to any other honorable senator opposite who had gone abroad as a member of our (fighting forces. I do not wish to stress that concession in any boastful way, but there is such a thing as a difference of opinion on non-essentials, and on complete unity of opinion on the things that really matter. Such antiquated ideas, -as the formation of a national government, which in the early days of the war were features of the political arena, have disappeared together with other infantile disorders. We have decided that we can make democracy work and still stick to out parliamentary institutions, of which every person of British origin or British descent in this country and in every other country of the Empire is so proud.
The remarks of Senator Brown and other honorable senators who have spoken on this motion have been noted’ and will be placed before the appropriate Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were preedited : -
Commonwealth Railways Act- By-law No. S3.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders - Taking possession of land &c. (105).
National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations- Order - Declaration of Indestructible goode.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 54, 55, 66.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1043, No. 42.
Senate adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430316_senate_16_174/>.