16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - Eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
1 ) That Mr. Marwick be appointed to serve on the Joint Committee on Rural Industries.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Army, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information to give to the House concerning a report in this week’s issue of Smith’s W eekly in regard to a mysterious mission 204, presumably recruited from members of the Eighth Division of the Australian Imperial Force and other Britishtroops in Malaya, some of whom sent letters to relatives from Chungking, China, last June? If not, will the right honorable gentleman institute inquiries in regard to the matter?
Mr.CURTIN.- The answer to the latter part of the question, is that I shall institute inquiries.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs take steps to amend the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations in order that they may be extended to cover any hotel rents that may require adjustment?
– I shall be pleased to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The increase of the excise on a packet of twenty cigarettes is 4d., which is approximately two-thirds of the increase of pay recently approved in respect of members of the fighting services. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs examine the position with a view to recommending to the Government that tobacco and cigarettes sold to all servicemen through the canteens shall, to the limit of the ration issue, be retailed at a price that excludes the recent increase of the excise?
– I hare noted public comment by the Minister for Trade and Customs in relation to this matter. I am not acquainted with the details; but it appears to me that the request of the honorable member is a modification of that originally made. I shall refer the subject to the Minister, and obtain his opinion upon it.
– lias the attention of tha Minister of ‘Commerce been directed to a circular issued by the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales, in connexion with the marketing of lamb? Can the honorable gentleman inform the House whether transport can be guaranteed for the removal to the metropolitan abattoirs of any stock in respect of which a contract has been made?
– My attention has been drawn to the circular issued to the members of the Wheat-growers Union in regard to the processing of lambs. I am rather surprised at its contents, inasmuch us it specifically mentions a firm that conducts its operations at Homebush. Any inland stock-owner having dealings with that firm would have to transport his lambs a considerable distance. It is the wish of the Government that, wherever possible, lambs shall be processed at the country killing works, the location of which I mentioned yesterday, in order to avoid unnecessary transport. In the Parkes area, the Government has gone to considerable expense in order to assist the owners of the killing plant there to make it one of the most up-to-date establishments in the Commonwealth. It is the duty of all farmers to assist the Government to save transport by having their lambs processed at country killing establishments.
– Oan the Treasurer give any information in regard to further restrictions on sales of shares on stock exchanges throughout Australia?
– I have already intimated that the arrangement under which ceiling in regard to sales of shares had been fixed is being reviewed. I have expressed the view that the fortnightly review at the middle of the month having taken place, there should not be a further revision at the end of the present month. Meanwhile, I am examining the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development whether special action is being taken to increase supplies of coal to the States of “Victoria and South Australia? Is the honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– I am pleased to be able to announce that last week there was a record shipment of coal from Newcastle to the southern States. There is no need for me to recite details of the extreme difficulties that have operated in respect of the transport of coal, because honorable members must have a thorough realization of the position. There has been a sufficiency of coal, but the shipping available has not been adequate to move it to southern ports. Steps have been taken to conserve supplies of coal in Victoria and South Australia. A conference was held in Victoria last week. Arising out of it, and also of the movement of ships, it has boon possible to defer for at least another month the rationing of supplies in that State. I hope that we shall be able to keep above the danger line in both Victoria and South Australia.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development read in the Adelaide Mail the statement of the Honorable R. S. Richards that South Australia is to receive more coal, but that unjustified criticism of the Federal Government must cease, or responsible authorities would be compelled to confine essential work to areas where steel and coal supplies arc available? Was Mr. Richards authorized by the Minister to issue that warning, and does the Minister approve of the making of such a threat to the manufacturing interests of South Australia ?
– It is true “that I had a long discussion with Mr. Richards on the subject of coal supplies for South Australia. I referred to the fact that war production in South Australia had increased, and that it might be necessary in future to develop war industries in areas closer to the point of coal production. That was not a threat, but a practical approach to the problem. It is not my desire to interfere with the manufacturing interests of South Australia. We are straining every nerve to maintain supplies to that State, and are even assisting in the development of coal resources there. If Mr. Richards made the statement attributed to him, it was probably based on our conversation, but nothing that I said was intended to be a threat; rather was it an indication of what might be necessary in the future.
– by leave - It is now nearly five months since I last presented to the House an account of the activities of the Department of War Organization of Industry. In view of the important developments which have occurred since then, I think the time is opportune for a further review. This is necessary, not only because I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House are entitled to the fullest possible information about matters with which the department is concerned, but also in view of the frequent evidence of misunderstanding of our work, which is to be seen in the statements of the department’s critics.
Before I go on to review the major activities on which my department is engaged, I should like to give to the House a broad picture of what has been done in the way of diverting resources to the war effort. Since the Government took office, nearly 400,000 persons have been transferred from civilian life and work to direct war work in the armed services, factories, and elsewhere. Where before the war there were more than 500,000 persons employed in factories making goods for the civil population, there are now only 200,000. The total number of factory workers is 700,000, but of these 500,000 are making munitions, aircraft and other war supplies. Man-power movements of this magnitude have not been achieved without careful planning and organization. Inevitably, the diversion of man-power and materials from civil production and the cutting off of imported supplies have given rise to shortages of civil supplies, but the Government, through the Rationing Commission, and in other ways, has taken and is taking steps to ensure that a reasonable and equitable distribution of the available supplies amongst the civil population is maintained. Were it not for the organized diversion of resources from civil production, there must have been available to Australia in this time of grave emergency an army, an air force and a navy not only smaller, but also much less well equipped. The production departments have achieved miracles in stepping up production of war supplies, but it would have been impossible for them to find the men and the materials to feed into the war factories if the Government had not been prepared with plans for the organized movement of labour and for the organization of civil industry on a war basis.
I propose now to survey briefly the more important activities of the Department of War Organization of Industry in order that members may have a clear picture of the progress which has been made, and of the range and difficulties of the problems which must be faced. I hope to make it clear, amongst other things, that my department is not merely concerned with prohibitions and restrictions and other such negative measures, important as these are for the progress of the war effort. To begin with, the department is charged with important responsibilities as the secretariat and executive department of the Production Executive of Cabinet. In this capacity, it has to put together the information and prepare the necessary submissions on the basis of which the Production Executive can frame its policies. It has to follow up the decisions of the Production Executive to ensure that these are carried out by whatever Commonwealth authority happens to be appropriate for the purpose. In addition, where there is no existing authority available to implement the Production Executive’s decisions, the department is obliged to undertake the executive work itself.
In its capacity as the secretariat and executive department of the Production Executive, my department is also involved in many activities connected with the coordination of the various departments which are responsible for war production and for the control of industry and commerce. The Production Executive itself ensures co-ordination in the development of policy at the ministerial level. In addition, however, the Department of War Organization of Industry is responsible for the maintenance of a variety of administrative arrangements which contribute greatly to the smooth and coordinated operation of measures taken in pursuance of the war effort. These arrangements take principally the form of inter-departmental committees, the secretariat of which is provided by my department. Of these committees, undoubtedly the most significant from the national viewpoint is the standing departmental committee which was set up by the sub-committee of War Cabinet constituted in March to review war commitments in the light of altered conditions. This standing departmental committee has prepared reports which provide a comprehensive review of the Australian man-power situation, setting the man-power commitments of the war programme against the supplies of labour which can be made available from various sources and by various methods. Before the Government made provision for this comprehensive review there was no means by which Cabinet could see the manpower commitments of the Commonwealth in true perspective, no means by which it could be established whether some new project was within the man-power resources of the country if these were stretched to the utmost. The co-ordination »f man-power policy at the administrative level which this departmental committee provides and the information which it assembles are amongst the most vital elements of the machinery which enables the war effort to go forward smoothly, and the Government to make its major decisions on war policy with a full knowledge of the facts of the situation.
Another inter-departmental committee more recently established is the Australian Clothing Council. This consists of representatives of the Department of Supply and Development, the Division of
Import Procurement, the Directorate of Man Power, the Commonwealth Prices Branch, and the Rationing Commission, with an officer of the Department of War Organization of Industry as chairman and executive officer. The council provides a central point of reference on all aspects of clothing policy, and enables all the departments concerned to take concerted action to ensure that the clothing which is needed by the Australian population is made available to the full extent permitted by the resources open to us. The Matches Co-ordination Committee and the committee which controls the use of cocoa beans and their products are other examples of co-ordinating machinery within my department. Both of these have been set up to correlate the supply of the commodities concerned with essential civil and service demands. The most recently established committee is the Transport Emergency Freight Committee. This committee was set up in recognition of the fact that, however effective the separate authorities responsible for providing transport facilities may be, there is need, in addition, for a body which will look at the transport question as a whole, and ensure that freight priorities are so allocated that first things come first where transport, whether by sea, land or air, is in question. A central focus for transport priorities is imperative in the present circumstances, when transport facilities are strained to such a degree that even the basic fuels and raw materials of industry must often be withheld.
Apart from these formal interdepartmental administrative arrangements, there are many informal measures of coordination for which my department is responsible. In a large measure, these result from informal discussions by which the Department of War Organization of Industry is able to provide advice and information to other departments on many matters involving the general principles and broad development of the war effort, rather than the special spheres of the various departments. In particular, the department is looked to for advice on the relative essentiality of various civil industries in relation to, for example, of man-power policy, and the supply of scarce materials. In these and other co-ordinating activities, the department is assisted by the fact that the statistician of the Department of War Organization of Industry has been given general charge of the war statistics section instituted by the Commonwealth Statistician to maintain liaison between statistical officers of various war departments.
An important group of functions exercised by my department arises from its relationship with the Food Council, over which the Minister for Supply and Development presides. The department maintains the statistical services of the Food Council, and co-operates with the executive officer of the Food Council in furnishing advice upon the problems of food industries. For example, it was on a submission from my department that the Food Council decided to establish production goals as a basis for government policy in dealing with food production. In co-operation with the Department of Commerce, the Department of War Organization of Industry has now carried out the investigation necessary for the determination of appropriate goals of food production. The production executive has approved these goals, and there can be no doubt that they will provide a concrete basis for the development and administration of policy on such matters as the supply of man-power, agricultural machinery, and fertilizers, in the food industries. 1 have now briefly surveyed some of the activities of the Department of War Organization of Industry, which are sometimes overlooked by those who imagine that our only job is to impose restrictions. I turn next to those activities of the department which are concerned specifically with the diversion of the resources cf the Commonwealth from non-essential uses to uses in which they will minister to the cause of victory. These are, for the most part, the restrictive activities of the department. Yet even with these, the action which we take is not always negative or purely restrictive from the point of view of the civil population. In some industries - .notably the clothing trades - the rationalization plans which my department is implementing are designed, not to curtail civilian supplies, but, to ensure that greater supplies of essentials shall be produced as efficiently as can he managed. In a broader sense, moreover, none of the department’s restrictive measures is purely negative. Restrictions are not imposed for their own sake, or from a sadistic delight in imposing hardships upon civilians. They are imposed only in cases where restrictions will make a clear and positive contribution to the war effort. Sometimes, I have been criticized for moving too fast with restrictive measures; sometimes many of the same critics have accused me of making slow progress. The first of these criticisms, in view of the acute shortage of man-power and other resources, entirely lacks substance. My policy has always been to push on with the diversion of resources from nonessentials just as fast as we could deal with the problems and obstacles. My only regret is that we could not manage to move faster. Measures designed to divert labour and resources include the control of building, prohibition of the manufacture of certain articles, and control of new business, disemployment orders, and the rationalization of industry. I do not wish to weary the House with a detailed account of all these activities, and shall confine my attention to the problem of the rationalization of industry.
In my statement to the House on the 29th April, I explained the principles on which we were working in our plans for the rationalization of industry. I now propose to review the progress which has been made in this direction. This review will, I think, provide « full answer to the question which the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) asked the Prime Minister in the House on the 9th September.
First, let me indicate some of the rationalization plains which have been submitted to the production executive and formally implemented under National Security Regulations. It should be explained in advance that these plans for which legal measures have been necessary, constitute only a proportion of the results so far achieved, and a much smaller proportion of the work already carried out and awaiting only the determination of final details before being put into effect. It is convenient to list the various rationalization schemes which have been formally approved and implemented: Gold-mining, packaging, bread and milk deliveries, standardization of clothing materials, other retail deliveries, dry cleaning, veterinary remedies, stockfoods and stock-licks, simplification of meals, standardization of clothing styles, and the standardization of footwear.
At least as important as the rationalization proposals which have been formally adopted are the measures of voluntary rationalization by which firms and industries have anticipated the department’s proposals. From the beginning, it was intended, and made plain to the representatives of industry, that as far as possible, industry should work out its own salvation, whilst the Government would step in with legal measures only where voluntary arrangements could not be successfully introduced or operated. The voluntary measures which industry has taken relate chiefly to the elimination of unnecessary varieties of products. By this means, there have been achieved not only large savings in respect of materials and man-power previously absorbed in unnecessary “ frills hut also important gains in industrial efficiency resulting from the avoidance of frequent change-overs in production, and the necessity to handle and stock many different varieties. In addition, many industries have voluntarily introduced zoning and other arrangements to save fuel and transport facilities, and a few have undertaken more ambitious schemes of rationalization involving some degree of concentration of production. In some cases, the industries adopting rationalization measures in this way, have acted quite independently. Others have acted in consultation with the Government departments which have been concerned, for example, with supplies of materials. But in the great majority of oases, the industries have acted in close collaboration with, and often under pressure from, the Department of War Organization of Industry. Examples of industries in which rationalization has progressed on a voluntary basis include the following: - Biscuits, soap, soft drinks, tobacco, confectionery, jam, glass products, canisters, sausage casings and smallgoods, matches, stationers’ requisites, stationery, dry batteries, and buttons.
Most of the schemes so far introduced - especially those introduced voluntarily - do not achieve complete rationalization. Often, still more varieties could be eliminated and production concentrated in fewer firms. But it has been found that after a certain point, the difficulties and time required for rationalization rise sharply. Greater results can, therefore, be obtained in a short time if a reasonable amount of rationalization is spread over a wide range of industry, than if time is taken to cross the t’E and dot the i’s in each industry before passing to the next. The department plans to undertake a further review of many industries as opportunity permits. In industries where rationalization has so far been on a voluntary basis this further review is in many instances already proceeding, and a greater degree of rationalization may subsequently be insisted upon.
In the near future, complete proposals for a considerable number of industries, representing months of careful preparation, will be produced. Some of the industries in respect of which a great deal of work has already been done are indicated in the following list: - Cosmetics, dentifrice, cycles, soap, confectionery, gas-producers, optical munitions, electroplating, banking, hand and garden tools, iron and steel foundries and moulding, and catering.
I mention these industries merely by way of example; there are many others on which a great deal of progress has been made. Moreover, the department has recently begun to give its closest attention to other fields in which manpower and other problems are now arising in an increasing degree - for example, rural industries and wholesale and retail trade. One of the chief problems which must be determined before rationalization can be carried to its logical conclusion in many industries is the question of compensation for firms which must cease business in the interests of efficient war-time organization. The principles at issue in this question are amongst the most fundamental of domestic policy in war-time, and it has been necessary to allow time for the accumulation of experience in the problems involved before making a final determination of government policy. The Government is now considering the matter with a view to establishing some basic principles, and an announcement may be expected soon.
When the critics of my department are not busy saying that we do not consult industry enough, they can generally be heard complaining that the officers and advisers of the Department of War Organization of Industry are inexperienced in the business and industrial problems with which the department deals, and that they are academic theorists rather than practical men. This charge is of course entirely baseless. In order to disprove it, it is only necessary to run one’s eye over the records of the department’s principal officers and advisers. So that honorable members may have an opportunity to do this, I shall incorporate in Hansard, with their approval, a list of the personnel of the Department of War Organization of Industry.
Dr. E. R. Walker, Deputy Director and Chief Economic Adviser. - Dr. Walker is Professor of Economics in the University of Tasmania and Economic Adviser to the Government of Tasmania (on leave). He was previously Economic Adviser to the Government of Ne” South Wales, and delegate of the Commonwealth Government to the League of Nations in 1937. He has more recently held the following positions: - Consultant on reconstruction to the Commonwealth Government and Chairman of the Tasmanian War Industries Committee.
Herbert Piper, Assistant Director (Production Investigations). - Mr. Piper was Assistant Superintendent and Chief Engineer, Ford Motor Company. He was previously with Charles Ruwolt, Proprietary Limited.
Harold Staley, Head of Industries Division 1 ( Foodstuffs and Associated Products ) . - Mr. Staley has held the following positions: - Assistant Secretary to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce; Assistant Manager, Summerland Fruit Preserving Company, Brisbane; Manager, Foggitt Jones, Proprietary Limited, Melbourne, and Interstate Representative, H. J. Heinz Company Limited.
Clifford Francis, Head of Industries Division 4 (Clothing, Textiles and Footwear). - Mr. Francis was Director and General Manager of Jantzen’s (Australia) Limited. He joined this company in 1927 when visiting the United States of America, and was trained in every factory operation. He returned in 1928 as Assistant Factory Superintendent in Jantzen’s new Australian Company, and later became the company’s secretary and director.
Dr. I.Clunies Ross, Adviser on Pastoral Industries. - Dr. Clunies Ross is Professor of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. He has done Research at the schools of Tropical Medicine, London and Cambridge, and at the Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokio, Japan. He has been Director of the McMaster Animal Health Laboratory, New South Wales. He is a member of the following bodies in Australia: - National Research Council; The Council of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales; and the Council of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He was a member of the Australian Delegation to the League of Nations Assembly in 1938, Alternative Australian member of the International Chamber of Commerce, 1939, and was Australian representative on the International Wool Secretariat.
Dr. Campbell, Adviser on Industrial Chemicals. ; Dr. Campbell is a Doctor of Science, and a Fellow of the Australian Chemical Institute. He has specialized in Industrial Research, and is a Consulting Chemist in Victoria. He has been Acting Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Melbourne, and is at present Lecturer in Chemistry at Ormond Col lege, University of Melbourne.
Colin Clark. - Mr. Clark is Director of the
Queensland Bureau of Industry, and was previously Lecturer in Statistics at the University of Cambridge.
General for Western Australia. He is a memberof the Western Australian Institute of Accountants and Auditors.
Staffs of State Branches in New South Wales and Victoria.
A.O. Anderson, Assistant Deputy Director. - Mr. Anderson was formerly an Executive of Manufacturers Distributors, Warehousemen, York-street, Sydney.
In considering the staff of ray department, I would remind honorable members of the fact that when I took up my present position as Minister there was no organization of any kind available to me to undertake the extremely difficult and urgent tasks which had to be faced. I think it is a tribute to the organizing ability of those responsible for developing the department that we have been able to secure such a well-balanced group of officers with qualifications so well adapted for the functions which they are required to discharge. There is no such thing as ready-made experts for the job facing my department because most of the tasks have never been previously tackled. What we set out to do, and I think we have achieved a substantial measure of success, was to obtain the services of men with extensive experience in public administration, men familiar with the broad economic problems of government, as well as practical business men. I think it is a cause for gratification that some members of my staff have outstanding records in academic as well as other spheres, and the Government was fortunate in being able to secure their services.
Speaking with a knowledge of the work done by the staff of the department, the manner in which they are devoting their time, including a large proportion of their leisure hours, to departmental problems, and the worth-while progress that has been made in assisting the war effort, I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the organization and to each member of the staff who has been working so unselfishly in the public interest.
Much of the work which has fallen to the lot of my department is not of a character that will earn popular acclaim, entailing as it does many sacrifices on the part of the community. I hope, however, in tabling this paper, that there will at least be an end to ill-informed personal criticism which is not calculated to serve the national interest, but may succeed in increasing the difficulties of those officers charged with such a complex and difficult undertaking.
This statement would be incomplete without a reference to another criticism of my department’s activities which has sometimes been voiced - namely, that we have set out to eliminate from business the small firm while leaving large firms in operation. It should not be necessary to inform the House that I am not partial to the interests of big business. The interesting thing is that on the one hand I am accused of socialistic designs, and on the other of protecting the monopolist at the expense of the small man. Neither charge can be supported by one shred of evidence. I challenge honorable members once again to produce a single piece of evidence which suggests that my department’s actions are biased against the small firm. Firms have been closed as a result of my orders prohibiting non-essential production, but these orders have put out of business all firms dependent upon the prohibited products, whether large or small. I would remind honorable members that prohibition orders were widely approved in the press, and specifically endorsed in published statements by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). Those who imagine that the department aims at the closing of small firms are confusing the policy and actions of the Department of War Organization of Industry with the general effects of the war, which have been such as to cause hardships and grief in many directions. Amongst the hardships has been the shortage of many materials, manufactured articles, and man-power for non-war purposes. Amongst those who have suffered - and they are one group amongst many - are the small firms which have been unable to keep going on a reduced turnover as supplies have become short. But the war, not my department, must be blamed for the shortage.
The closing down of small suburban shops is an aspect of this problem which has given rise to particular concern. The Government is now considering ways and means of diverting man-power from retail trade, and in this connexion it may be possible to take action which will result in the diversion to the small shops of some of the business which is now done in the large departmental stores. This will raise difficult problems, but members may rest assured that the Government will take any action along those lines which is administratively practicable. One of the advantages of this course lies in the fact that the large stores employ labour of a type which is well suited to the needs of war production, whereas small shops in the suburbs can rely more readily on part-time assistance and on workers not easily transferable to war jobs.
The plans I have mentioned for the diversion of man-power from retail trade are typical of the measures on which it will be necessary to rely in great part for the man-power required for the war effort in the next few months. There is reason to believe that the field of factory employment is now well on the way towards being worked out. If the war effort’s demands for men are to be satisfied, upwards of 70,000 men will have to be found in the next few months as the contribution from fields such as commerce and finance, wholesale and retail trade. Many of them will ‘be leaving “ white-collar “ jobs for work requiring physical exertion, but I am confident that Australians are sufficiently adaptable to make the change willingly and with success. Some of them, but by no means all, can be replaced in their present jobs by female labour. Nevertheless, it will not be possible to obtain the necessary man-power without far-reaching measures of re-organization in all the “whitecollar “ industries which are essential to the continued working of the economic system. Another field in which reorganization will be necessary is the field of rural industry. At the present time, we have the anomaly that some rural industries .are short of manpower for the production of foodstuffs and other commodities urgently required by ourselves and our Allies, while other rural industries continue to produce unmarketable surpluses or things which we could do without. We can scarcely contemplate the curtailment of essential supplies to the people of the United Kingdom, or the withdrawal of men from the Army in order to bolster up some types of rural production, when at the same time other types of production have a surplus of man-power from the viewpoint of war requirements. I mention these matters in passing so that members may know in advance of developments which are now pending.
The measures which we will have to take in the near f future in order to ensure the continued expansion of the war effort will be more far-reaching than those which we have had to take in the past. I have already said that the Government has no intention to impose hardships and restrictions for their own sake. I suppose that it is necessary for me to repeat also that the motives for my actions are not dictatedby political theories. I have been accused of using the war to impose pet theories of my own. There is not one vestige of truth in such a charge. Like every one else, I want to win the war. Unlike some other people, I am prepared to take the action which is necessary if we are to have a chance of winning it. This is the only theory which lies behind the war organization of industry as it has been, and will be, carried out by my department and by the Government as a whole. People tell me that the public will not stand these things, and that we will make ourselves unpopular. With certain sectional interests who place their own position and profits before the Commonwealth, the Government and I, as Minister for War Organization of Industry, are no doubt unpopular ; this will not deter me from doing my job as I am convinced it should be done in the nation’s interest. Of the Australian people as a whole I think it can be said that they have never yet resented measures which could be shown to be necessary to further the war effort, and I believe that Australians will continue to accept and to welcome whatever hardships will help to place an extra man or an extra gun in the drive against the Japanese. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Activities of Department of War Organization of Industry - Ministerial statement. 30th September, 1942. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
Order of the Day No. 11 - Activities of the Department of War Organization of Industry - Ministerial Statement - Resumption of Debate - discharged.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to answer the question which I asked recently regarding the report that the Government had decided to cease granting deferred pay to Army nurses who had enlisted for service with the Australian Imperial Force, but who had not left Australia, notwithstanding the fact that many of them had been under fire at Darwin and that some of them had actually lost their lives?
– I shall obtain the information as soon as possible and supply it to the honorable gentleman.
– Is it a fact that the many thousands of persons whom the Minister for War Organization of Industry has claimed to have been employed in industry as the result of the activities of his department are mainly workingclass people, who have lived for many years in shacks, bag humpies, tents, and other inadequate shelters? How many of these people applied to his department for permission to build homes, and has the department refused to grant permission if the cost of a proposed building is more than £350? Does the Minister consider that this attitude will enhance the prestige of the present Government?
– It is a fact that most of the people who havebeen diverted to war work are members of the working classes, because the majority of the general population belongs to those classes. It is also true that the Department of War Organization of Industry has received many applications from workers for permission to build homes. However, the plain fact is that, if I granted these applications, the homes could be built only at the cost of interfering with urgent war work, which is essential to the safety of the Commonwealth. For that reason I have decided that, as the War Workers Housing Trust can build temporary homes for munitions workers at a cost of £350, I could not justify the expenditure of any greater sum than that on the building of a home for a private individual.
– I wish to ask the
Prime Minister a question with reference to the absence from his place in this chamber of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). I am aware that the honorable member, like many other Australians who enlisted for active service, is posted as missing.
Having regard to the fact that the greatly regretted absence of the honorable member affects the constitution of this House, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information to impart concerning the fate of the honorable gentleman? Can he alleviate our anxiety or in any way throw light upon the fact that the honorable member is posted as missing?
– I regret very much that I am unable to add to the official information in respect of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I can only say that I am anxious to obtain information regarding that gentleman and all of the other enlisted men who are reported as missing in Malaya. We have had extraordinary difficulty in obtaining any information at all, and such as we have received has been very scanty, and unsatisfactory. We hope that the reciprocal repatriation of diplomatic officers will enable us to obtain further information from Japan, but it is too early yet to expect any result from that quarter.
– Men who are called up by the Allied Works Council and found to be either unsuitable or too old for work with the Civil Constructional Corps are discharged and thrown on the unemployment scrap heap. In view of the fact that these men are forcibly taken from their usual occupations and, in the event of being found unsuitable for labouring work, are discharged, will the Prime Minister frame a regulation providing for thepayment of some sort of compensation to them while they are looking for other work, or imposing the obligation upon the Allied Works Council to secure their reinstatement in the jobs from which they were taken?
-The case stated by the honorable member for Dalley calls for some consideration, and I undertake to see that that consideration is given and that a decision is reached as soon as possible.
– In view of the statement which the Minister for War Organization of Industry made to the
House to-day, will he inform honorable members what primary industries are, in the opinion of his department, producing surpluses at the present time?
– I do not believe that it is necessary for meto tell honorable members what primary commodities are being produced in excess of our requirements at the present time. Wheat is certainly one of them, and apples and pears also are being produced in excess of our requirements. I have no doubt that the honorable member can add to the list.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether handling, storage, and rail costs that will be incurred in respect of the forthcoming wheat harvest will be charged against the wheat received from the harvest?
– No handling charges will be taken out of the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. There will be a net advance of 2s. a bushel on the residue of the crop and the handling charges for that quantity will come out of the realizations of the pool.
– Only the handling charges of the excess?
– According to today’s press the Australian Agricultural Council decided yesterday that there should be no further curtailment of wheat production in Australia. In view of the fact that the Minister for War Organization of Industry announced a few moments ago that wheat was obviously one of the primary products of Australia at present in excess supply, and therefore one which should be subjected to curtailment, I ask the Prime Minister in the public interest whether he will make an early statement clarifying the position? The wheat-growers, at least, should know which policy is to prevail.
– I shall give the matter my attention when I have been informed of the decision of the Australian Agricultural Council. As soon as that information reaches me, and a soon as the views of the Governments of the four wheat-producing States are made available to me, and as soon as I have completed my survey of the manpower problem in toto, and as soon as I have measured the position against the production targets that have been set .by the Production Executive, I shall endeavour to assist the honorable member for Indi.
Japanese SHORT-WAVE Broadcasts.
– I bring to the attention of the Prime Minister the fact that at 9.15 p.im. each day the Japanese authorities broadcast by shortwave from Tokyo statements by four Australian prisoners of war, each of whom give.? his name and number, his unit, the date he left Australia, the date of his arrival at the battle front, the time when he was taken prisoner, and the camp in which he is situated.
– Why should the honorable member advertise such broadcasts?
– I ask the Prime Minister whether some of the information broadcast in this way could be published so that the relatives of the mon concerned may know that they are still alive and being cared for?
– Talks from other countries, including Japan, are monitored. The first thing that would he necessary in this case would be to ascertain that the Tokyo broadcasts are authentic.
– The talks are “ put over “ in order to assist Japanese propaganda.
– That is so. As 1 stated earlier, we have found it extremely difficult to obtain any information from Japan about prisoners of war. I am hopeful, however, that as the result of the recent exchange .by Australia and Japan of members of the Diplomatic Corps, we may he able to secure better information concerning prisoners of war in Japanese hands.
– As severe drought, conditions prevail in many coastal areas in Australia, and difficulty is being experienced in obtaining fodder from other parts of the country owing to the shortage of railway trucks, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) recently directed the attention of the Prime Minister to a hold-up of trucks for 48 hours over the week-end at Darling Harbour. The right honorable gentleman said that he would investigate the complaint and make a statement upon it. Is he yet able to do so?
– The Prime Minister requested me to make this investigation. A conference was held at Canberra recently on the whole subject and a satisfactory basis of settlement was agreed to, but it was necessary for the delegates to convey the decisions of the conference to their respective organizations. This is being done. I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject in the next few days.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald to the effect that strikes have occurred at three more coalmines? In view of the statement of the right honorable gentleman yesterday, that, interruptions of essential war industries would not be tolerated, I ask him what action is being taken in respect of these stoppages ?
– The Government does not rely upon newspaper reports on such matters, but I shall investigate the complaint of the honorable member. Where prosecutions are warranted, they will be instituted.
– An official of the Treasury is reported to have stated that the Commonwealth Government contemplated gazetting regulations to restrict sales of investment properties. Is that statement correct? If so, what form will the restrictions take?
– An examination of the position is being made. I hope to issue, regulations to strengthen the existing provisions in regard to the sale of investment properties. I am informed that, some valuations of properties have been entirely unsatisfactory. Action will be taken in this connexion also.
– On the 11th September the Prime Minister undertook to ask the Treasurer to institute inquiries concerning the source of a statement published in the Daily Telegraph on the preceding day that the Government intended to impose a surtax on incomes. Has the right honorable gentleman yet received a report on the subject; if so, can he make a statement to the House?
– I have not yet received any information about the source of the misstatement published by the Daily Telegraph to the effect that a surtax on incomes would be imposed. A great many misstatements are being made in the press and orally.
– I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister a statement published in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, in which Mr. G. W. Gordon, general president of the Primary Producers Union, is reported to have said that a strike by people engaged in the dairying industry is one of the chief reasons for the present shortage of dairy products, and that dairy-farmers were determined to continue to limit their production to the lowest possible output. As the Government has issued regulations to outlaw strikes and to deal with employers’ and employees involved in strikes in essential industries, I ask the right honorable gentleman what action he intends to take following the statement by Mr. Gordon?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable member, and I do not know that it has come to the notice of the Department of Commerce or any other department. On confirmation of an authoritative submission in respect of any matter which involves a stoppage in an essential industry, I shall remit it to the Attorney-General for the necessary steps to be taken to deal judicially with the person’s concerned. I say “deal judicially”, for I would not convict or exonerate them. It would be intolerable for the Government to act on newspaper reports regarding coal-miners or any other individuals.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The serious condition of the dairying industry, due to deficient man-power and inadequate prices for butter and other dairy products, and the necessity for immediate remedial government action “.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– To-day, a question was asked which suggested that the dairyfarmer might go on strike. I do not think that in the present condition of the affairs of the nation, there is any likelihood of the dairy-farmer withholding supplies of butter or of discontinuing production’ while it is physically and economically possible for him to continue his operations. Therefore, any suggestion of a strike by him is entirely without foundation. But if it should become physically and economically impossible for him to continue his operations, there must be discontinuance of the production of butter.
The necessity for the production of butter, cheese, pork, bacon and eggs is as great to-day as it has ever been. These foodstuffs are as vital to our capacity to conduct the war as are munitions themselves. Indeed, they are a subsidiary form of munitions, and the production of them should not be left to fortuitous circumstances. Such important industries should not be allowed merely to take their chance of survival. If dairy products be required for the food supplies of our armed services, our civilian population, and the armed services and people of the United Kingdom, there will have to be a rapid revision of the attitude of the Government - and of the community generally, for that matter - towards this great industry. The decline that has already taken place in connexion with, the production of butter, pork, cheese, milk and eggs will gather accelerated momentum unless immediate steps be taken to afford stimulus and encouragement to the industry. The dairy-farmer has been a very patient individual. He has watched every other section of the community, since the outbreak of war, receive increases of income. He has noted that wages have risen higher and higher. He has not been able to retain his employees, or even the members of his family, owing to the lucrative employment provided, by other industries. He has felt the impact of cost of living increases, particularly, in respect of those goods that he has to purchase. The increase in respect of clothing has been more than 50 per cent., and there have been similar increases in respect of many other essential farm requirements, such as machinery. At the same time, his income has either remained stationary, or has dwindled. Since the outbreak of the war, the increase of the price of butter has been approximately 5 per cent, over the whole of the production. In such circumstances, the toleration of the dairy-farmer has come to an end, and he is now virtually in open revolt against the conditions that are imposed upon him.
Whilst the taxable income of the Australian community as a whole has increased since the beginning of the war from approximately £745,000,000 to at least £850,000,000, according to official figures - and officially it is believed to be closer to £1,000,000,000 - the collective income of the dairy-farmers from the sale of butter has declined from £27,700,000 in 193S-39 to £24,000,000 in 1941-42. The purchasing power of that £24,000,000, based on the cost of living index figures, is merely the equivalent of £20,000,000 prior to the war. Consequently, there has been a loss of purchasing power, compared with the last pre-war year, of £7,000,000 over the whole of the dairying industry. When it is remembered that pre-war standards of remuneration in that industry were anything but satisfactory, just how calamitous the fall has been will be realized. If one needs more practical evidence of the bad financial position of the industry, one has only to visit the great majority of the dairy farms in New South Wales and Queensland. I have personal knowledge of the conditions in those two States. Such a visit would reveal families, many of them overloaded with debt, that are carrying on with only a bare subsistence ; with the scantiest of furniture in the house; with fences down and barns askew ; and with pastures that have been neglected and have become overgrown with weeds and rubbish.
– Have all the fences fallen down in the last twelve months?
– Not all of them have fallen down in the last twelve months; but the deterioration has been hastened. If the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) were to visit a number of dairy farms, he would learn that very few homes have electric light. There are no gas facilities or refrigerators, and none of the comforts and conveniences which the majority of the people in the towns and cities regard as necessities, and which the honorable gentleman himself has stated in this House are essential for the workers in the industries that he represents. The Prime Minister (Mr; Curtin) has been stressing the need for austerity. That condition is exemplified in its starkest form in the dairying industry. Having regard to the number of persons engaged in it, the dairying industry is of first-class importance. There are 150,000 farm holdings in Australia on which dairy cows are depastured. Of those, 64,000 have fifteen cows or more, and may therefore be regarded as farms, the owners of which depend substantially on their dairying operations. There are 143,000 persons engaged in the industry. If one considers the importance of the foodstuffs produced, and the number of persons engaged, the need for the maintenance of the industry in an economic and healthy condition becomes better understood. Substantial quantities of dairy products - far larger than has previously been the case - are now needed. We have to feed an increasing number of troops, and have a much greater obligation to Great Britain for the provision of adequate food supplies. We have to measure up to our obligations in a practical fashion. An increase of butter supplies may be obtained, not by issuing threats to the dairy-farmer as to what may happen to him if he fails to produce, but in giving attention to, first, the prices of his products; and, secondly, the man-power that he needs. There have been gross delays in coming to a decision on those two matters. Last July, the Government appointed a special committee of experts to inquire into and report upon the condition of the industry, and to make recommendations as to price increases and other remedial measures that were necessary. Doubtless, the report of that committee contains an expert and accurate appraisal of the position, together with recommendations concerning the measures it is necessary that the Government shall take. It has been in the hands of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) for weeks, certainly prior to the meeting of this Parliament five weeks ago; yet an announcement has not been made by him, despite the fact that the seasonal increase of butter production is well under way and the matter of price looms much more importantly in the mind of the farmer at this particular time of the year than at any other period. Each week I have asked the Minister when some announcement would be made, and each week have been told that I might expect it very shortly. On the 18th September, in answer to a question that I asked in this House, the Minister informed me that he hoped that a decision would be made not later than the following week. We are still awaiting it. The matter is one of great urgency. Butter has become a commodity of war, and should be regarded as such. How can we get the increased supplies which we need ?That is the question for the Government to answer, just as it has to answer a similar question in respect of the production of munitions. The farmer cannot continue to produce at a loss. Any increase of price must apply to the whole of his production, both for export and for home consumption, and the minimum price increase should be 3d. per lb. over all. The price for our butter sold to the United Kingdom Government has remained the same since the outbreak of war, but it is unreasonable to expect it to remain so in view of the rise of all other costs.
Negotiations should be entered into with the British Government, but even if they were not successful, we should supply the requirements of the United Kingdom in the same way as the United States of America is doing in respect of huge quantities of foodstuffs - on some form of lease-lend arrangement. When the improvement of the national income over the whole Australian community is taken into account, we can well afford an increase of the price of butter by 3d. per lb. On the total Australian production of 379,000,000 lb. of butter last year, the increase would amount to only £4,750,000, which, divided amongst the 64,000 effective dairy-farms, would amount to only about £70 a farm. The country can well afford this increase. If no relief is given, and. the war lasts a long time, we may fail our own people as well as our allies overseas. A 20 per cent. increase of price will not turn any dairy-farm into a gold-mine. Last month,hundreds of dairy-farmers on the north coast did not collect more than £10 as their factory cheque. A 20 per cent. increase would make it £12 10s. - about half the sum any male member of the family could earn in a munitions factory.
Although no government announcement has yet been made, statements have appeared in the press - said to have been inspired from official sources - that the Government intended to tie up any concessions to the dairying industry with a minimum rural wage, and other rigid conditions. Before it takes action along those lines, I suggest that the Government should closely study the figures I have cited, and then tell the fanner how he can pay more.
The purpose of the moment is to maintain and increase production. This can be best achieved by providing the farmer with the incentive to produce, and by helping him with his problems in regard to man-power and fodder. A more practical attitude in respect of releases from the Army will need to be adopted. Apart from what the Government might decide to do, it is not going to be easy to get men to go back on the farms after having tasted life in the Army, or enjoyed the better conditions obtaining in war industries. The only ones likely to return are farmers’ sons, and others with a stake in the land. No fewer than 6,000 men should be released from the Army for return to the farms, but, even if approval were given, I doubt whether half that number would be willing to return.
More will have to be done in regard to fodder, especially in New South Wales and Queensland. Should there be another severe drought in those States, there would be a serious shortage of fodder, as there are no reserves, and rail transport difficulties would prevent the bringing of fodder from other States. The average annual consumption of hay and chaff in New South Wales is nearly 1,000,000 tons, but our reserves at the moment do not amount to more than 100,000 tons. Our aim ought to be to make every district as self-contained as possible, so as to reduce transport requirements to a minimum, and the Government should take positive action to that end as quickly as possible. It could assist greatly by providing tractors to plough for the farmers at so much an acre, as is done in England. If the work were done by army drivers, they would gain valuable experience, whilst, at the same time, assisting to solve the man-power problem. Whatever be done, however, needs to be done quickly, because, unless help comes, and comes quickly, it will be too late. The Minister for Commerce has demonstrated his sympathy with those engaged in the dairying industry, but something more than sympathy is needed.
– The solicitude for the dairying industry which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has displayed at this stage is most surprising. He has already been informed during the present parliamentary period that rh” Commonwealth Government was considering the report of the special committee of inquiry, set up by the direction of the War Cabinet, to investigate and inquire into conditions within this industry. Apparently the honorable member is not satisfied with my assurances to him that the Government hoped to announce its decision at an early date. He has seen fit to submit a motion for the adjournment of the House so that he may ventilate his special grievances on behalf of the dairying industry.
It is interesting to recall that while the honorable member was a Minister, neither he nor the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Fadden) took action to improve the conditions of dairy-farmers. It remained for this Government to take action, and to approve of an increase of price for the industry. The honorable member will recall that the Government approved of an increase of the retail price of Abutter by Id. per lb., Jd. of which was to go to the producer and £d. to the distributor and retailer. Why does the honorable member bring forward this matter now, when for two years he had every opportunity and facility to improve the conditions of dairy-farmers? But he failed to do so. Obviously, his motive in bringing this matter forward at this stage is not to benefit dairy-farmers but to gain political kudos. He well knows that the Government ha3 practically reached a decision regarding this matter, and his motion is really a ruse to claim credit for a decision which he knows this Government is about to make. He may rest assured, however, that the dairy-farmers will be aware of his motives, and will realize that he has deliberately wasted the time of this House.
I have already mentioned the action which has been taken by this Government in order to ensure that dairy-farmers shall receive an adequate return for their labour. Although an increase of price has already been granted in respect of this product, the Government decided to set up a committee to investigate further the conditions within the industry, and to make recommendations for improving the lot not only of the dairy-farmer and his family, but also of the employees in this very important industry.
The honorable member will perhaps have noticed that the Government appointed a committee which consisted almost entirely of representatives of the industry. This action indicated the Government’s wish to secure the most detailed information possible1 concerning the dairying industry. It could easily have appointed entirely different personnel, and the committee would probably have taken many months in which to complete its examination. My desire in appointing representatives of the industry was to ensure that a report would be furnished quickly to the Government in order that action might be taken to adjust any matters. The Government’s action in this matter has been actuated by a keen desire to do something for the dairying industry which would not only be of immediate benefit to dairyfarmers, but would also place the industry on a much sounder basis, in view of the vicissitudes which are likely to occur in the marketing and disposal of all dairy produce after the war.
The dairying industry must be placed on a sound basis if it is to overcome its problems. That is why, in the terms of reference, the committee was requested to report, not only on the price factor, but also on such problems as man-power within the industry, the labour conditions of dairy-farmers and their employees, the state and condition of dairy herds, and the relative position of stocks of fodder.
Surely, the honorable member for Richmond would not charge this Government with neglect in regard to the manpower problems within the dairying industry or any other industry. He surely must be aware of the action which has already been taken by the Director-General of Man Power to overcome the shortage of man-power in this industry. This shortage had already become acute before the present Government took office. If the honorable member’s interest in the dairying industry is so sincere, it is hard to understand why he has not mentioned the special committees which have been set up in association with butter factories to adjust man-power problems. Moreover, he must be aware of the recent action taken by the Commonwealth Government to establish district war agricultural committees, which will materially assist the Government in making the best use of all available labour for rural industries. These committees have been in existence in his State for some weeks, and are now functioning in the principal areas within that State.
Only this morning, I conferred with the Ministers for Agriculture in New South Wales and Queensland regarding fodder conservation .plans in those States. Officers of my department, in association with officers of the Treasury, are already working on plans which should ensure adequate supplies of fodder for the dairying, industry in those two States. I have been informed that near-drought conditions are already being experienced; hence the need for urgent action in order to ensure that adequate supplies of fodder shall be available to dairy-farmers.
It is not easy for a government to arrive at a quick decision in connexion with the fixation of the price of any dairy product. The honorable member for Richmond, as a former Assistant Minister for Commerce, will probably confirm this statement. He appreciates, I am sure, the effect of an increased price upon the consuming public in Australia, and the further effects upon the finances of the Government which would result from an increase of the prices of commodities that play a vitally important part in the index figures for the basic wage. He must also admit that in any effort to improve the conditions of those employed within any particular section of rural industries, regard must be had to possible reactions on other industries. This Government is prepared to give its earnest consideration to all of the factors relating to the dairying industry, but it will not be forced into giving a decision before it has had the necessary time to make all investigations so as to ensure that its decision, when announced, will be correct. The decision must be in the interests, not only of the dairying industry, but also of consumers and the nation generally.
So far, I have dealt only with particular aspects of the dairying industry. I should now like to bring to the notice of honorable members an additional action which has .been taken by this Government to assist it. As all honorable members are aware, the pig industry might be termed an attachment to the dairying industry, as the bulk of pig production in Australia takes place in the dairying districts. Early this year, the Commonwealth Government decided to make available to dairy farmers and to pig feeders wheat at 6d. a bushel below the ruling market price. I also mention the guarantee which I gave to the Pig Council that the Commonwealth Government will undertake to purchase all pig meats available at fair and reasonable prices, the basis of which will be the contract price for pig meats under the contract with the United- Kingdom Government. At the conclusion -of the conference, delegates complimented me upon my decision, and told me that I was the only Minister for Commerce who had given the industry any confidence in the future.
– Is not the price in Queensland lower than the prices in some of the other States?
– The export parity price is the same in all States. Another way in which the Government assisted the pig industry was by the reduction of the levy on pig meats. In the meat industry plan which has recently been announced there is provision for such guarantee to operate until the 30th June, 1944. These measures have in part been responsible for the vas improvement of conditions within this industry, and they compare most favorably with the action, or really lack of action, taken by the previous Government in connexion with pig meats.
I should like the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) to recall the conditions which prevailed in this industry when the Government of the United Kingdom advised the previous Administration that it did not require certain classes of pig meats, and the confusion and chaos in the industry resulting from the Government’s indecision in regard to action to adjust the position. The honorable member for Richmond must be aware that this industry has not recovered from the blow it then suffered. Had the Government been prepared at that stage to emulate the New Zealand example and purchase pig meats and hold them pending clarification of the wishes and desires of the Government of the United Kingdom, the industry would have been spared the disaster which overtook it. The Labour Government of New Zealand pur chased the whole output of the pig and lamb industries, and in doing so committed itself to the expenditure of more than £14,000,000 sterling, but the previous Commonwealth Government would not risk one penny.
That Government was responsible for the unsatisfactory .state of She pig industry in the last two years, a position which is only now being adjusted by this Government to the satisfaction of the pig producers. It is difficult to assess the effects of that Government’s lack of action in connexion with the pig industry upon the dairying industry, but it is safe to say that many dairy-farmers in Australia are in an unsatisfactory financial position because of its failure to deal adequately with the position. Instead of criticizing this Government in connexion with the dairying industry, the honorable member for Richmond should be honest with himself for once and give credit where credit is due. The honorable member has raised this matter not in the interest of the dairy-farmers of Australia, but entirely in his own interest, in an effort to embarrass this Government at a time when all its efforts should be directed towards constructive work in the national interest.
.- The speech of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) was scarcely worthy of the honorable gentleman, and it will be regarded as most unsatisfactory by the dairying and the pig industries of Australia. It is futile for the Minister to try to draw a red herring, or rather a dead pig, across the trail. The dairyfarmers are appealing that they be immediately rescued from their terrible plight. They are in that plight largely because of the failure of this Government to apply the policy of the previous Government in regard to the conservation of fodder. Owing to the shortage of fodder, there will be no milk to enable the breeding of the pigs necessary so that the advantages to the pig breeders of which the Minister has spoken can be derived. Last Saturday I received the following telegram from the Kempsey Dairying Company: -
A spontaneous and very indignant meeting moved that you he asked to use your every influence to secure an immediate rise in price of butter and cheese. Prime Minister wired as following. At a spontaneous meeting of 2,000 farmers representing Macleay and Hastings district desire to present their case for an increase in price for butter and cheese to you. Unless granted the majority of these farmers will cease to produce the necessary butter and cheese required for civilian and military use. As example of condition of industry we supply following illustrations. At Telegraph Point factory for August 48 suppliers received £10 for month. Forty-eight received under £20. Forty-seven received no cheque as .they had to pay for relief fodder. One over £20. Total suppliers 144. This is typical example of most factories And whole family and employees have to be paid from these returns.
That is the total return from the whole farm - from the labour of the family and from the capital invested, which varies from £2,000 to £4,000 on each farm. The farmers cannot carry on. Yesterday I received another telegram saying that if immediate action were not taken to increase fodder supplies, the mortality of dairy cattle in New South Wales and Queensland, from Bega to Rockhampton, would be the greatest in the history of Australia. I can support that prediction, because I have just come from the north coast where I found that the grass position is worse this September than it has ever been to my knowledge at this time of the year. Reserves of fodder are smaller in New South Wales and Queensland than they have ever been. Stocks in New South Wales usually amount to 900,000 tons, but to-day they are down to ‘about 100,000 tons. The Fodder Conservation Board has been trying for many months to enlist the aid of the Minister for Commerce in inducing the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to grant financial assistance to enable reserves to be replenished, but although the Minister has shown his sympathy, he has not been able to do more. I want the assistance that is to be given to the dairying industry to be of permanent value, and I think that that assistance should not take merely the form of a rise of the price of butter .by 3d. or 4d. per lb., which would mean that the consumer would pay more, but should be provided by means of a direct subsidy from the Treasury. That would be on all fours with the policy applied in Great Britain where, ever since the outbreak of war, the authorities have been able to keep down the cost of living and to peg wages without detriment to- the workers, by the simple expedient of subsidizing the farmers, together with rationing and price fixation*
– Where does the Treasury get the money from?
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) sneers, but the. scheme I have suggested has worked in Great Britain for three and a quarter years and prices have been kept down. The dairy-farmers are in a state of awful distress. Any dairyfanner will tell honorable gentleman that, in spite of what the Minister for Commerce may say to the contrary, the previous Government did many things to put the industry on a proper footing. There is no doubt about that. I understand the value of long-range planning, but what I want to impress upon the Government is the fact that the industry must receive immediate help. We should give these men a chance to earn a reasonably decent living for their families Everybody else has a fair chance to-day. Various committees have considered the problems of the dairying industry, and they must have made recommendations to the Minister. The honorable gentleman has promised to deal sympathetically and favorably with the requests of the industry, but I ask for an immediate decision. The dairy-farmers say that they cannot carry on under existing conditions. I have here another letter from a dairy-farmers’ organization, which states, We cannot possibly keep going under the rates we are getting at the present time “. Therefore, I urge the Minister to insist that the Government help the industry by means of a direct subsidy to the producers. I am satisfied that that is theonly proper method of dealing with the difficulties of primary industries. We must protect the consumers by keeping prices down without throwing a difficult task upon the shoulders of the Prices Commissioner.
– Why not let the Prices Commissioner deal with this industry?
– How long would he take to reach a decision ? This matter requires an immediate decision. The problem cannot be dealt with in the way suggested by the Minister, who seems to be laughing at the plight of the dairyfarmers. It involves the question of suplilies of food for Australian troops and civilians, for American troops, and especially for the British people, who have rationed themselves to the last holes in their belts in order to enable Australia to have shipping to carry munitions and war equipment from Great Britain and the United States of America. Surely to God it is up to us to maintain production so that we can supply them with butter, which is the most severely rationed commodity in that country at the present time! People in Great Britain are allowed only 2 oz. each of butter and margarine owing to the difficulty of obtaining supplies. Although Great Britain is prepared to make big contracts with Australia, we say that we cannot supply it with butter.
– That is not true.
– .We are not able to supply the quantity that is required. On the day I left London, Lord Woolton said to me, “ We will take everything from you in the shape of food that you can get into a ship, and we will take it in the order of priority that has been laid down “. Therefore, I urge the Government not to worry about the past, but to concentrate upon present and future problems and agree to-morrow to subsidize the dairying industry in order to overcome its problems.
.- The problem of the dairying industry is not new; it has existed for many years past. Practically from 1916 to 1941 anti-Labour governments have been in office in Australia, the only break being for a two-year period during the depth of the depression. In that long time, governments which have represented the parties now in opposition have done virtually nothing to stabilize the dairying industry. They had every opportunity to do so, but now they overlook their emissions and try to embarrass the Government in its endeavours to assist the dairy-farmers. I stress the fact that honorable gentlemen opposite had many opportunities to help the dairying industry. In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Rich mond (Mr. Anthony), on the 26th November, 1941, the Prime Minister said, inter alia -
The state of affairs existing in the industry cannot be attributed to circumstances arising from the present war. It has existed for years. For long before the outbreak of war the fixation of domestic prices for butter waa in the hands of the industry itself, and if the industry saw fit to allow allegedly inadequate returns to dairy-farmers over this long period, it cannot be conceded that it is the responsibility of the Prices Commissioner to rectify at the present time a position so long overlooked by the industry itself.
That was a correct statement of the position. We must be honest and acknowledge that the dairying industry has been treated as the Cinderella of the primary industries. The policies of previous governments have not been designed to further the interests of the dairy-farmers. Political motives have predominated, and practical dairy-farmers have had very little voice in the implementation of the policies of those governments. The industry has been treated as a sort of political football. The parties represented by honorable gentlemen opposite have endeavoured for many years to make as much political capital as possible out of the plight of the industry, without seriously endeavouring to place it on a sound footing. The executives of organizations of most primary producers have behaved in similar fashion. They are concerned more with securing political advantage than with solving the problems of the farmers whom they represent. They have no sincere interest in the welfare of the primary industries.
– To what organizations is the honorable gentleman referring?
– The dairy-farmers’ organization.
– That is a non-political organization.
– And other organizations like it. I had in mind the organization representing wheat-farmers, the Farmers and Settlers Association, and the Graziers Association, all of which have come into prominence in the political sphere from time to time. They all claim to be non-political. The Graziers Association claims that it is non-political, but in my experience it is the official organization of the United Country party.
– It is not.
– Take the position of the wheat-growers. About 75 per cent. of them-
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I claim that the wheat-growers have nothing to do with the motion now before the House.
– My remarks are related to the motion, because they disclose the source of the present criticism of the Government. I wish to show that the motive which prompts this criticism is political, and not designed to further the interests of the dairy-farmers. If the wheat-farmers conducted a ballot on the present wheat scheme, 90 per cent. of them would vote in favour of it. The executive of the Farmers and Settlers Association opposed the scheme.
– What scheme?
– The wheat scheme, but the conference of the association approved of this Government’s proposal by a two to one majority. I mention this in order to show that the organizations representing the primary producers have a purely political outlook, and are concerned with politics rather than with the welfare of the producers.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will be well advised not to discuss that aspect of the matter.
– The Prime Minister supplied to the House in November last certain figures relating to the dairying industry which were prepared by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee. They show that the average output of butter and cheese over a period of two war years from the 1st July, 1939, was 7,183,000 boxes of butter and 63,000,000 lb. of cheese. The average annual production of these commodities over the five years immediately preceding the war was 6,800,000 boxes of butter and 46,000,000 lb. of cheese. The average annual production over the two years from the 1st July, 1939, was 5 per cent. higher for butter and 36 per cent. higher for cheese than the average over the five years immediately prior to the war. The average financial returns to the producers were 23 per cent. greater for butter and 55 per cent. greater for cheese.
– The honorable member does not mention the increased costs of production.
– The average increase of the financial return for both butter and cheese was 25 per cent. It is quite clear from those figures that although only a slight increase in butter production has occurred since the outbreak of the war a substantial increase has occurred in financial returns. This was due to increased prices for overseas sales, and partly to higher prices for domestic sales, which became operative in 1938-39. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner is satisfied that the increase of costs in conducting the industry since the outbreak of the war has not been so high as the increase of 25 per cent. in the total returns from the industry.
The aggregate monetary return to those engaged in the dairying industry for the three years since the outbreak of the war has been £24,240,000, compared with £21,950,000 for the three years immediately prior to the war. Those figures do not reveal a decline of values in the butter produced. It is wrong to take particular years in dealing with an industry like this. We all know that periodical droughts affect production. For that reason, I have compared the three years since the outbreak of war with the previous three years.
– In each case droughts would be considered.
– Therefore droughts should be taken into account in fixing prices.
– They have been taken into account in the figures that I have given. An increase of1d. per lb. in the price of butter was granted by the Prices Commissioner. Prices must cover good and bad years.
The dairying industry, like all other industries, has been affected by war conditions; but one of the heaviest burdens which dairy-farmers have to carry is the over-capitalization of their land. Even share-farmers have to pay to land-owners an amount based upon the high cost of the land. In many dairying districts, land which could have been bought years ago at a nominal price is to-day worth £25 an acre.
– The price of land in Argent-street, Broken Hill, has also increased greatly.
– When land is so expensive high interest charges have to be met.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Opposition has been very surprised to hear the arguments of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) against granting to dairy-farmers, who constitute an important section of the Australian community, a fair return for their labour and for the important foodstuffs which they provide to assist the country’s war effort. The honorable gentleman alleged that we had been actuated by political considerations in introducing this discussion. He also said that all the dairying organizations of Australia have a political outlook. In view of the fact that the dairy-farmer receives, on an average, only £10 a month, in return for his invested capital, and the labour that he and his wife and family put into this industry, it is time that some attention was given to the position. Dairy-farmers and their wives and families work round the clock, and they deserve consideration.
– Would an increase of 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. in prices correct that position?
– If an Australian trade union organization were to send a deputation to the Government to-morrow to consider conditions in a particular secondary industry, such as those which obtain in the dairying industry, the members of the Ministry would sit up all night to try to devise a remedy; but the conditions of the dairy-farmers have been investigated time after time, and no remedies have been applied. Numerous committees have been appointed to consider this subject. The committee, which made its inquiries twelve months ago, submitted a case which proved conclusively that the cost of production in this industrywas 1.6 per cent. greater than the returns from it. Following that investigation the Prices Commissioner, after considerable procrastination, approved of an increase of the price of butter by1d. per lb. In doing so, he said that the people engaged in the dairying industry, like those engaged in every other industry, must expect to make some contribution to the war effort. The dairying industry was prepared at that time to accept the prescribed conditions; but surely no honorable member would dare to say that the primary producers, who constitute the food army of Australia, and thus render an indispensable service in reinforcing the sinew, brain and brawn of the men in our fighting forces, should be denied reasonable conditions of labour. It is indisputable that dairy-farmers should receive a fair return for their own labour, and for that of their wives and children. Many of the children have to work on farms at a very early age.
– What about the other employees ?
– We all are well aware that, in fixing wages in the munitions industries, production costs are considered. The Prices Commissioner, and also our Arbitration Court judges, in every investigation that they make, give attention to wages in relationto commodity prices. The same principle should apply to dairy-farming. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) showed beyond dispute this afternoon that the average dairy-farmer receives only £10 a month as consideration for his invested capital and for the labour of himself and his family, and their labour continues right round the clock. Surely honorable gentlemen opposite are not prepared to allow such conditions to continue simply because they wish to have cheap food on their breakfast table. They, of all people, should be prepared to fight for reasonable wages for the dairy-farmers. The output of factory butter for the year ended June, 1942, was 13.1 per cent. less than for the previous year, and was the lowest since 1938. The decrease in Queensland was 18 per cent., or almost one-fifth of the production of the previous year.
– That was due to drought.
– Reference has already been made to the drought conditions; but it was contributed to by the withdrawal of man-power from the dairy farms. Surely the dairy-farmers are entitled to some consideration in that connexion.
– In our income tax legislation we have made provision for the averaging principle to apply over good and bad seasons.
– Dairy-farmers should be compensated for adverse conditions over which they have no control. In 1941-42, 19,596 men engaged in dairyfarming, or approximately 60 per cent, of the total number, left the industry to join different branches of the defence services. Other factors that have contributed to the present position ave transport difficulties and petrol rationing. It must be fully understood and thoroughly appreciated that the increase of the cost of living by 18 per cent, has had to be borne by the farmer ; he has not been able to pass it on in any shape or form, and its accumulated effect has been detrimental to him. I can do no better than quote a statement made recently by the chairman of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Association, Mr. C. Jamieson, at a meeting held in Ipswich -
We would work 24 hours a day for a crust to help keep the Japanese out of our country, hut it is not fair of the Commonwealth Government to expect the dairying producing section of the community to be burdened to a greater extent than men and women connected with industrial and commercial life. I have yet to meet the man in politics, and also here, who can see any equality in the refusal to grant dairymen an increase in the price of butter to meet the mounting costs with which they are faced on every side.
It is futile to point out that honorable members on this side of the House did not, as a government, do either this or that.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that they did not.
– I do not. Whatever the dairy-farmer in Australia has received, he has obtained as the result of the policy of honorable members on this side of the House, which has stabilized and protected his industry to the greatest degree. Unfortunately, there are in this Australian Parliament men who, whilst prepared to give everything to the indus trialists, including the rights of arbitration, arid to protect the manufacturer by tariffs and customs regulations, deprive the primary producing section of the community of that measure of support and protection that is essential v their maintenance and the well-being of Australia as a whole. Therefore, on behalf of the food-producing army, I urge the Government expeditiously to remedy the rotten condition that the dairying industry is in to-day.
.- It is unfortunate that a good deal of heat has been engendered in this debate. The matter can be discussed calmly and dispassionately. I am not unconscious of the fact that the submission to-day of a motion for the adjournment of the House is a part of the master plan that I revealed some time ago.
– It shows that we are running to schedule. There will be another to-morrow.
– What are the facts in connexion with the dairying industry? I can speak with practical experience, because I am, I suppose, the member of this House who has most recently sat under a cow. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is a banana producer, speaks with all the authority in the world on behalf of the dairying industry. It is doubtful whether he has ever sat under a cow. He has had sufficient intelligence to dodge that unpleasant job which has been the lot of some other members of the human race. Then there is the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who developed a good deal of heat in his vigorous exposition of the virtues of his fodder conservation scheme.
– I now want action in connexion with the price of butter.
– The right honorable gentleman now wants action. When the party of which I am a member asked for action in connexion with the dairying industry, the only promise it received was the right honorable gentleman’s grandiose fodder conservation scheme.
– The Labour party voted for everything that I proposed ; it did not dare to divide the House.
– Under the proposal of the right honorable gentleman, the dairy-farmer was not to be paid in cash. Sums were to be allocated to implement his scheme, and a very pretty picture was painted of the dairy-farmer being able to approach a fodder conservation board, submit a voucher, and order his requirements of fodder.
– Is the honorable member opposed to fodder conservation?
– I probably know a great deal more about the fodder needs of the ordinary dairy-farmer than does the honorable member. The scheme of the right honorable member for Cowper was mere “hooey “. Not one dairy-farmer in the Commonwealth obtained a pennyweight of fodder under it. His effort on behalf of the dairyfarmers was completely barren. The dairy-farmer did not want airy promises, pretty speeches, and schemes of fodder conservation, but a return that would enable him to have a reserve of fodder on his farm.
– We provided for that by means of regulations.
– The right honorable gentleman proposed that the fodder should be stored hundreds of miles from where it was needed. The ordinary farmer wants a sufficient amount advanced to him to enable him to purchase a mower, a hay rake, and a small press.
– We provided for all of those.
– Not one hay rake, mowing machine, hay press, wagon, or piece of machinery for the conservation of fodder was any dairy-farmer enabled to procure under the scheme of the right honorable gentleman. Yet he has the colossal impudence to talk about fodder conservation, and what his Government did for the dairy-farmer ! He makes me tired. There has been nothing but talk for the last twenty years in regard to the plight of the dairying industry. It was left to the present Government to make the first great step towards the assistance of the industry. Let us analyse its plight. As with all other land problems, the reason is to be found chiefly in land values, rents, interest, and inefficiency. The farmer needs the assist ance of a more reasonable and sensible banking system than he has to-day. There has been talk in the past of the establishment of a mortgage bank. All that materialized was a mortgage bank of promises. I do not like to see heat engendered in this matter, because it is dear to my heart. I have been most recently emancipated from the drudgery of the dairying industry. For years, I milked 40 cows a day for seven days a week.
– When did the honorable member leave the dairying industry?
– In 1937. The price that I was receiving for my butter-fat when I ceased dairying was1s.1d. per lb. The price to-day, under the Labour Government, is1s. 4½d. per lb. When all is said and done, what does the dairyfarmer require? Let us discuss the matter calmly and dispassionately. The farmers require sympathetic treatment by State governments and improved educational facilities. The Labour Government in Queensland took the dairying problems of that State in hand away back in 1915, with the result that the dairy-farmers there are in a better financial position than those in any other part of the Commonwealth. In addition, the dairyfarmers require financial assistance for the installation of up-to-date labour-saving machinery. It is nonsense for people to talk of dairying as a slave industry for women and children. Honorable members should know that, with modern machinery, one man can handle a herd of 40 cows, without it being necessary for a woman or child ever to go near the yard. With proper administration, the problems of the dairying industry would vanish, if not overnight, at least in the near future. Certain persons are trying to embarrass the Government by posing as friends of the dairy-farmers; but the dairy-farmers are ill served by some of their friends, as is illustrated by the following newspaper report from to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning H erald : -
P.P.U. President’s Threat
Mr. G. W. Gordon, general president of the Primary Producers’ Union, said to-day that it was the duty of every dairyman to decide on a policy of direct action.
I do no,t hear anything from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) in regard to this.
– What is the Commonwealth intelligence department doing? This is a matter well worthy of investigation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have been listening this afternoon to a discourse on the plight of the dairying industry, and the reply of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) has left me in a state of dejection. I had hoped to hear from him something definite regarding the intentions of the Government, but I was ‘disappointed. Ever since last November, we have been urging the Government to increase the prices of dairy products ; but we have had in reply nothing but assurances that the matter was being considered. Parliament will soon go into recess, and we are, therefore, justified in demanding from the Minister a statement of the Government’s intentions. Further delay will have a tragic effect on the industry. The Minister for Commerce knows as well as I do that no section of the community works harder than do the dairyfarmers. They work on 365 days in the year - spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There are no holidays, and the cows do not go on strike. This is the hardest of all primary industries in which to make a living or eke out an existence. Although something has been done by the Minister to assist the industry - for which the farmers are grateful - it is still in a terrible plight. As a matter of fact, it is languishing. The decline of butter production in Australia last year amounted to 1,000,000 boxes. Many factors were responsible, and practically all of them, with the exception of drought, were controllable. The Commonwealth Statistician stated recently that 15,532 additional workers, permanent and seasonal, were required in the dairying industry for the 1942-43 season. He also stated that the production of butter in Queensland had declined by 191,947 cwt., or 18.4 per cent., whilst Australian production had declined by 485,916 cwt., or .13.1 per cent. The production of cheese and milk has also declined. In 1940-41, 45.2 per cent, of our total butter production was exported; this year only 34.34 , Der cent, was exported. This is a serious blow to Great Britain, where the butter ration per head is only -2 oz. a week. We have pledged ‘ourselves to increase the production of butter and cheese, and to export as much as possible of it to Great Britain.
– How does that square with the statement of the general president of the Primary Producers Union about going on strike?
– I do not believe that it was ever said ; the innuendo is unworthy. From what I know of the primary producers, that is the last thing they would do. There is no more loyal section of the community than the primary producers, and the figures show that the percentage of enlistments from country districts is much higher than from any other part of Australia. It is unworthy to suggest that the dairyfarmers are disloyal. One of the big difficulties of the dairying industry is shortage of man-power. The enlistments of dairy-farmers in our fighting forces are greatly disproportionate to those from other sections of the community. The innuendo of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) was a foul one.
If the Government does not take prompt action to arrest the depletion of man-power engaged in the primary industries, the Commonwealth will suffer a severe shortage of food. Giving, evidence before the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. the Queensland Director of Dairying, Mr. Rice, stated -
As with other rural industries the dairying industry is feeling the effect of the loss of man-power in rural areas due to enlistment for war service.
Our estimate for the year ended the 30th June, 1942, is that there has been a decline in production in the dairying industry of 20 per cent. The position in Queensland in the last twelve months has been much the same in all districts. There is a tendency for large herds to be reduced to about 40 milkers, a size which can be handled by the farmer’s own family labour without outside help. The position in the dairying industry is also reflected in pork and bacon production. A few mouths ago we made a survey which showed a decline of -pig production varying from 15 per cent, to 30 per cent, and an average decline of over 20 per cent. I do not see any prospect of increasing production, and it will be difficult to maintain the present level of dairy produce output. Many of the productive cows have been destroyed, and many have gone to the abattoirs. It takes two and a half years for a calf to reach the productive stage. Once a man who has worked on a dairy farm takes up military duties, or works in a munitions factory, he does not wish to be released to return to the land.
The butter production will be about 400,000 boxes less this year than last year, or a falling off of nearly 20 per cent. Queensland’s production of butter in 1940-41 was 2,090,677 boxes and the estimated production for 1941-42 is 1,086,633 boxes. In the most favorable period the butter production reached 2.000,000 boxes a year, and therefore the estimated production for the year just closed is 1,000,000 boxes less than the output of a peak year.
The Port Curtis Co-operative Dairy Association Limited has seven butter factories, which are situated at Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, “Wowan, Biloela and Monto, and cheese factories at Bracewell and Theodore. The general manager of this association, Mr. Wilson, stated that the number of suppliers reached its peak in February, 1941, with a total of 3,694. Twelve months later, the number had decreased by 116. Mr. Wilson said -
The shortage of man-power on farms is now becoming more apparent as many people who had share-farmers cannot now get them. As an instance, Mr. Willert, of Berajondo, who has three dairy farms of about 100 cows each run by share-formers, has closed one dairy, is closing another in August, and may close the third one later. Mr. A. Dougall, of Miriam Vale, is closing his dairy, and he told me that other people in his district are going to close down and only graze cattle for the meatworks. Many farmers are reducing the number of milking cows in their dairies, owing to members of their families being called up and the scarcity of labour. A Mr. Jense, Coast-road. Bundaberg, is an example - sons called up, reducing from 40 to tcn cows. Mr. G. B. Mouatt, chairman of directors of our association, whose farm is at Mungungo, carried 60 dairy cows, and will now reduce 25 through shortage of labour. Many other instances can be recorded if necessary. ‘ The butter price, to a great extent, enters into’ this question of labour. The dairying industry is noted for the low wages paid to farm workers. Farmers cannot pay good wages on the price they receive for butter. My opinion is that, with a better price for butter, production will increase. If farmers are to receive a price comparable with that paid in other industries, and appropriate to the hours worked, the price of butter should be 2s. per lb.
There have been heavy sales in dairy stock, quite a lot being sold to meat-works for tinning. Mr. Boyle, of Yarwon recently told me that he had bought in his district over 200 head of lovely young Jersey heifers for the Gladstone meat-works. He stated that it was a sin to see young cattle, of that class being slaughtered, and going out of production. This state of affairs should be guarded against, for if it assumes serious proportions, it will be difficult later to increase the production of butter.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) painted a true picture of conditions in the dairying industry, and I congratulate him upon his artistic skill. What the honorable member evidently did not realize was that his words could be applied with equal force to conditions in the industry during the last ten or fifteen years, when governments formed by the United Australia party and the United Country party were in office. The crisis that now lowers over the industry is the inevitable climax to their maladministration. Were they ignorant of the consequences of their lack of regard for the industry, or were they simply using their position to further their own. interests? In my opinion, those governments were not ignorant of the true condition. But now, honorable members opposite shed tears for the primary producers. It appears to me that they have saved their tears for this inevitable demise of primary production.
Some years ago, the much maligned Lang Government in New South Wales attempted to stabilize the position of producers by prescribing award rates and conditions for workers in primary industries. Immediately, the cry arose that the industries could not afford to observe award rates and conditions. Selfish interests declared that the industries could not carry on without cheap labour. Finally, they obtained cheap labour, and they neglected to strengthen the structural weakness of their economy. When wages had fallen to an irreducible minimum, the section represented by honorable members opposite advocated the importation of black labour. That was their plan for rectifying the disabilities of primary producers.
The conditions of the dairying industry have their counterpart in many other primary industries, and the position will not be rectified by the methods proposed by honorable members opposite. The time has now come to stabilize primary industries. Consumers are paying for products prices which would enable the farmer to earn a decent living, if he received, the full return for his commodities. Unfortunately, he is not getting it. Some one else, for whom the Labour party does not speak, is deriving the benefit. The financial institutions and large industries always have their representatives among our opponents, and persons who pretend to represent the primary producers associate with them. At the last election, an overwhelming number of people realized the manner in which the primary producers had been hoaxed by the United Australia party and the United Country party. West of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, where many constituencies were formerly represented by supporters of the United Australia party and the United Country party, only one stronghold of reaction remains, and even it is expected to fall. The primary producers know now who represent their interests in Parliament, and they are grateful. They recognize the excellent work that has been done by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully). Spontaneous meetings of primary producers throughout the country have discussed various schemes which honorable members opposite have advocated for the purpose of relieving their difficulties. Despite the efforts of the forces of reaction to divert attention from the achievements of the Minister, the farmers have not been deceived. Their organizations throughout Australia told the wheat-growers that the wheat stabilization scheme propounded by the Minister for Commerce would not help them, but the farmers turned aside from such counsel, and said : “ This Minister is endeavouring to solve the problems that confront us, and we shall listen to him rather than to you “. Far from discouraged by the scant heed paid to them by the primary producers, those same interests are seeking through their parliamentary voices to discredit the Labour party and to disparage the efforts of the Government to improve the condi- tions of primary producers generally, and, on this occasion, the dairying industry, particularly. Like the wheatfarmer, the dairy-farmer realizes that his only hope for salvation lies, not with the honorable member for Richmond and his colleagues, but with the Minister for Commerce and his colleagues. The Minister for Commerce will crown his successes in the rectification of the troubles of other sections of primary production by instituting such a policy as will safeguard the future of the dairying industry and those engaged in it.
.- This is not the first time that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has rendered a signal service to the dairying industry by moving the adjournment of the House to discuss its difficulties. I congratulate him on his effort. Like the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), I sincerely deplore the tendency of honorable members to import party politics into a debate of this kind. I am not unfair when I say that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) was the worst offender in that respect, and that he was closely pressed for that doubtful honour by the honorable member for Ballarat. Those engaged in the dairying industry are impatient at the unreasonable delay on the part of the Government in announcing what increase of price they may expect to receive. The difficulties of the dairy-farmers to-day are probably greater in many respects than they have ever been. Certainly they have greater trouble to-day in obtaining and retaining sufficient labour than ever before. That is not entirely owing to military enlistments ; the price factor is also responsible, because on ruling prices it is manifestly impossible for dairy-farmers to pay wages comparable with those paid in other industries. It is amazing that in view of the shortage of labour in dairying districts, generally, and in Victorian dairying districts, particularly, that so many cows are still being milked.
– The farmers use milking machines.
– It is true that milking machines are a big help, but, if one may dare to parody a famous statement by the Prime Minister of Great
Britain, there was never a time when so many cows were milked by so few. That is the position in Victoria to-day. Is it surprising under present conditions that young people of both sexes tend to leave dairy farms in order to join the forces, or to engage in some more lucrative industry, not necessarily related to the war effort, so far as they are permitted to do so? City nien in secondary industries or office jobs working for five or five and one-half days a week and earning substantial extra pay if they work overtime, find it difficult to visualize the position of men whose duties extend week in and week out, month in and month out, over seven days a week, and for whom there is none of the Sunday rest and relaxation that we enjoy. The increase of 3d. per lb. which most dairymen are hoping for is a modest expectation in view of the circumstances of their industry as compared with those of other industries. If those engaged in the dairying industry were paid for the overtime they work a very much greater increase would be needed in order to foot the bill. The Minister for Commerce mentioned the efforts of the Government to make labour available to the dairyfarmers. I believe that in that regard the Government is doing its best, birt in that respect Victoria is suffering more than any other State. I single out Victoria, not because it is my State, but because I believe that there are facts to support, the contention that the shortage of dairy-farm labour is worse in Victoria than in Queensland and New South “Wales. The Army will not release men to work on dairy-farms unless their unit is ‘ within 24 hours’” travelling time of the farm concerned, and, as honorable members know, most units have gone north in recent months. It follows, therefore, that Victoria is at. a disadvantage in that regard as compared with the States farther north. Then again our butter factories have suffered a shortage of key men - buttermakers and other employees who are almost indispensable. Men of that class were called up in Victoria in March of last year, when supplies of milk and cream had fallen sufficiently low to enable them to be dis pensed with for a few months, whereas Queensland and northern New South Wales reached that condition a couple of months later, when the Government had changed its policy in regard to the call-up of that particular class. Another factor is that the young men who are so proficient as to become key men in butter factories are usually the men from whom non-commissioned officers and officers are chosen, and all honorable members know that the Army is not willing to release non-commissioned officers or officers. Various factors tend to cut down supplies of cream, milk, butter and cheese. One is, of course, the shortage of labour. Another is the shortage of superphosphate. We cannot blame the Government for that because enemy action has cut us off from sources of supply. Another one is the price. There is only one of these three factors over which we have much control. The labour difficulty and the price are wrapped up together. Some alleviation of the labour position could be effected if prices were improved. The shortage of superphosphate ba.s a very direct effect on many small farms, such as are to be found in the district which I represent. These farms have very limited acreages, but they are in good rainfall areas, and the farmers are able to keep a surprisingly large number of cows relative to their acreages by using superphosphate. The shortage of superphosphate must cause a considerable decrease of production.
.- This afternoon we have been treated to a demonstration of paltry party politics. Like a modern Bombastes Furioso the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) tore his hair and shed tears of distress on account of the dairymen. Listening to the right honorable member one would think that the dairymen’s troubles had begun only with the accession to office of the Labour party. However, we know that the dairying industry has been the Cinderella of all industries in Australia for many years. The right honorable member for Kooyong _ (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister for a considerable time, but during his term of office nothing was said about the dairymen. The Leader of the Opposition also held office as Prime Minister, but he did not worry much about the dairymen. The fact is that honorable members opposite are trying to capitalize the position which exists to-day. They know very well that the Minister for ‘Commerce (Mr. Scully) is engaged in a careful inquiry into the dairying industry with a view to giving a fair deal to all parties concerned. Nevertheless, they have told us to-day that they did a great deal for the industry. They did nothing of the kind.
For years the United Country party has told the dairy-farmers that, because of high wages in the cities, they could not receive a payable price for their product. The dairymen ‘believed that for a long time, hut they ave waking up now. Recently, at a town in the Maranoa electorate, 40 dairymen formed a branch of the Australian Labour party. At the meeting, the president said, “ For years I believed in the United Country party, but it gives you nothing. It allows the banks to put a plaster on you, and it sees that the plaster is kept there. The one party that will give to you people on the land a fair deal is the Labour party.” I believe that the Minister is about to announce a substantial increase of the prices of dairy products. Knowing that, and knowing also that a general election is in the offing, members of the Opposition wish to capitalize the position and come in at election time on a high wave. Fortunately, the men on the land are now aware that they have had a very raw deal from the United Country party and they are not going to take any more of that treatment. They have become very intelligent. The dairyman should receive sufficient remuneration for his products to enable him to pay the basic wage to all persons employed by him and to cover his costs. For that reason, I claim that he should receive 2s. per lb. for his butter-fat.
– What is the honorable member going to do about it?
– I am going to do something that the parties which now form the Opposition never tried to do. The Leader of the Opposition said that all that had been done for the dairyman had been done by the Opposition parties. But nothing has ever been done for the dairyman, although the parties repre sented opposite were in charge of the destinies of the country for many years. To-day the Labour party is trying to give the primary producers a fair deal. It has started with the wheat producers and the wool producers. It cannot do everything at once, ‘but now it is endeavouring to help the dairymen, and I believe that they will get a fair deal. I have much confidence in the Minister for Commerce. He, like myself, was reared on a dairyfarm, and he knows something about the work of a dairyman. He knows also that for years the dairying industry has been carried on by the unpaid labour of women and children. I was an inspector of schools for many years, and, in the course of my duties, I saw many weary little children about eight or nine years old fall asleep at their desks because they had had to rise at daylight or earlier in order to help in the milking yards. This is an industry that must be carried on every day of the year. The cows must be milked twice a day. I am sure that the dairy-farmers will get a fair deal from the Labour party.
.- The forms of the House have been used today by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) to bring to the attention of the Government the perilous condition of the dairying industry. It truly is in a perilous condition. It is one of Australia’s most important industries. Government supporters have tried to ridicule the action of the honorable member and those of us who support his motion. They claim that it is a political stunt. I say that it is imperative in the interests of the nation that the dairying industry be given assistance. We shall accept the challenge that the motion is a political stunt and ask the dairymen of Australia to decide who are their friends. The Country party came into being in this Parliament about 24 years ago. Since that time it has stabilized legally three important primary industries - the dairying industry, the wheat industry and the dried fruits industry. A gentleman named James contested the legislation with regard to dried fruits before the Privy Council. This legislation had been passed by the Common.wealth Parliament and implemented by the State Parliaments. However, the
Privy Council decided against the Commonwealth on a point of constitutional law. It did not say that the act was bad, but suggested that the Constitution should be so amended as to enable the Commonwealth Government to implement its decision. We endeavoured to have that done. The Western Australian Labour Government met and decided to ask the people to vote against the proposal at the referendum because it said that if an affirmative vote were recorded, the powers of the Commonwealth would have been dangerously increased. A proposal has been made by this Gocernment that increased constitutional powers should be obtained for the Commonwealth Parliament. On that occasion the increase of powers, which the people refused to allow, was required to insure the validity of the legislation passed to stabilize three primary industries. Yet one honorable gentleman now sitting on the treasury bench declared that he would not vote “ Yes “ because it would increase the cost of the food of the poor. He advised the people to vote “ No “. That shows a lack of sympathy in at least one honorable member opposite. One member of the present Government, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), who has many constituents engaged in the dairying industry, declared during that campaign that if the manufacturers of Australia could look to the tariff to protect their industry, and if the working men could look to the Arbitration Court to grant them adequate wages and reasonable conditions, the people engaged in our primary industries should also be entitled to statutory assistance. Yet the dairy-farmers, in common with many other primary producers, have been thrown to the wolves. The Country party desires the sincerity of honorable gentlemen opposite to be put to the test once more. If this Government desires to redeem itself, at least to a degree, in the eyes of primary producers, it should take prompt action to ensure a living wage to the dairy-farmers.
.- Some members of the United Australia party, and also the members of the Country party are supporting this motion because of their apprehension that certain political repercussions in the near future may give the people of Australia an opportunity to indicate which party they desire to control the affairs of Australia, but their rhetoric in the interests of the dairy-farmers has had little influence on me. I regret that the short time still at our disposal during this period of the session for the consideration of important legislative proposals should have been reduced by this debate. Governments supported by honorable gentlemen opposite were in power in this country for many years, and if they did as much to help the dairying industry as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) would have us believe they did, it is astonishing that so much more still remains to be done. After listening to the right honorable gentleman addressing Country party conferences in various parts of Australia, and also primary producers in my own electorate, I have come to the conclusion that his chief purpose has been to tickle the eaT3 of his audiences and to lead them to believe that if they supported his own political views everything would be all right. The reverse has proved to be true.
I hope that whatever this Government may do to assist primary producers, it will take all possible steps to ensure that the benefits shall actually reach the persons for whom they are intended, and shall not be diverted by means of increased charges, and the like, to middlemen of one kind and another. I suggest that rents, land values^ rates by local governing authorities, and similar charges, should he pegged so that any money provided for primary producers shall actually reach them. I shall whole-heartedly support any policy that will really improve the lot of the primary producers in general and the dairy-farmers in particular. Those engaged in the dairying industry work long and strenuously, and are entitled to all the help that the Government can give them.
– Does the honorable gentleman consider that the proposed mortgage bank would help dairy-farmers?
– I do. I believe that it will help all primary producers. If the bill is passed in a form that will not be beneficial, the Opposition will be responsible. This motion has been moved in order that honorable gentlemen opposite may claim some credit for decisions in relation to increased prices for dairy products that are likely to be announced in the near future. If the Government would apply to dairyfarming the principles which it intends to apply to the wheat industry, the prospects of the dairy-farmers would be much brighter than they are. I do not believe that any action taken by this Government is likely to meet with the approval of the Opposition. If the Government, gravely concerned as it is, makes a heavy drain on man-power to ensure our ability to repel the invaders, the Opposition immediately complains of the effect on the rural industries. Again, on the contrary, if the Government exempted considerable numbers of men for the primary industries, honorable members opposite would take it to task for its failure adequately to conduct the war effort. So the show goes on. Whatever the Government does will be wrong. My advice to it, therefore, is to go ahead, regardless of this political shadow-sparring. I am always ready to assist the primary producers, but I believe that this motion has been introduced for purely party political purposes, in accordance with the policy outlined in a document that recently came into the hands of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard).
– I support the motion because I believe that everything possible should be done to assist the dairying industry. This section of our primary producing community has suffered greater hardships than any other since Japan entered the war. The prices of its commodities have not been increased commensurately with the increased cost of production. Owing to the call-up into the armed forces of men engaged in dairying, the wives and children of dairy-farmers have had to work extremely long hours for an utterly inadequate remuneration. Every son of the dairy-farmer is called up immediately he reaches military age, irrespective of the labour needs of the farm on which he has been working. On account of these conditions, they are in an awkward position, and the Government is being urged to expedite a decision on the interim report furnished by the special committee that inquired into the matter. Not one day should be lost in granting the assistance that was first appealed for and is now demanded by farmers from Wilson’s Promontory to Cape York. As the industry has not been responsible for the delay that has occurred, will the Minister, when making a decision, give it retrospective operation to the 1st September last? That practice has been adopted in connexion with old-age pensions, and it should be applied in this case also. The industry must be saved in the interests not only of Australia but also of Britain, which prior to the war fostered the industry in Denmark to the detriment of Australia. After the war it will be necessary for both Britain and ourselves to develop this great industry, which has made such strides and has done so much.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 257b.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
States GrantsBill 1942.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1942-43.
Debate resumed from the 18th September (vide page 536) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure, introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), is designed to extend the ambit of superannuation rights to certainCommonwealth employees not previously covered. I am sure that it will meet with the concurrence of honorable members on both sides of the House.
In submitting the bill, the Treasurer reminded us that its proposals were for the most part in conformity with recommendations submitted by an all-party parliamentary committee. I pay tribute to the valuable work that has been done by quite a number of the parliamentary committees set up by a previous administration. It is good to see matters of social importance, particularly, lifted right out of the political cockpit. This hill has run the gauntlet of a committee and, with one or two qualifications, its proposals are exactly in consonance with the recommendations of that body.
Until quite recently, industry and commerce were not particularly concerned about the welfare of their aged employees. There were not lacking employers who would have been pleased to show great concern, but in the business world it is very difficult for those who have ideals to implement them when they have to withstand the competition of employers in whom ideals are lacking. Industry should assume much greater responsibility for its potential employees while they are being developed to an age at which they will be engaged. It should assume a general responsibility in connexion with the children of the community, and a specific responsibility in connexion with its ageing employees. During recent years, there has been development of a recognition of the responsibility which industry holds to those who, by their labour,- make it possible. In this development, both Commonwealth and State Governments have naturally played an important part, They have mostly been free from the disability of competition to which I have referred. I am not altogether sure that the provision made by governments in respect of retiring allowances has been motivated by altruistic principles. I recall that during the early days of my association with the Railways Department in New South Wales, that department had not in operation a superannuation scheme, hut there was a compulsory insurance scheme under which every employee, upon joining the department, wa? compelled to take out an endowment insurance policy to mature at the age of 60 years. The idea behind that arrangement was that the department would be quite free to dispense with the services of its officers and men when they had reached the age of 60 years, and would not be urged by compassionate reasons to maintain them in its employment. For many years in the Commonwealth Public Service, there has been a retiring allowance known as superannuation. However, the rights and privi leges of the scheme were confined to men of the category of permanent employees. It is peculiar that the expression “permanent” does not carry the usual dictionary significance when applied to government employees. The Treasurer stated that hundreds of men have been in the Commonwealth Public Service for periods ranging from 25 to 40 years, yet are still designated temporary employees; whilst more than 1,000 have had from ten to twenty years’ service, and another 1,000 have had service exceeding five years. These officers, because of the restriction of superannuation rights to permanent employees, have so far not been allowed to participate in the benefits of the fund. This legislation contemplates bringing them within the ambit of the fund. That is one of its three main objectives. Any scheme of this kind, which is actuarially based and depends for its solvency upon continuity of contributions, must inevitably be associated with continuity of service. It was, therefore, necessary that a given period of service should be made mandatory in respect of the men whom it is now proposed to bring within the scope of the superannuation provisions. The bill proposes to insist that before a temporary employee may be brought under the scheme, he must have had continuous service for a period of five years, and must be able to present the ordinary bill of health. Furthermore, the responsible head of the department must certify that the person concerned is holding what is practically a permanent position, and is likely to be employed indefinitely. With those securities, I have no hesitation in endorsing the proposal to include such officers within the privileges of the superannuation scheme.
The second main objective is to include certain semi-governmental employees - men associated with activities which, for purposes of governmental policy, are controlled by authorities other than the Public Service Board. That is in accordance with the precedent established in 1937, when the employees of several semi-government instrumentalities, such as the War Service Homes Commission and the Commonwealth Repatriation Commission, and also persons ‘employed at Australia House were brought under the superannuation scheme. This bill proposes to extend the benefits of the scheme to several similar organizations, and also provides that others not named in the bill may be brought in by proclamation. The question arises whether the employer’s contributions should be found by the semi-government instrumentalities concerned, or whether they should come out of general revenue. It is provided that the contributions shall be made in the first place by the Treasury, to be refunded later by the employing authority. This is a matter which might well be considered further in committee. I do not feel so comfortable regarding the next provision of the bill, which provides for a review of the rate of contribution by new entrants to the scheme. I do not object to the rates being reviewed; to do so would be to fly in the face of the actuaries, who have reported that the fund shows a deficiency. It was expected that surplus funds- would be invested at 4 per cent. ; but most of the money has, in fact, been invested in government securities at a rate of interest lower than 4 per cent. This makes it necessary to review the rate of contribution; but I cannot understand why the increased rate should apply only to new entrants. The position might be met by increasing the Government’s contribution, or by increasing employees’ contributions all round, or by a combination of both methods.
Under the act as it stands, persons who incur disabilities due to their own fault are denied pensions, or, if they are already drawing pensions, have- those pensions cancelled. It is proposed in the bill to abolish that provision, and to make the penalty contingent upon its being established that the person deliberately incurred disablement for the purpose of benefiting from the fund. My ‘objection to this provision is that it would be extremely difficult to prove that a person was actuated by that motive.
It is also provided in the bill that public servants, who temporarily vacate their positions in order to contest elections, shall have their superannuation rights reserved to them. There can be no objection to this, though perhaps we should not make conditions too easy for those who aspire to take our places here.
I am pleased that the Government recognizes its responsibility to its aged employees, and that the scheme is being widened. I ask, however, why similar benefits are denied to those who are not fortunate enough to be in the employ of the Government? Why should the benefits of a superannuation scheme not apply to the workers in outside activities, including housewives, spinsters, shopkeepers, and small tradesmen? As citizens, they are equally entitled to participate. There is an almost universal demand for a new social order, and the universality of the demand is matched only by the universal vagueness as to the form which it should take. It is not for me to say what the new order should be ; but I am convinced that most people will be disappointed if, in the forefront of any such order, there is not provision to ensure to every citizen some measure of economic security, not only during the period of his- industrial activity, but also during the twilight of his life. I hope that this Parliament will pass legislation to bring- this about. It is true that, two or three years ago, we passed such an act, but it has not yet been put into force. We were told that it could not be done because Australia could not find the £2,000,000 necessary. Never again will the people of Australia accept the assertion that Australia, which can afford £1,500,000 a day for war, cannot find £2,000,000 a year to give to the citizens of Australia a greater measure of economic security. If we can find millions of pounds to protect Australian citizens against the aggressor from without, we must be: prepared to find a much smaller number of millions to protect our citizens against the aggressor from within - an aggressor scarcely less ruthless than the external enemy. It is because this measure is a step in the direction in which I would see Australia go that I now give it my support.
.- I support the bill, which is long overdue. It provides a measure of security for members of the Civil Service who, though classified as temporary employees, are in all respects permanent employees.
Some of them have worked in the Commonwealth Public Service for 20 or 30 years. Apparently their rights have been overlooked in the past, and nothing has been done to ensure for them a reasonable measure of security. I am gratified that the Government has now recognized the justice of their claims.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), and I endorse his view that the superannuation rights will ultimately be extended to workers in industry, so that, when they retire, they will receive a- living allowance, not as a form of charity, but as a right. As the Government is now playing a big part in industry by providing financial assistance and supplies, it has a wonderful opportunity to exercise greater control of private enterprise, for the purpose of benefiting the workers. The policy of the Government is to limit the profits made by industry during war-time, and a most effective manner in which to achieve that object is by providing that a percentage of the profits shall be allocated to create a superannuation fund for the workers. If that were done, the employees would enjoy a feeling of security, which would promote contentment in industry. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that never again will people be satisfied with the statement that no money can be found to improve social services. I hope that the Government will heed my suggestions so that benefits will accrue to the workers instead of the private shareholders. The worker should receive not only his wages, but also a nest-egg in the form of a retiring allowance.
– As the result of the demands of the war upon our man-power, many retired Commonwealth public servants have been recalled to duty in various government departments. When they return, their pension ceases to be payable. For their services, they receive the difference between their salary and the pension. In my opinion, superannuation is a form of insurance. The public servant contributes to it during his period of service, and when he retires he receives the money as a right. Section 50a of the act provides that when a public servant retires, such portion of the pension as is attributable to the contribution payable by the Commonwealth shall be cancelled during the period of employment. The Government has contended that, as this position has been known to the Public Service for many years, it should not come as a surprise to a man who, upon, re-employment, finds that the amount of pension is deducted from his salary. But the present-day position is entirely different from normal conditions. If in peace-time a public servant retires, another officer is promoted to the vacancy, and younger men are recruited. In those circumstances, retired public servants have little prospect of obtaining employment in a department. To-day, new circumstances have arisen. The man-power problem iB acute in government departments as in industry, and many retired public servants have been recalled, and are performing work of immense value to the country. The bill makes a small concession. A retired public servant may, in future, work for 28 days before the deductions begin to operate. Even that concession is inadequate. These men return to the departments with the advantage of many years’ experience; they do not require to bc trained. They are anxious to serve the country in this emergency; but when their pension has been deducted from their salary they work for a small remuneration. I urge the Government to give sympathetic consideration to this problem. These men are entitled to the salary prescribed for the work which they perform. Since the outbreak of war, salaries and wages in private occupations have increased considerably as the result of war loadings and cost-of-living adjustments. The retired public servant should not be expected to make the big sacrifice that is now required of him.
.- I have no desire to delay the passage of this bill; but I wish to refer to some aspects of superannuation. The vast majority of the superannuated public servants are receiving benefits under the 1922 act, by which they were compelled to contribute four units in order to qualify for the minimum pension. Many of them at that time were very short of money, and they had to commute their insurance policies in order to obtain sufficient funds whereby to contribute to the superannuation fund. In the depression years 1931 to 1933, those men all had to suffer a reduction of pension by 22^ per cent. The only exceptions were those public servants who had transferred to the Commonwealth Service from State services. They escaped that reduction owing to the fact that, when they brought action in the High Court, it was decided that the Commonwealth had no power to reduce the pensions payable to them. Those who did suffer a reduction of 25 per cent, have always considered that tie Government, by reducing their pensions, failed to honour its obligations to them. They ask that what they lost during those years be ‘refunded to them. The amount involved is not large; but it would be of great assistance to them in these times. Unlike the invalid and old-age pensions and widows’ pensions, superannuation, pensions do not rise or fall according to movements of the cost of living, but I can see no reason for the discrimination, especially when I consider that public servants contribute towards the cost of their pensions. I think I am right in saying that in every other country provision is made for a variation of superannuation pensions according to the rise or fall of the cost of living. At any rate, that applies in every country of which I have knowledge, certainly in Great Britain. Many superannuated public servants receive only £2 a week. Since the war the cost of living has risen by 18 per cent.; that means that the purchasing value of the pension to-day, as compared with before the war, is only about 33s., which is insufficient for a retired public servant to live on. I support what the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said about the necessity to ensure that superannuated officials, who re-enter the Public Service in order to render assistance in the prosecution of the war, shall not suffer any loss of pension as the result of their taking that employment. It has been said that, in the first place, superannuation is a contractual obligation, and may, therefore, be likened to insurance policies, the actual benefits from which are not affected by increases of the cost of living. But I do not regard superannuation as being similar to insurance. After all, superannuation is an obligation imposed upon the public servants. They had no option but to conform to the provisions of the Superannuation Act. They should, therefore, be able to regard their pension as being apart from their ordinary earnings. Under the principal act, if a public servant returned to the Service, that part of the pension attributable to the contribution payable by the Commonwealth was cancelled. This bill remedies that position to a degree, by providing a period of 28 days in which the public servant concerned shall draw his full pension as well as his salary. Thereafter that part of the pension which is attributable to the contribution payable by the Commonwealth shall be cancelled. Men who answer the call to assist the Government in these days should not be deprived of benefits for which they contributed during their previous membership of the Service.
.- I support this bill, and I am in agreement with what was said by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). I look forward to the time when al] men wall he able to stop work at 60 years of age and retire on a pension, not as a charity, but as a right. Industry can afford it. No government could carry on for a month without a loyal and efficient public service. I say that as one who spent more than half a century in the Public Service. There is no better body of men and women in the world than the Commonwealth Public Service. There is, of course, a black sheep in every flock; but I cannot speak too highly of the work of our public servants.
– I want to say how glad I am, a& a member of the Joint Committee on Wireless Broadcasting, that employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are included in the provisions of this bill. The committee recommended unanimously that Commonwealth superannuation benefits should be made available to the commission’s permanent staff- It based that recommendation on very strong views expressed by the chairman of the com.mission, Mr. Cleary, and by the secretary of the Australian Broadcasting Commission employees’ organization, Mr. Concannon. Mr. Cleary traced at considerable length the battle which the commission has waged since 1934 to bring its staff within the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation scheme. Bie pointed out the difficulties that had been encountered as the result of frequent changes of the portfolio of Postmaster.General, and opposition from the Treasury. .Mr. Concannon said that the employees had sought inclusion in the superannuation scheme for many years in order to secure the advantages of security of tenure, benefits in’ illness, and benefits for widows and children of employees who died. I need not stress the great advantages of a superannuation system. I merely express my approval of the bill, and my gratitude at the fact that employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are to be included in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme.
.- I support the measure; but it has some extraordinary features. When introducing the bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) . said that investigations had disclosed that about 5,000 employees of the Commonwealth were classified as temporary, and that many of these had been employed full time and were occupying positions of a permanent character. He informed the House that 2,600 of the 5,000 had served for five years or more, and that of that number 320 had had from 20 years’ to 40 years’ service. Some of them have been in the service of the Commonwealth almost since the, day of federation, yet nobody has seen fit to classify their positions as being worthy of permanency. That seems to be a gross reflection upon a long succession of governments. But, bad as the case appears in the light of those figures, it is, in fact, even worse. There are also in the Commonwealth Public Service more than 1,000 persons who have had from ten years to nineteen years’ service in a temporary capacity.
The Treasurer should direct his attention to this matter with a view, not only to giving these people superannuation privileges, which they should have had many years ago, but also to giving them permanent status. A man employed in a temporary capacity, even though he may have had from 20 years’ to 40 years’ employment, can still be dismissed much more easily than a permanent officer. I am not conversant with all the laws governing the Commonwealth Public Service; but I know that in the public services of the States a temporary employee is at a distinct disadvantage as compared with a permanent employee. The Treasurer further told the House that 1,250 persons had had from five years’ to nine years’ temporary employment. It is disgraceful to have 2,600 temporary officers doing work worthy of permanent employment. The Government should give early attention to this matter.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Usually, a probationary period of only six months is required of a person entering the clerical division of the Public Service, in which he or she shall demonstrate fitness or otherwise, for the position occupied. Those 320 persons who have had from 20 to 40 years’ service would appear to have had a fairly reasonable - if I may misuse the. word - period of probation. But that, is not the worst feature. There is an additional 1,000 who have had from ten to nineteen years’ service. It seems passing strange that no government has given to these unfortunate employees an opportunity to contribute for superannuation rights before this. All that was left to them was the old-age pension when they retired or an invalid pension, maybe, if they were too sick to carry on. Other sections of the Service have the opportunity to contribute to tho Superannuation Fund on a £l-for-£l basis ; for every £1 contributed by them, (he Government pays into the fund another £1. There were further privileges in respect of those who joined when the scheme first came into operation. It is now proposed that these 1,000 men and women who have served for from ten to- nineteen years shall be permitted to contribute to the fund. Consequently, when this measure becomes law 1,320 persons who have had from 10 to 4’0 years’ service will be entitled to contribute to the fund. I do not suppose that more than a fraction of them will wish to contribute. Even if they had not to contribute at age rates, the contributions they would have to make would be so great that they would not be able to derive any benefit from them, and it would be much better for them either to take out endowment insurance policies or to wait until they had reached the retiring age and were eligible to receive the old-age pension.
There is a further 1,250 persons who have had from five to nine years’ service. That seems a very reasonable probation for anybody to serve in continuous employment in order that fitness for the position to which appointment had been made might be satisfactorily determined. The Government, having admitted that a large number of persons is employed by the Commonwealth in a temporary capacity, should now ensure that those temporary employees shall be made permanent and secure equal advantages in the matter of sick leave, holidays, and other privileges with their more fortunate brethren.
The remarks that I am making are reinforced with knowledge of the fact that, in the past, temporary employees have been regarded in the services as a class apart, or as persons not entitled to consideration equal to that given to those of permanent status. In my view, the labourer is worthy of his hire. If any person has occupied a position for a reasonable period continuously - say, two or three years - and the Government can be certain that the work being performed is of a permanent nature, that person should automatically become a permanent officer in the Public Service, and have all the advantages of permanency.
The report of the actuaries reveals a deficiency of £300,000 in the fund. These officials have assumed that the fund would earn an interest rate of 3% per cent. I regard that as too high a percentage to assume that the fund will earn in the future. Interests rates are tending ever and ever lower. In this war, the Commonwealth has been borrowing at 3 per cent, or thereabouts, whereas in the last war the interest rate went as high as 6 per cent. When the fund was established, the actuaries anticipated that the earning value of the money would be approximately 4 per cent. They have now lowered their estimate by at least $ per cent. They should operate on an even more conservative basis, and the Government should make whatever corresponding changes may be necessary in respect of contributions to the fund by either the employee or the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has submitted to me the view that the earning rate of this money should not be regarded as being higher than savings hank interest. The actuaries, I know, do not want to state a lower figure, because that would involve an increase of the Government payments into the fund in order to anticipate a possible deficiency. Provision is being made for an increase of contributions by employees, and I understand that the Public Service associations have accepted the position. But I am not happy in regard to the state of the fund. Although the Government has done good work in the measure it has brought before the House, the position will require constant supervision and, if necessary, amending legislation when the next valuation takes place. I understand that the fund is subject to a quinquennial investigation and valuation. I do not know when the next valuation will take place; but immediately one has been made, the Government should bring down amending legislation in order to make the fund solvent and place it upon a proper .basis.
Although it is proposed that so many more persons shall be entitled to become contributors to the fund, it is possible that others who are working for the Government in various capacities will not come within the scope of this legislation. It may be that certain persons associated with the Hansard staff of this Parliament are being overlooked in this respect. If that be so, it is to be regretted. When temporary employees are being legislated for, provision should be made in respect of all those who, may legitimately he included, and no body should be excluded on a technicality. Some persons whose work ha3 not been continuous over a period of five years or more, may be excluded. I understand that quite a number of members of the Public Service have been employed continuously for three years or more. These are not to be included. I regret the fact.
Superannuation came into force in the Commonwealth about twenty years ago. The scheme originally adopted for the Commonwealth has been copied by most of the States, and generally, has given considerable satisfaction. The result has been, a sense of security, which previously did not exist, for those public servants who were appointed in the period that elapsed) between the abolition of pensions and the inauguration of the scheme. In the early days of federation, quite a number of State public servants joined the Commonwealth Public Service with accrued pension rights. These were very important and valuable privileges. Many of those officers were able to retire on anything up to three-fifths of their salaries. But with the abolition of pensions there was a period during which no provision was made for public servants who retired after having given a life’s work to the Government. The superannuation scheme supplied a want by providing for mutual help. The equal contribution by the Commonwealth seemed to meet the spirit of the age, and was a satisfactory compromise, in that, whilst it obviated the necessity for the Commonwealth to provide old-age* pensions for those persons when they retired, it also gave to the contributors to the fund the feeling that, because of their contributions, they were not dependent upon charity. I have never regarded old-age pensions as a charity, but always as a right. An aged person who receives a pension is as much entitled to it as is a Supreme Court judge to his much larger pension. There is no difference in principle between the two. But there is the impression in the minds of many persons that the acceptance of an old-age pension is tantamount to the acceptance of charity. That is a state of mind which is hard to dissipate.
Many retired public servants who are in receipt of superannuation payments are dissatisfied with the treatment they are receiving from this Government, and had received from all previous governments since the outbreak of the war. The increase of the cost of living is felt by those who are on small superannuation payments, as much as by any other member of the community; but whereas cost-of-living advances are granted to old-age and invalid pensioners and nearly all wage and salary earners, no provision has been made for a corresponding increase of superannuation payments to retired public servants. These persons consider that the Commonwealth contribution should be assessed in such, a way as to make the pension equivalent in purchasing power to what it was when the recipient retired from the Public Service. There is a lot of justification for that point of view. They believe that they have a moral right that is being ignored, and I agree with their submission. The longer the war continues, the worse will their position become. They argue with even greater force when they say that, although they receive no consideration when the cost of living rises, yet in the depression years,, when governments were faced with great difficulty in maintaining what was described as budgetary equilibrium, they were obliged to submit to a reduction of their superannuation payments by 22^ per cent. If it was right for the Commonwealth to take from them at that time, it would also be right for the Commonwealth to give to them by making adjustments of their superannuation payments to-day.
There is another point affecting these persons which I consider is of considerable importance. The act contains a provision that a person in receipt of superannuation who, after his retirement, engages in employment in a temporary capacity in any Commonwealth department, must forfeit his superannuation during the term of his employment. That is a very proper device to prevent people, after they have retired, from obtaining employment that should more properly go to somebody else. But in these days, when great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining suitable and efficient labour, the Government should suspend this provision. Ministers have said that every man and woman who can should come forward to assist the country; yet, when the people whose cause I plead do, they are deprived of a part of their superannuation benefits.
– Only that part which the Commonwealth Government contributes to the pension.
– Even so, the principle is wrong. The provision should be suspended for the period of the war. I do not think that any similar provision exists in State superannuation schemes. If uniformity be the desideratum, then let us have it in regard to superannuation as well as in regard to income tax. I have received many letters from pensioners complaining of this treatment, but when I referred them to the Treasurer, I was told in every instance that the law was so and so, and nothing could be done about it. I now appeal to the Government to amend the law, so that old people who offer their services to the Commonwealth shall not have to accept less for their services than others.
.-This bill does not remove all the anomalies in the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, but it does bring under the operation of the scheme many persons who, for one reason or another, were not covered by the original legislation. There has been an agitation for many yeans for the inclusion of the employees of semigovernment instrumentalities, and this is now to be done. I have been a supporter of superannuation for many years, and I am glad to see that the benefits of the Commonwealth scheme are to be extended to include new groups. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out some of the anomalies of the present act. I agree with him that provisions should be made for an adjustment of pension rates in accordance with cost of living variations, so that pensioners shall not be penalized when the cost of living is rising steeply. Another anomaly is the provision under which the Commonwealth’s contribution to a pension is withheld if the pensioner is re-employed by the Commonwealth Government. One man who was thus re-employed is receiving only 9d. a week pension. He returned to work only because he wished to help his country during this time of crisis, and it is unfair that he should be treated in this way.
I was interested to hear the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) claim that all citizens should be covered’ by a superannuation scheme of some kind. I often find myself in agreement with the honorable member when he speaks on social questions, and I give him credit for being quite sincere. I believe that the time is approaching when we shall have to make more adequate provision for the people as a whole, and provide a standard of living below which no one shall be allowed to fall. Something of that kind must be done or the democratic system will not. survive. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that, after the war, the public will not continue to acquiesce in a system under which men live insecurely even when they are in employment, and have to accept the dole when they are out of work This bill enlarges the scope of the Commonwealth superannuation scheme, and is, therefore, something to the good. I look forward to the time when all citizens will be covered by a scheme of this kind, so that they will enjoy security during their working lives, and will be adequately provided for in their old age.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked why the increased rates of contributions were payable only by new entrants to the superannuation scheme. As has been explained by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the actuaries have reported that the fund needs to be strengthened because investments are not now returning as much income as had been expected. The report shows, however, that the present deficiency would be gradually reduced until finally extinguished after a number of years if the scheme remained on its present basis, but if new members be admitted at the old rates of contributions, the position might deteriorate still further.
– la not the present unsatisfactory position of the fund due partly to the increasing longevity of beneficiaries?
– That is one of the factors.
– When this amendment is effected, there will be two classes of contributors, each contributing for exactly the same benefits, but at different rates.
– That will continue for a time. It is in accordance with the recommendation of the actuaries, which the Government must accept. In reply to several honorable members, I would point out that when pensioners are re-employed by the Commonwealth Government, they receive the standard pay for the work they are doing, plus that part of their pension which they themselves contributed. Only the Government’s contribution to the pension is withheld. The underlying principle is that the Commonwealth Government shall not pay, at the same time, a salary and a pension; but the pensioner still receives the equivalent of the fund’s share of the pension. The High Council of the Public Service Associations recently confirmed this provision as being fair and logical, adopting the view that a pensioner who is re-employed, will receive the pension for which he actually contributed. In the Public Service of Victoria, the- amount contributed by the State towards the pension is taken into consideration in the (fixation of the salary for a retired public servant who is to be reemployed. The Commonwealth Government is unable to do this, as the salary for a position is fixed by the Public Service Board or by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– If a retired State public servant is employed by the Commonwealth, he has all the advantages of Commonwealth employment with none of the disadvantages of previous Commonwealth employment.
– That is a matter over which the Government has no control. The act has been amended, not arbitrarily, but after a searching inquiry by a parliamentary committee. - In addition, the amendments have the sup port of the ‘ Commonwealth Public Service.
Turning now to temporary employees, L, like many other honorable members, have directed attention in the past to the anomaly that is created when persons who have worked for the Commonwealth: for 20 or 30 years are still classified as temporary employees. Before a person may be appointed permanently he must possess certain qualifications prescribed by the Public Service Act, including the passing of an entrance examination. The Government is unable to alter that position by an amendment of the Superannuation Act. The best we can do for the temporary employees in the legislation now under consideration is to grant them the benefits of superannuation. The adoption of the suggestions of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) would necessitate the recasting of the Public Service Act, and the conditions under which the permanent Public Service has been built up. I shall place the representations’ of those honorable members before the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
– They are not necessarily the whole basis of the act.
– I agree. The honorable member for Melbourne is aware that a person who desires to become a permanent member of the Commonwealth Public Service must pass a qualifying examination.
– When he is comparatively young.
-nAs a former member of the Public Service of Victoria, the honorable member for Melbourne will recall that certain principles are involved, and the Labour party would be reluctant to depart from them.
– I do not desire to weaken any conditions.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) referred to the amendment whereby a “wilful act” may disqualify a person from receiving superannuation. In the Superannuation Act, the words “his own fault” appear. The Government considers that the words “wilful act “ will protect the interests of applicants for pensions. For example, an enthusiastic gardener might work in the rain, contract pneumonia and die. It could be claimed that his death was due to hia own fault in not taking shelter. A careless motorist might be fatally injured, and the accident could be construed as being due to his own fault. But his death could not be attributed to a “ wilful act “ on his part. I could multiply those instances a thousand fold.
– I stated in my second-reading speech that it would be impossible to impute motives.
– The Government is proceeding on the principle that it is better that ten guilty men shall go free than that one innocent man shall be penalized. Very few men and women would deliberately injure themselves for the purpose of obtaining superannuation. Some honorable members claim that the pension should be subject to the fluctuations of the cost of living, but I remind them that the matter is outside the scope of the bill. Later, the subject will receive consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (‘Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-L937, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - ‘adopted.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– I have received a letter from a temporary employee of the Commonwealth Public Service who states that he is paid a salary of £5 13s: a week, as determined by a wages board. He does precisely the same work as permanent employees who enjoy a salary of £306 per annum with two annual increments of £8. For super annuation purposes the temporary employee will now be placed on the same basis as the permanent employees. He considers that he should receive the same salary as permanent employees when he performs the same duties as they do. The anomaly is apparently created by the fact that the salary of a temporary employee is determined by a wages board, whilst the salary of a permanent employee is fixed by the Public Service Board. This matter should be rectified. Another correspondent, who is a soldier on active service, writes -
I enlisted in the Australian Military Forces six months ago upon getting permission from the Postal Department in which I have been employed permanently for nearly twenty years as a postal linesman. I received notice last week from the military authorities that I had to allot 9d. a day to the Superannuation Board to cover my pay as a public servant dating same back to the time of my enlistment. I consider it is a grave injustice that I should be compelled to pay out of my small earnings whilst not in the actual employ of the department and also at the same time take all the ordinary risks,. &c, as a soldier in the Australian Military Forces. I may add that there are quite a number of us in the same position and we would consider it a favour if you would bring this, matter before the proper authorities for us»
I hope that the Minister will adjust this matter.
– I shall examine the two cases mentioned by the honorable member for Batman.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and. 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section thirteen of the principal act is amended -
By omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding sub-section -
an employee over the age of thirty years whose salary does not exceed Two hundred and eight pounds per annum may elect to contribute for additional units or half units to make- up a total number of two and a half, three or four units ;
By omitting sub-section (4.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (4.) If the salary of a contributor is increased and, by reason of that increase, fall’s within- a salary-group in column one of the scale contained in sub-section; (1.) of this section higher than thesalary-group in which it fell prior to the increase, the following provisions shall apply: -
If the contributor is a contributor to whom the last preceding paragraph applies and he does not elect under sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of that paragraph, he may, not later than twelve months after the first payment of the increased salary, elect to increase the amount of his contribution …
Amendments (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to -
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.) (a), after the word “ years “, the following words be inserted: - “, and an employee who was a contributor at the commencement of the Superannuation Act 1942,”.
That, in proposed new sub-section (4) (c), the words “, not later than twelve months after the first payment of the increased salary,” be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 - (1.) Section thirty -three of the principal act is amended by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - “ (1a.) Where the present value, as deter mined by the actuarial member of the board, of a pension or pensions payable in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section is less than the contributions made by the contributor, the amount of the difference shall be paid to the personal representatives of that contributor or, failing them, to such persons (if any) as the board determines.”.
Amendment (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to -
That, in proposed new subjection (1a.), after the word payable” the following words be inserted “ , on the death of a contributor,”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to
Clauses 17 to 42 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT BILL 1942.
Debate resumed from the 29th Septem ber (vide page 1075) on motion by Mr. Curtin -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The matter before the House is one of firstrate importance in that it involves consideration of the functioning of our arbitration system and the principle of arbitration. The matter of the functions and membership of the Women’s Employment Board was first discussed in April last when exception was taken to the appointment of Miss E. Cashman as employers’ representative on the board. Apart altogether from the obvious unfairness of appointing Miss Cashman, an organizer of an employees’ union for many years, as the employers’ representative, there was the question of the necessity for such a board. The view was expressed that the board was a waste of public money and would hinder rather than assist industry. Employers’ organizations held the view that the board was unnecessary because it could do no more than was already provided for by the machinery of the Arbitration Court. In fact, the opinion was expressed that, because the board was lacking in experience, it could not deal with questions likely to come before it anything like as effectively as could the Arbitration Court. As was pointed out at the time, regulation of employment of women in industry was not a matter that had arisen since the outbreak of war. A number of awards was in existence governing the employment of women. Consequently, what was the need to set up an entirely new body to deal with the regulation of women’s employment ? Notwithstanding the soundness of these views, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) was, apparently, determined that this new board should function. It was but another instance of the use of national security powers by a particular Minister to suit the political ends of supporters of the party of which he is a member. It was put quite plainly to the Government that the board would usurp the judicial powers and functions of the Arbitration Court which, by reason of its long experience and the knowledge its judges possessed of the various industries, was fully competent to determine all questions relating to women’s employment. Furthermore, the political character of the appointments tended, at the outset, to destroy public confidence in the newly created body. No evidence was adduced to show that the board was essential to the furtherance of the war effort.
The subject of women’s employment was again discussed in this House on the 20th May last, when my colleague, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), moved for the disallowance of the regulations relating to the employment of women made under Statutory Rules 1942, No. 146. As the right honorable gentleman pointed out to the House, that statutory rule cut right across the principle of arbitration for which Parliament had stood for many years and the principle of adherence to arbitration for which the Opposition parties had stood for so long. After that debate, the regulations were amended to incorporate a suggestion made by the right honorable member for Kooyong that the permanent personnel of the board should be increased from three to five. The Minister for Labour and National ‘Service decided, however, that three members of the board should be representatives of employees or closely associated with trade unions whilst only one would be a bona fide representative of the employers. How could any government hope for harmonious working under such a grossly unfair arrangement? Then, on Wednesday last, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (‘Senator McLeay) moved to disallow the regulations on the subject, and the Senate endorsed his action. Subsequently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a long statement to this House, in the course of which he indicated the Government’s intention to introduce a statutory rule to prevent what he described as “ a chaotic position caused by the absence of any authority covering the employment of women “. He declared that the Senate’s action had created a state of affairs which could only be described as chaotic.
It should be made quite clear that, whilst the Opposition is not at variance with the Government on the principles involved, we strenuously oppose the methods by which these principles have been applied, by the Government. It has always been our view that women should have adequate protection against exploitation when required to assist in the nation’s war effort. Our principal objec- tion, which is voiced so strongly by employers’’ organizations, is that the activities of this board represent a departure from the accepted system of the Arbitration Court. We recognize that the problem of replacing in industry men who are in the fighting forces raises a number of new problems which call for determination. We regard it as of the greatest importance that everything possible should be done to safeguard the jobs of these men which are temporarily filled by women. That is a responsibility which devolves upon us and which we shall discharge. We consider that nothing that has been done by this board could not have been done by an additional judge of the Arbitration Court and under the general auspices of the arbitration system. It has been suggested that had it been left to the Arbitration Court to deal with this matter, there would have been lengthy delays. My answer to that is that the arbitration system is sufficiently flexible to enable the judge to adjust the nature of the hearing to meet the urgency of the ease before it for determination. Tor instance, special provision was made in the case of the coal industry. In matters relating to this particular industry, the judge sits not as a court but as chairman of a central reference board, on which the employers and employees have representation. Then, on the Stevedoring Commission, Chief Judge Piper sit3 as chairman. This is another instance of special provision to meet special circumstances. There are many occasions on which a judge sitting informally, calls a conference and is in a position to determine matters with expedition. The important consideration is that we should maintain uniformity in industrial principles in our arbitration system. That is not possible through the Women’s Employment Board. On the contrary, there is conflict of jurisdiction and, in many cases, conflict of principles. In fact, I think it might fairly be stated that the functioning of the body has caused embarrassment to the judges of- the Arbitration Court. I quote one instance, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd September -
Judge 0’Mi, ra said in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court yesterday that wages payable to female employees was at present the subject of some political controversy in which he did not propose to he involved in any respect.
Referring to the employment of women, (udge 0’Mara said that if the Commonwealth was the paymaster for practically every one at the moment and, in some respects, a lavish paymaster, the Commonwealth would have to take the responsibility for one section of the community not getting the base wage. He would not take that responsibility.
This “ lavish “ pay to -which His Honour deferred has a further detrimental effect upon harmonious working in industry. Women, finding that high wages are offering in some positions, immediately seek to fill them, only to find, in many cases, that because of the “ protected “ nature of their employment, they cannot transfer to other work. Naturally, they become dissatisfied, and efficiency must suffer. Another disturbing feature is the effect of decisions of the board in some establish-‘ ments. Women who, formerly, were engaged in a particular establishment are being paid at one rate, whilst women who have recently come into the establishment and have been given an award are doing similar work at a higher rate of pay. Attention was directed to another instance of an anomaly during a recent visit by the board to Adelaide. It was pointed out to the chairman of the board, Judge Foster, that some females were working under the board a.t male rates, whilst others were under the court award at female rates. The latter were engaged on jobs which required some degree of skill, whilst those under the board although generally speaking, in unskilled jobs, had to have male rates. The board was shown also a process on which 60 or 70 females were working at a long assembly bench. It was pointed out to the board that, under the practice which it was adopting, several different rates would be payable to the women on this line, although there was no discernable difference in the work.
It must be apparent to the Government that these anomalies can lead only to discontent and industrial friction at a time when the greatest possible degree of harmony is desirable. The action which the ‘Senate took last week should not have caused the Government any surprise. Long ago, the Opposition made it clear that, it regarded the Women’s Employ ment Regulations as obnoxious. The Senate’s decision indicated to the Government that it regarded the regulations as objectionable. It is the duty of the Opposition to direct its energies towards ensuring that the nation shall put forth the best possible war effort. We owe a responsibility to the people to ensure that the’ war shad! be prosecuted with the maximum efficiency. The Opposition took the view that the Women’s Employment Regulations wore not in the best interests of the war effort, and it took appropriate action to register its disapproval in another place.
I say emphatically that the Women’s Employment Board has brought dislocation to industries over which it has adjudicated. There is absolutely no foundation for the Prime Minister’s declaration that the Senate’s action would delay the Government’s plans to bring women into industry and assess their rates of pay and conditions of employment. Actually, the principles to govern rates of pay and conditions of work for women entering industry to take over jobs previously carried on by male workers were the subject of proceedings in the Full Court of the Arbitration Court in February last. On the 23rd February, the court’s proceedings were blocked by the intervention of the Attorney-General and the task of settling the matter was taken out of the court’s hands. It would be interesting to know whether this action was at the request of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The Women’s Employment Board was set up in June last, but it could not engage in any activities before July. The matter was before the Arbitration Court in February. Therefore, a delay of from four to four and a half months was deliberately caused by the present Government, in its desire to make the subject of women’s wages a political matter and 1o take it out of the hands of the Arbitration Court. Unquestionably, the full Arbitration Court would have promptly laid down principles governing the employment of women for uniform application all over Australia, and any minor administrative details would then have bean cared for by the Conciliation Commissioners and other members of the administrative staffs of the court. The Prime Minister laid considerable emphasis on delays by the Arbitration Court in the determination of claims. The fact is that, in a great many cases, the delays alleged against the court have been caused by the parties themselves. In some, instances, applications have been filed and the applicant has failed to proceed, or, perhaps, has not been ready with his case. In other instances, union advocates have sought adjournments in order to carry out other business. I have been informed that this practice grew to such an extent that judges had threatened to strike cases from their lists unless the applicant parties were prepared to proceed. No doubt, some of my colleagues with experience in the working of the Arbitration Court will be able to cite further instances in support of my observations on this aspect of the matter. 1 should like the House now to consider the attitude that the Prime Minister adopted consequent upon the Senate’s disallowance of the relevant regulations. I have already expressed my amazement that the right honorable gentleman should have indicated that the Government regarded the legislation dealing with this matter as vital. This, to my mind, is striking evidence that the Government is prepared to shelve its major responsibility - the prosecution of the war and the defence of Australia - so as to avoid incurring the displeasure of the industrial movement upon which it relies for support. Clearly, the Government is placing political considerations before national considerations. Apparently, it has lost all sense of proportion in attaching such importance to the functioning of a body dealing with women’s employment, when it should be concentrating on measures to improve the war effort. That Ls a perfectly reasonable view of the situation. There was no necessity for the creation of this board. Certainly, there was no need for a body constituted as the board is. I suggest that the Government is using this matter as an election issue. It .is seeking to use the Women’s Employment Regulations as an additional issue on which to fight a campaign based on misunderstanding and the creation of confusion in the public mind. Australia is in a critical position, and I hope that the Government will listen to the representations that have been made by the Opposition and will reconstitute the board along the lines that we have suggested. I propose to move for an amendment of the bill to provide that the Commonwealth representative on the board shall be required to comply with certain specifications. I consider that there should be female representation on the board, and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions should be asked to appoint a woman as one of its two representatives. The Government representative should be a man with experience of managerial work and should be competent to deal with the very complex and important matters which will come before the tribunal.
– I listened with great attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). In reading his carefully prepared brief, he made what appeared to me to be the best possible case in favour of the Government’s proposals. The right honorable gentleman said that he was surprised that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) treated this as a vital matter. As a matter of fact, the Opposition .is disturbed because it has put itself in an invidious and uncomfortable position from which it is now trying to extricate itself. This Government was confronted with a very difficult situation when it took office almost twelve months ago. It was faced with the necessity for speeding up wartime production, and, at the same time, with the problem created by dwindling man-power resources owing to the absorption of men- an the fighting services. Therefore, it became necessary to speed up production by introducing women into industry. Honorable members opposite declare that they are not opposed to the employment of women in war industries, but I point out that, when honorable gentlemen opposite had control of this Parliament, they made no attempt to remove obstacles in the way of employ inn larger numbers of women. It remained for this Government to take positive action to overcome those difficulties. In order to- do so it had to establish a special tribunal to- deal with matters arising from the employment, of women in occupations previously reserved to males. The Arbitration Court was functioning only to a limited degree in regard to fixing conditions of employment and rates of pay for women. Furthermore, the court was congested. It was difficult to obtain prompt attention for many matters, and obviously it would have been impractical to allow matters relating to the employment of women to go before the court, probably to be subjected to protracted delays. The Leader of the Opposition has implied that all of the delays in the Arbitration Court were the fault of the trade union representatives. He said that they had applied for adjournments so that they might devote themselves to other activities. There have been occasions when trade union representatives have asked for the adjournment of hearings. However, a close examination of the facts will show that most of the delays have not been caused by una on officials. They have asked only for adjournments of short- duration. The maximum; period would not be more than a few weeks, and, in most cases,, not more than a few days.
The Leader of the Opposition has not bad one good word to say about the Women’s Employment Board. If honorable mem-tiers opposite believed implicitly in what the right honorable gentleman said they should not talk about amending this bill. If this board has caused so much dislocation and obstruction to industry as they claim’, if it has caused so much of what they describe as “mischievous’ interference with our Arbitration ‘Court machinery”, they should insist upon the permanent elimination of the board. But they do not propose to do that. They merely ask that it be allowed’ to operate, provided that the Government makes- one or two slight facesaving amendments to the hill. This proves that the Opposition does not believe what it has said. I shall show the motive which actuates the Opposition in attacking the board. The Prime Minister has proved conclusively that this body, which was established only a few months ago, was; able to deal with industrial matters much more expeditiously than the Arbitration Court had done previously. Honorable members opposite have said that, by the introduction of the regulations dealing with the Women’s Employment Board, the Arbitration Court was prevented from making some important decision. I understand that, in the case referred to, the Arbitration Court had had the matter before it for some months. It is peculiar that, at the psychological moment when the Government decided to establish the Women’s Employment Board’, the court sprang into activity and decided that the time had arrived to make a decision in the matter. Probably this could be proved to have been something more than a mere- coincidence. The board was established for the purpose of doing much more than fix the rates of pay for women. It was designed to establish their hours of work, to remove some of the obstacles to their employment in industry, and to take action in the interests of their safety and welfare. Will any member of the Opposition say that, when women are asked to go into occupations’ which were previously exclusive to men, some action should not be taken- to have them protected? Of course not, and that is exactly what the Government did. Has the Opposition mentioned one decision of the board with which it disagrees or which has caused dislocation in industry? No. The Opposition objects to those decisions of the board which provided the full male wage for women and to the fact that the board, in practically every case, increased women’s wages considerably. It has no objection to <!he introduction of women into war industries. In fact, it wants to use women as a reservoir of cheap labour. That is the motive behind its objection to the hoard. I shall prove my statement by quoting some of the declarations made by honorable members opposite. They have said that the establishment; of the hoard cuts across the general principle of arbitration. What general principle do they mean ? Do they consider that the board has not dealt fairly with the application’s submitted to it? Do they suggest that the Arbitration Court is much more competent to hear arguments and give decisions on these matters than is the board ? A judge of the County Court of Victoria was appointed to preside over the board. He is an eminent legal man despite what may be said by some lion ora bie members opposite. Not one oi them, whatever his private opinions may be, has dared to 3ay, definitely, that Ik doubts the impartiality of this judge-. They have merely, by implication, imputed improper motives to this gentleman. So prolonged have been the delays in dealing with matters before the Arbitration Court that 45 cases have been pending for over twelve months. The average time taken by the Women’s Employment Board to deal with claims was one and one-third, days. This proves that the board worked very expeditiously. It had to decide whether a probationary period of training was necessary for women entering new branches of industry. Then, it had to fix the period of probation and the wages payable during that period, as well as the rate of pay upon completion of training. But, when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) moved for the disallowance of the regulations relating to the Women’s Employment Board, he did not mention the fact that the Arbitration Court had adopted the principle of fixing 54 per cent, of male rates of pay for women in industry. Now we know why the Opposition objects to the board. Under the regulations, it was provided that where it had been decided that women should be introduced into new occupations in industry, the board might fix a probationary period, and the rate of wage that should be paid, with a minimum of 60 per cent, of the male rate. This is 6 per cent, higher than the determination of the Arbitration Court when dealing with female rates of pay. I point out to the Opposition that this is a war-time measure. The regulations make it very clear that this action’ was taken by the Government in order to overcome extreme difficulties which were impeding the organization of this nation for a maximum war effort. Apparently, that did not mean anything to honorable members opposite. Although they have not been prepared to face up squarely to the argument, what they really object l< is the constitution of the board. It has been said in the Senate, and repeated here, that this is a political board. I believe that in the Senate it was referred to as a “stacked” board. All that .1 can say is that not one member of the Opposition has yet indicated what particular decision of the board would lead him to form the opinion that it is a “ stacked “ board. Obviously, if it be a “ stacked “ board, its decisions must be in accordance with its composition. To what decisions do honorable members opposite object? Do they object to decisions that give more favorable treatment to women in industry in regard to conditions of labour and rates of pay? Had the board been constituted along the Lines that they would prefer, tie employees would not have received fair and equitable treatment. Had it been loaded in such a way that the employers would have been able to secure anything that they wanted, there would have been no objection to it and no motion for the disallowance of the regulations governing it.
The chairman of the board was Judge Foster. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), in his inimitable style, said on a previous occasion that he believed that Judge Foster “ would do his best to be impartial “. If that be not a reflection upon a member of the judiciary, 1 have never heard one. In my opinion, Judge Foster is very well qualified for the position. A question was asked as to what his previous activities had been, and whether it was a fact that on one occasion he had been a candidate for Parliament on behalf of the Labour party. That is true: he was an unsuccessful Labour candidate some years ago. I understand that on one occasion he was also an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of the Melbourne Golf Club. Neither experience would disqualify him from appointment to this position. He has been a judge of the Victorian County Court for some considerable time, and nobody has ever suggested that he has not carried out his duties in a proper manner.
Then there is Miss Cashman, who was appointed as an employers’ representative. Strong objection was raised to her appointment. It was said that she is too favorably disposed to the views of the trade union and the employees. Miss Cashman is a cultured and very capable woman. It is true that she held, for many years, a position in a trade union. .But so did many other persons in this country who subsequently were appointed to other positions. I believe that the, right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had some association, certainly many years ago - and we hate to remind ourselves of it - with a trade union in this country. There are many others who are similarly placed. The man nominated as the private employers’ representative was, for many years, a trade union secretary, but then went over to the side of the employers. No objection was made to that appointment, .simply because the Opposition knew that the view he would express would be favorable to the moneyed interests of this country. But they immediately gesticulated in alarm when it was suggested that Miss Cashman might be appointed to the board. What is the objection to Miss Cashman? In the first place, she was appointed to a Government position, not by the Labour party, but by the party that now sits in Opposition, when it was the Government. In 1940. applications were called to fill six positions as industrial inspector. Miss Cashman was one of 593 applicants, and was one of the six selected. She was chosen by the right honorable member for North Sydney, who was then Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. She proved a capable Commonwealth public servant, and did satisfactory work. When the present Government assumed office, and discovered that the Munitions Department was the largest employer of female labour in Australia, it decided that it was entitled to ask for representation, upon a board the function of which was to fix the rates of pay and conditions of female labour. Was there in that anything to which the Opposition could logically object? Was not the G ov ermine n t untitled to appoint a person who, it believed, was best fitted to occupy such an important position? Honorable members opposite said that this had deprived the private employer of representation. Did it? When the board was established, it was to consist of three members - the chairman, a representative of employers, and a representative of employees. When the motion for disallowance of the regulations was moved by the right honorable member for Kooyong, the Government decided to increase the number of the board’s personnel in order to meet some of the objections that, had been raised. It determined to appoint an extra representative of the employers and another of employees. Thus, the Commonwealth Government - the largest employer of female labour in the country - was represented by Miss Cashman; and Mr. Johnston represented the private employers. It would be a sorry day for the people of this country if a government, as the largest employer of female labour, were to allow itself to be placed in the impossible position of not having representation upon such an important board.
– The Government is not the largest employer of female labour.
– The interjection of the honorable gentleman is quite consistent with the attitude he generally adopts. In war industry, the Commonwealth Government is the largest employer of female labour.
– I say that it is not.
– The honorable gentleman believes that the Government, as custodian for the general public, should not have representation on the board, but that a mere handful of private employers, constituting a minority, should have all the representation.
– I do not believe that. The honorable gentleman does not know what I believe.
– This Labour Government is a democratic government, which believes that the general public, who in the final analysis have to foot the bill, should be given some consideration and some protection. That is all that it has endeavoured to do in this matter. At one time, Miss Cashman was a member of the New South Wales Cost of Living Commission. Why should she not be capable of handling such matters as come before this board? Who would be more competent to do so? Honorable members opposite say that they want a woman on the board. Have they nominated a woman more capable of discharging the duties of the position than is Miss Cashman? As a member of the New
South Wales Cost of Living Commission, a part of her duties was to examine all the factors in regard to the cost of living in which women were likely to be interested. Is not that one of the factors that must be taken into account in determining rates of pay for women when they engage in war industries? It has been argued that the male rate has. been fixed by the Arbitration Court, having regard to the family responsibilities of the male. Let us examine what that means. This board does not automatically award equal pay. It has to take into account factors such as the efficiency of women, and the production for which they are responsible. It must then determine the rate of pay as something between 60 per cent, and 100 per cent, of the male rate. Honorable members opposite deny that they advocate the abolition of the board because they desire the introduction of cheap labour into industry. Let us see whether such is the ca3e. The Arbitration Court fixes the male rate, having regard to certain family responsibilities. Honorable members opposite argue that women have not similar responsibilities, and that, therefore, if the Arbitration Court were allowed to determine their rate, whether oi’ not the work or the efficiency were equal, it would have to determine a rate for women that was less than the male rate. In no circumstances could a woman receive the same rate of pay as a man employed in a similar occupation. The Women’s Employment Board has awarded equal pay where the efficiency and production have been equal. Therefore, it can be very definitely stated that honorable members opposite would adopt this means of securing the introduction of cheap labour into industry. If women have the same degree of efficiency as men, and produce equal wealth hut receive less than the male, with the introduction of a larger number of them into industry, who would benefit as the result of the extra wealth that they produced? It would go to the employers for whom they were working. The employers would be encouraged to engage larger and still larger numbers of women in order that they might’ earn higher and still higher profits. That is the motive behind the attempt of honorable members opposite to defeat the aim of the Government. Within recent years, the Arbitration Court has fixed wages on the basis of the ability of industry to pay them. Some honorable members argue that that is the only way in which wages could be fixed. Before the Arbitration Court determines what wage shall be paid by an industry, or whether it has the ability to pay, it allows a margin for profit. Profits must come before everything else, including the welfare of the employees. On a previous occasion, the right honorable member for Kooyong made the following remarks in regard to cheap labour, in reply to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who had interjected : -
I point out to the honorable gentleman that a very good test of any law is to determine what may be done under it; and a very good way of determining what may be done under it, is to ask what has been done under it? I stand on both of those grounds, and on both I ask the House to support the disallowance motion.
The right honorable gentleman stood on what the board had done. I ask him: What has the board done to which he objects? To what particular decision arrived at by the board does the right honorable member take exception? Is it not a fact that his objection to the board is that, for the first time in the history of this country, women have been having their claims, in regard to wages in industry, determined by a board on an equitable basis? In the same speech, the right honorable member said -
Let us deal first with the core of the board. At first sight, it seems to me to be quite fair to provide that a direct representative of the employers and of employees shall be appointed to act with an impartial chairman, because an impartial chairman should be able to make up his mind as between the interested parties. The chairman of the board is Judge Foster.
The Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) interjected: “And a good man, too”; and the right honorable gentleman replied, “ I believe that he will do his best to be impartial ! “ Anti-Labour governments had control of this Parliament for several years. They made many appointments, and if we were to judge the appointees by their previous activities, there would be reason for doubting the impartiality of the tribunals on which they served. According to the title, this is a bill to encourage and regulate the appointment of women for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of the present war. That is a very appropriate title. The action of the Opposition in moving in the Senate for the disallowance of the regulations was deliberately designed to impede the war effort.. An unsuccessful attempt had previously been made in this chamber to disallow the regulations, and the Opposition was not. prepared to accept the decision given at that time. Members of the Opposition in the Senate, encouraged no doubt by the circular letter of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) urging them to attack and embarrass the Government, succeeded in having the regulations disallowed, thus severely dislocating many war industries. We were told, of course, that the board was the cause of industrial dislocation, but I challenge members of the Opposition to cite instances of that. As a matter of fact, I can produce evidence that Australia has been freer of industrial disturbance since the Curtin Government has been in office than it ever was before. Those who support the Opposition have only one eye to spare for the safety of the country; the other is on their profits, and if they think that there is a danger of their profits slipping away, they never hesitate to turn both eyes to the profits. They are quite willing to risk the safety of the people of Australia if they think that their profits are being interfered with. Under the Menzies Government, the average loss of man days each week because of industrial disputes was 21,152. Under the Fadden Government, which fortunately had a very short life, the average loss was 51,664; but under the Curtin Government, the average loss fell to 8,318. As bad as the Menzies Government was, it would appear, on these figures, that it was twice as good as the Fadden Government, whilst the Curtin Government is over six times as> good as was the Fadden Government. Why did the Opposition not move straight out for the removal of Miss Cashman from the Women’s Employment Board? They say that they are agreeable to a woman being a member of the board, but they seek to fix conditions which would make it impossible for Miss Cashman to be a member of it. They seek to have it laid down that the appointee must have had twelve months’ experience in a managerial capacity before being qualified for nomination as Commonwealth representative. Why, I ask, should the Government forego ite right to decide whom it should appoint as its representative?’ When the Opposition was in power, did it ever ask the Labour party to sa.y who should be appointed to represent the Government on various boards ? If the Opposition is not prepared to make a specific charge against any present member of the board, why was it not content to lay down conditions for future appointments ? Miss Cashman has now had1 many months’ experience as a member of the board, and is much better acquainted with the work than she could possibly be merely as the result of having had twelve months’ experience in a managerial capacity. Members of the Opposition, however, say that this experience should count for nothing. The people know quite well what is behind this move. The Leader of the Opposition sent out his circular because the interests which he represents were becoming, scared that the Government had been too successful in its handling of industrial affairs1. They knew that its prestige was growing, so the order went forth to destroy the Government if possible; or, at any rate, to curb its activities, and to demonstrate to the people that it was doing things which it should not do. The Opposition will discover, if it faces’ the people on this issue, that it has badly misjudged the situation.
The Opposition has not charged the Women’s Employment Board with improper practices, or with having done anything it should not have done. Members of the Opposition have claimed that its activities have resulted in the dislocation of industry, but the figures which I have cited disprove this charge. The real reason for the attack, of course, is that the interests which the Opposition represent are afraid that their profits may be affected, and they have called upon their representatives in Parliament to attack the Government and destroy it. The Government says that women shall never go back to the position which they previously occupied. We say that if a woman is as efficient as a nian, and can produce as much, the tribunal shall be entitled to rule that she shall receive as much pay. The Opposition says that, even though she may produce as much as a man, she shall not receive as much pay. [f an employer can- replace his male employees with women who can do as much work as the men, he will naturally be able to reduce his wages bill without reducing his production or his profits. What, I ask, is to become of the increased profit that would be earned by paying women employees less than they are entitled to? Honorable members opposite do not reply. They want to establish a reservoir of cheap female labour. We have heard talk from time to time of fifth column activities, but I say that the action of the Opposition, in this matter was deliberately designed’ to impede production, and to create industrial chaos. For every day that the board has been prevented from functioning, production has been held up, and the Government has been prevented from introducing into industry as many women as it thinks necessary. If the people are called upon to decide between profits and war production, with which is wrapped up the safety of the country, I am convinced that they will place profits, which honorable members opposite are trying to defend, very low in the order of priority.
.- I am beginning to develop something almost like affection for the Minister for Labour and National Service (M.r. Ward). He never disappoints me. To-night, when he began to speak, I was at first a little disappointed, I confess. I felt that he was speaking rather too much in a still, small voice, but as time wore on, and a . few interjections came, he began to run true to form - straight down the path that leads to the Sydney Domain! With infinite respect to yourself, Mr. Speaker, I add that, the Minister’s speech ended by being irrelevant to the subject before the Chair. He began by making some extremely candid admissions about the Women’s Employment Board, and for his candour I. like him. There are two members of this House who are always candid, a fact which I find of great value to me. One is the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the other is the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). No one could ever accuse the Minister for Labour and National Service of trying to conceal an ace in his sleeve. He admitted quite frankly the character of this tribunal, but then he went on to say that the Opposition was opposed to the board;, not because it was partial - as it is - but because it was going to give women a better deal than they should have. Having made that point, such as it was, the Minister went on to say, with a fine flourish, that loss of time as the result of strikes in Australia had decreased re- *markably since the Labour party had taken office, though it had, I regret to notice, reached a peak during the Prime Ministership of the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). I wonder what the point of those last remarks was. I should like to deal with them first, seeing that you, Mr. Speaker, permitted the Minister to make them. Recently, I bad the pleasure of reading a little pamphlet. The cover bore the words “ Price 3d.”. As I am a man of Scot’s blood, my pleasure was enhanced by the fact that the pamphlet was given bo me. But I would willingly have paid 3d. for it, because it was fully worth the money. The pamphlet was written by a gentleman named Thornton, of the Ironworkers’ Union.
– A Communist.
– He is no doubt a nian of ability. I assume that he is. A very able exposition is to be found in the pamphlet, but it is thickly studded with references to two people who are not unknown in Australia. One is myself; and the references to me are of a distinctly unpleasant character. The other person mentioned is my distinguished friend, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the references to him are those that one might make of somebody who had been only slightly below the Diety. So I understand perfectly well the attitude of Mr. Thornton. What are his views as the executive head of a great trade union? He does not say: “ You know, it is marvellous how little time has been lost through strikes. It only needed us to take charge and the strikes died away “. ‘ Oh, not at all. I quote from the pamphlet -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years. These were not just the sporadic strikes which aru typical of the coal-fields.
I am glad that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is not in the chamber.
– I am not far away.
– I shall repeat those remarks for the benefit of my friend -
They were not just the sporadic strikes which are typical of the coal-fields, but planned strikes because we made strikes our business.
I suppose that all of us occasionally suffer from our supporters; and I desire to remind the House that Mr. Thornton is a great supporter of the Minister. He is not satisfied with half-hearted fellows like the Prime Minister. What he must have are real, whole-hearted fellows “like Eddie”. So when the Minister says that strike figures have decreased, his statement, in the homely phrase, “ leaves me cold “.
The Minister also referred rather contemptuously, I am sorry to say, to a motion that I submitted some little time ago relating to regulations governing the employment of women. He might have spared himself the contempt, because at the end of the debate, the Prime Minister conceded that there was force in the arguments that I had put. He said that the Government would accept my suggestion, and that the personnel of the board would be increased from three to five members. I recognize that as a very fair gesture on the part of the Prime Minister. But I regret that the right honorable gentleman himself did not take charge of the reconstruction of the board.
– Private employers were given representation which they never had before.
– I thought that Miss Cashman , was their representative.
– I am infinitely grateful to the Prime Minister. I am sure that on reflection, he will be sorry that he made the interjection. He said, “ I’ gave the employers a representative which they never had before”.
– Private employers. There is nothing wrong with that. It was a fact.
– Of course, it was a fact. The position was that the original regulations provided for a chairman, a representative of the employers and a. representative of the employees. There never was a representative of the employers, as the Prime Minister rightly said, because the alleged representative of the employers, with all her qualifications, was, as an individual, no representative of the employers. I have no criticism to make of Miss Cashman, but the whole of her experience has been gained in the trade union cause.
– Not the whole of it. She spent a period in the service of the Menzies Government.
– I shall come to that. I see that the Prime Minister is looking to have a little bit each way. First, he said there was no representative of the employers.
– No. I said that the private employers had no representative.
– The regulation* which were originally drawn up did not discriminate between the Government as an employer, and private employers.
– That is the point.
– The regulations provided for the appointment to the board of one representative of the employers; and the plain English of it is that nobody with the qualifications and experience of Miss Cashman can possibly be regarded as a bona fide representative of the employers. Whatever the Prime Minister may say about it, my candid and vigorous opponent, the Minister for Labour and National Service, will agree with my statement. He has said, in effect: “.I do not want one of the employers, who is out for profits, sitting on- the board. I chose this woman, who has had great experience for a number of years as assistant secretary of the Printing Industry Employees Union.” I grant that Miss Cashman is a very intelligent woman of the highest character, and that she has had great experience. She was also appointed to a government position by a former Attorney-General, > the ‘ right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The fact is that the Government desired to appoint an inspector of the Arbitration Court to investigate whether or not awards were being broken. When I was AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, I appointed the first inspector of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Blakeley, who had been a member of the Labour party in this chamber. If I had been invited to select a person who would sit judicially as between two parties, I say with infinite respect to Mr. Blakeley that I would not have appointed him. But I decided to appoint a person who would investigate whether awards were being observed in factories and workshops, and Mr. Blakeley did his task well. I have no doubt whatever that Miss Cashman would do her task well, but there is all the difference in the world between the qualifications required for investigating breaches of awards,, and qualifications required for sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity for making awards. There is an immeasurably greater difference when we appoint a person, all of whose affiliations must, if she is honest - and I believe she is honest - be with the trade union movement, and particularly the women’s section of the trade union movement. Her appointment as the employers’ representative was a piece of sublime irony.
– On that reasoning, the right honorable gentleman would never have consented to the appointment of a present member of the Full Arbitration Court.
Mr. Pollard. - Hear, hear! Judge Drake-Brockman.
– I do not desire to be drawn into a discussion of other appointments. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that I had no share in. that appointment.
– Does the right honorable gentleman approve of it?
– I am prepared to be judged by my own works. No judge, who had any political associations was appointed to the Arbitration Court when I was Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, or. later, when I was Prime Minister.
Mr. Ward. - That means that if the right honorable gentleman had been making the appointment, he would not have selected Judge Drake-Brockman.
– I know that this is a sort of “King Charles’ Head”. All I want to do is to remind the Minister that when he was just warming up to his speech this evening, he said with a high passion, that we must not impute improper motives to judges. I recommend his own advice to him.
– The right honorable gentleman appointed Judge DrakeBrockman to the Coal Tribunal.
– That was at the request of the unions.
– I ask the honorable member for Hunter to postpone his cross examination until a more congenial time. So much for the appointment that has been made of a so-called employers’ representative. I raised, originally in this House, two matters. One was whether we should depart from the Arbitration Court by setting up a special tribunal. My belief was, and is, that we should not do so. It is true that the Prime Minister read a number of figures to show the delays that had occurred in the Arbitration ‘Court. I can say this as a man with as much experience as the next man in Arbitration Court proceedings, that I was pleasantly surprised at those figures. Between 80 and 90 per cent, of the cases that came before the industrial tribunal were disposed of within a month, and that is a pretty good record. Of course, delays do occur; but the Prime Minister will not need me to tell him that there are many reasons for those delays. I have known cases which have come into the Arbitration Court when they were three, four or five years old.
-. - Just toddlers.
– They came before the Arbitration Court when they were three, four or five years old because nobody wanted them to come before that time. I can remember some cases in which I had the pleasure of being briefed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I am nothing if not broadminded. I can remember plenty of cases in which he or his managing clerk and I as counsel put our heads together, and I would say, “ If we issue a log of claims, we shall have a dispute which will give us jurisdiction before the court and it will be very useful “.
– So the right honorable gentleman was inciting strikes.
– No, I was inciting Arbitration Court proceedings ; there is a very big difference. We cannot just take a table of figures and conclude that because some cases did not come before the court for three years, there was an intolerable delay. My second point is that matters which come before the Arbitration Court concerning vast industries are almost immeasurably complex, as the Prime Minister knows, and they may require many months of investigation. Sometimes the court makes an interim award because it considers that something should be “ stopped up “, pending a final award.’ At other times, the industry carries on under an old award while a new one is being considered. But in the case of a tribunal of this kind, we would expect expedition because as it has been instructed in the regulations, and as it has interpreted them, it has said, in effect: - “All we have to do is to consider whether the woman is doing this work as efficiently as the man is doing it, or whether she is 90 per cent, or 80 per cent, efficient”. That is a relatively simple task, and I expect expedition. But expedition may be purchased at far too great a price.
– That accounts for the oil in the coco-nut. One gets too much of it.
– If there is too much oil in the honorable gentleman’s coconut, I shall be greatly surprised. The Opposition does not desire, and I do not desire, to engage in a lot of vain repetition of matters which have been debated and voted upon here. That is why we are concentrating our argument on this occasion on the constitution of the board. I am not concerned to go through what the board has done in any detail, though I believe that might be illuminating, and, perhaps, it will be done. I am not concerned to do that, because I do not know the facts, and I am in no position to say whether the board has been right or wrong. I am no believer in honorable members standing up and saying what some judge should or should not determine. If I do not know the facts, I shall offer no judgment whatever. But I do know that if we are to have industrial satisfaction in Australia - a feeling in this country that there is real industrial justice - we must give to the people a tribunal which is obviously on the face of it impartial. How can we have an impartial tribunal if in fact it has on it, apart from its chairman, who sits in the middle, two representatives of the trade unions; one lady, who has only recently been the assistant secretary of a trade union, who has never been an employer and who has no affiliations with employers, and a person, who is allowed in and, who, no doubt, arrives timidly and hesitantly, as the employers’ representative with full standing? This does not involve any criticism of the honesty of these people. I have heard nothing about the lady who has been discussed in this case to suggest that she is anything else but an intelligent honest woman. I am not criticizing her at all. I know and have had abundant contact with hundreds of men ardent with the one idea of trade unionism, whom- 1 regard as thoroughly honest. I have had a great deal of experience of men in the trade unions - honest, thoughtful, earnest men - and the last thing in the world that I should do would be to challenge their patriotism, intelligence or good sense. But they must be partisan in their approach to industrial problems. They would not be worth their salt if they were not. They are there to do their best for their people, and I respect them for it, but they cannot do that and, at the same time, be put in the position where they are supposed to be representatives of the other side of the industrial world. That is the real force of the Opposition’s case.
Before I sit down, I want very briefly to mention one other matter. The Minister for Labour and National Service very naturally, being an astute politician, refreshed by contact with his electors at Paddington, and straining like a greyhound in the leash for the election that is to come, said, “ This is my chance. I will put it hard up to those crusty tories on the other side. I will say, ‘Do you people believe that women ought to be properly paid ot not, because we are going to have a lot of meetings - I read about them in a journal this morning - at which we are going to tell the people that you are sweaters, and want to under-pay women’ “ ? It is picturesque stuff, and I should be the last person to deny the right of the Minister to make those speeches. I am sure that he will make them very well. All I ask is that he be tender to me when he makes them. But the Prime Minister, in his speech, did not deal very much with the constitution of the board. He did have something , to say - and it was trenchant and forceful - on the question of equal pay for equal work. If equal pay for equal work means that from now on the basis of pay is to be work - in other words, if that means that we are being told by the Government that from now on all shall be paid according to what they do, according to results -
Mr.Ward. - The Opposition will get nothing.
– I shall then be delighted, because I shall say that that is the greatest industrial revolution in the history of Australia, for up to now payment for work has been anathema at Paddington. Are we to understand that from now on the rule is to be “Value what he or she does, and pay accordingly”. No doubt, as the Minister for Labour and National Service was unkind enough to say, that would be a little hard on some of us, but it would be a very good thing for the country.
I have never been satisfied with the regulations that were presented to this House to govern the employment of women. These regulations set out to deal with a problem the Federal Arbitration Court had never dealt with or had passed by. Ever since 1912 that court has said that certain work is men’s work and certain work is women’s work ; if women are employed to do men’s work they shall receive the men’s pay. That position has been accepted by the Arbitration Court continuously since 1912 and has been consistently repeated in awards. A typical example of awards that have been made by the Arbitration Court dealing with this matter is the commercial print ing award with which I am fairly familar. Since 1925 that award has contained the following clause -
Where a female is employed to do any work for which a female rate is not prescribed and for which a male rate is prescribed the female shall receive the rate which is prescribed for the male.
I take that from George Anderson’s Fixation of Wages in Australia. Mr. Anderson represented the printing trade employers before the Arbitration Court. That clause is typical of the Arbitration Court’s attitude towards this problem. Certain work is men’s work and certain work is women’s work, and, if women are employed to do men’s work, they shall receive the wage prescribed for men. That rule was established in the fruitpickers’ case of 1912 by Mr. Justice Higgins, and it has been maintained unbrokenly ever since by the Arbitration Court in awards of which the hatters industry award and the clothing trades industry award are examples. The principle that, if a woman is employed to do work for which no female rate is prescribed, but for which a male rate is prescribed, she must get the male rate is not the same principle as is expressed in the phrase “ equal pay for equal work “, which was used by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), but not, I think, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), although the right honorable member implied that the Prime Minister did use it. The employment of both sexes on the same class of work does not raise the question of equal efficiency. Two men may be employed at the same wage, but that does not imply equal efficiency. The law says that they shall be paid the same rate, because if less efficient men could be employed at a lower rate than could more efficient men, the tendency would be for the more efficient to be displaced from industry by a sort of Gresham’s Law, which drives out the superior when he and his inferior are in competition. That principle is at the back of what I and other honorable members on this side of the House are contending for, namely, that when women are introduced into industry to do work for which no rate for women, but only a rate for men has been fixed, they should be employed at the male rate and paid no less. The regulations as originally framed provided that where it was desired to bring women into industry to do work for which no female rate was fixed and for which only one rate was fixed, namely, the male rate, thu employer if he desires to employ them at a lower rate must apply to the Women’s Employment Board. Later, that was amended to provide that that rule shall be applied where that work is customarily the work of men. I submit that that was an entirely wrong principle. To allow women to be brought into industry in order to do work customarily done by men at lower rates than are paid to men is wrong for two reasons. First, it is unjust to women and, secondly, it is unjust to men. It is unjust to women that they should be required to do, at lower rates of wages, the same kind of work as men do, and it is especially unjust when we reflect that, in one of the cases dealt with by the Women’s Employment Board, the board found that the women were in every way as good as men, and yet fixed a wage of 90 per cent, of the full men’s wage. That, of course, is the result of sending the matter to the board. Making it additionally unfair, the regulations proceeded to prescribe, not as one would expect, that, in the interval before the fixation of the rate, the employer shall pay the same rate as is paid to men, but, in effect, that the employer may pay to women any rate he likes, and that, after the determination by the board, the rate paid shall be deemed to be paid on account of the wage fixed. That can mean that an employer can introduce women to do work done previously by men, pay them a low rate of wages until the board deals with the matter, and then make up the arrears. The only proper approach, if the matter is to be dealt with by the board, is to prescribe that, until the rate of wages has been fixed by the board, women shall have the benefit of the Arbitration Court awards, that is, receive the same rate of wages as is paid to men. We do not use the begging-the-question phrase “equal pay for equal work”, but we say that persons employed on the same kind of work shall be paid the same wages. The question of efficiency or in- efficiency is as irrelevant in dealing with women’s wages as it would be in dealing only with men’s wages. An employer is not allowed to pay a man less than the fixed male wage because that man is less efficient than another who works at the same job. The employer must pay the same rates of wages to both men. Therefore, he should be obliged to pay women the same rates as are provided for men without raising any question of efficiency. I was greatly disappointed when the Government did not accept that principle. It would be no more than just to the women and the men. Women are being brought into industry to replace men who are on active service or engaged in the production of munitions. When the war is over the men will want to return to their former jobs. But, if the employers be permitted to engage women at wages below the male rates, they will be encouraged to retain the women and not to re-employ the men after the war. That is how the process which has been adopted is unjust to the men. The matter should have been settled without reference to a board. The Government should have decided to apply the wages and conditions for men set down by the Arbitration Court to women brought into industry by reason of war-time shortages of man-power. That would be particularly just to the women employed in industries where they are equally as efficient as men, as in the case which was the subject of a finding in at least one case. If, as the board has declared, women are to-day as efficient as men in some industries, how much more efficient than men will they be a few years hence? If they become more efficient, it will be extremely difficult for men to regain after the war, jobs which are being carried on by highly efficient women at rates of pay lower than those prescribed for men. Therefore, it is unjust to depart from the principle of equal pay for the sexes engaged in the same classes of work. The Government has made a great mistake in doing that. I regret that it decided to do so, but, having made its decision, the appointment of a specialized board was better than referring the matter to the Arbitration Court. Those who demand that the matter should go to the Arbitration Court are urging that it should go to a body which is not governed by any statutory direction, but which works on principles which have been developed in the last 40 years and which have becomevery rigid. There is no more precedentworshipping body in this country than the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will remember that, soon after he became Minister for Labour in another government, I suggested to him that the most satisfactory way of dealing with disputes in war industries would be to take them away from the Arbitration Court and submit them to some new form of tribunal specialized for the new class of work. I did so because I believe that the Arbitration Court is entirely unfitted to deal with the many urgent problems that the war has created. Since the Government wanted this matter to be dealt with by a tribunal, it was wise to set up a special tribunal for the purpose. The Leader of the Opposition has said that there are judges on the Stevedoring Commission and on the Coal Tribunal. But I point out that the Stevedoring Commission is different from the Arbitration Court. At the present time, it need not include an arbitration judge at all, but, in any case, it is a specialized tribunal appointed to deal with a special problem, the difficulty of which has been intensified by the war. The Coal Tribunal also is different from the Arbitration Court. It is a special tribunal set up to deal with a particularly difficult and urgent problem of production, which again has been intensified by the war. I repeat that the Government was wise to appoint a specialized tribunal. Nobody can deny the efficiency, experience, and integrity of the president of the Women’s Employment Board. Every body who is acquainted with Judge Foster knows that he is entirely independent, and will not take instructions or directions from anybody. He has made enemies by his independence and his determination to do the right thing as he sees it. I regret the suggestion that he is not impartial. He is impartial. I believe that he should be on the Arbitration Court. He would have been appointed to the court but for the dislike of the right honorable mem ber for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) for appointing men to the Arbitration Court who had at any time had political associations. That was the only objection to his appointment. I have known Judge Foster very well for many years, and I believe that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) also knows him well.
Mr.Holt. - According to the judgments which I have seen, Judge Foster takes the view that he has no discretion in dealing with these matters, but is confined within a very narrow compass.
– Precisely. The reason why some people want these matters to go to the Arbitration Court is that they believe that the court would at once apply a basic wage rate of 54 per cent. of male rates of pay to women. If the court did that, it would be grossly unjust to the women and the men. I can conceive of such a decision creating a great deal of industrial disturbance. The court is unfit to deal with these war-time problems largely because it deals with them on the basis of being free from legislative control and free to apply principles which it has itself built up. It is an unsatisfactory tribunal. I do not believe in the system of having industrial disputes dealt with by a permanent tribunal. I believe in having them dealt with by tribunals constituted ad hoc for the special dispute to be dealt with, a system which has given a great deal of satisfaction in Great Britain. In war-time it is very undesirable to have important, new, difficult, and ever-changing problems dealt with by the Arbitration Court on principles and precedents developed in a leisurely peace-time. In the first place, there should never have been any modification of the principle that, where women are employed on men’s work, they should receive the same rate of wage as the men. As there had to be a modification of the principle, and as a tribunal had to be established, it had to be specially created for the purpose and directed as to general principles by the legislature. That is what happened in connexion with the Women’s Employment Board. I register most emphatically my protest against what I regard as a surrender of the principle that, where women are employed interchangeably with men, they should receive the same rate of wages as the men. To employ the women on a lower rate than the men is unfair to both the women and the men.
.- Early in this controversy the issue was clouded by accusations that the Opposition was opposed in some way to the employment, of women on a large scale on war work, and to the principle of equal pay for the sexes. Both of those accusations, which were not relevant to the point of the original attack which we made upon the Women’s Employment Board, have been satisfactorily dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies). Before the Minister for Labour and National .Service (Mr. Ward) makes such accusations, he should inquire from officers of his department as to the resistance which I, as his predecessor, and those officers encountered when we endeavoured to make greater use of women in industry at an early stage of the war.
– They will not permit the employment of women at the -Lithgow munitions establishment yet.
– That is so. There is still opposition by the unions to the introduction of female labour in industry. There is the instance of the omnibus employees in Sydney, who are agitating against the introduction of women into their sphere of employment. Many similar instances came to my notice during my term of office. If the Minister requires further information, he should discuss with some of his senior colleagues the opposition which they maintained to the introduction of women into various services in order to relieve men for active service. Our original opposition to the Women’s Employment Board was based on two principal objections. The first was that, in our view, it cut right across the system of arbitration which has been established and maintained in Australia in the last 30 years. The second was that it provided for that purpose a loaded and partisan tribunal which, because of its character, could not inspire any confidence amongst those persons who would come before it to obtain determinations in respect of their industries. Those two objections have been clearly stated by the
Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Kooyong and I shall not stress them further. At the time of the establishment of the board, we predicted that serious economic and industrial consequences would arise from a duplication of our system of arbitration, and I shall now direct my remarks to examples of the dislocation and confusion which are developing as the result of decisions given by the board. These are “ snowballing “ to an alarming degree already. Only a bold man would attempt in these days to make a firm prophecy on any subject, but I make one prophecy with the greatest confidence - that, if this board continues along the lines that it has persisted in following up to the present, it will bring down this Government more surely than any other aspect of government policy.
– The honorable member should not be sorry about that.
– I am not, but I have regrets because the board’s activities will do irreparable harm to our industrial structure. I shall cite specific instances which ought to make cold shivers run up and down the spines of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber. They will demonstrate beyond peradventure that serious anomalies, which may well shatter our industrial fabric, are already in existence. These fall into various categories. I have mentioned that industry is faced with two tribunals that are fixing female rates according to totally different formulae. This would be bad enough as between industry and industry, workshop and workshop; but when the wages of employees under the same roof are assessed by both tribunals with a different result, we get an industrial absurdity which can develop into a national calamity. That is what is happening. I shall give the first set of anomalies that have come to my notice. In certain establishments there are female employees who have been engaged in them for many years. Their rates of pay have been determined by awards of State wages boards or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. So far, they have not come within the jurisdiction of the Women’s Employment Board. Recently, because of the displacement of male labour, additional female labour has been brought into those establishments. Those women come under the jurisdiction of the “Women’s Employment Board. What has been the result? To give a specific illustration: At the establishment of the British General Electric Company, the board prescribed that two women serving electrical equipment across the counter were to be paid the male rate of £5 lis. a week. But the award that applies to this class of employee pro- vidi.3 that females doing identical work shall receive a rate of £3 9s. a week. Therefore, in that particular establishment there are women who have been doing a particular kind of work for some time a«t a wage of £3 9s. a week, and other women workers who have recently joined the establishment and are receiving a wage of £5 lis. a week. How long would any industry be in a position to maintain such conditions?
That is the sort of anomaly that applies to what may be described as the old-hand and the new-hand in the one establishment. But the illustration can be broadened to cover another set of anomalies in two establishments doing identical work but paying different rates. To give a specific instance : In the coach-building trade, it has been the practice to engage female labour in one establishment for the preparation and sewing of trimming materials and in the making and. assembling of upholstery and springs. These women, under an award, are provided with appropriate female wages, and are not within the jurisdiction of the Women’s Employment Board. But another company has always employed males on sewing machines and in its spring assembly. As these men have been taken up for war service of one kind or another, and have had to be replaced by women,- the latter have received the full adult male rate ; whereas in the establishment doing identical work but previously employing only women the rate is approximately £2 a week less. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has an intimate knowledge of industrial affairs, will be able to form in his mind a picture of the industrial friction that could develop in circumstances of that kind.
There is another facet of the same problem, in establishments in which skilled females have been operating. Into those establishments have gone unskilled females, to take the places of men who have left. The skilled female is working under the award that is applicable to her craft. The unskilled female secures the rate that formerly was paid to the male. Thus there is the absurd position of the unskilled female receiving a great deal more weekly than is received by the experienced female hand. One national service officer has reported that skilled women are seeking unskilled work at male rates, and other women have said that they will not accept any employment except at work that was formerly done by males.
– To what classes of employment is the honorable member referring ?
– Process working is typical. A multitude of jobs formerly done by men in factories is now being done by women, who have gone in as the men have been displaced. It occurs in the textile trade. In the past, there have been skilled female workers in those factories.
There is an equally serious anomaly, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who was formerly Director of Labour in Munitions Establishments, will be able to see where it may lead. I refer to the practice adopted by the Women’s Employment Board, when a woman replaces a junior male, of giving to that adult female the full male rate. In many factories there is unskilled work, on which it is customary to engage junior male labour. The cost of the articles manufactured is, in consequence, very much lower than it otherwise would be. This is a familiar feature of all sections of industry. Those junior males are being replaced by adult females, who have been awarded the full adult male rate. It is not necessary to state a hypothetical case; this is actually occurring in many factories of the Commonwealth at the present time. In some establishments, women work for a probationary period on some machine; usually the board has fixed a period of about one month. During that probation, she receives 60 per cent, of the full male rate. That is later increased to the 90 per cent, of the full male rate which has come to be regarded by the board as the standard rate to be awarded. Such a woman would probably receive approximately £5 10s. a week. It may well happen that in that establishment there are unskilled male workers doing work of various kinds and receiving only the basic wage. Many breadwinners who are receiving only the basic wage for unskilled manual work will find that their wives can go into one of these establishments, and in a very short period receive 90 per cent, of the skilled male rate.
– That happened in prewar days.
– Not to the degree or on the scale that we have at present. One does not need to exercise one’s imagination very vividly in order to realize the dissatisfaction that will develop in industry if such conditions persist.
– The unskilled will be getting more than the skilled so long as they are doing a man’s job.
– That is so.
– The honorable member does not believe that an unskilled worker can take a skilled man’s job?
– An unskilled woman, under the rule which the board has applied, can go into what was formerly regarded as a job for which a man should receive a skilled or semi-skilled male rate, and after doing the work for a comparatively brief period obtain 90 per cent, of the full skilled rate. I ask the Treasurer: How long does he consider that the skilled tradesman will remain satisfied with the rate he is now receiving, when he knows that females, with very little experience, can get almost the same rate? If honorable members want a specific instance of the effect this system may have, I refer them to the experience of the Sydney County Council, which advertised for applications to fill positions formerly held by males, which they desired that females should fill. The board prescribed rates as follows, after probation, for females: - meter reader, £6 3s. j special meter reader, £6 7s. 6d.-; cleaner, £5 ; motor car washer, £4 19s. 6d. ; motor car washer, night work, £5 4s.; lorry driver, £4 16s.; chauffeur, £5 13s.; meter tester, £6 5s. 6d.; storeman, £5 6s.; female tracers, from £3 3s. rising to £6 in the. seventh year of experience. When the Sydney County Council advertised to fill twelve positions at the above rates, it received more than 2,000 applications; 140 women applied for appointment as tracers. A survey of the applications snowed that 53 applicants were working in either the Commonwealth or State Public Service, or in a protected undertaking. This shows that a large number of women is prepared to change over from war-time jobs to men’s jobs, because of the higher rate. Invariably, the disappointment of those who have failed to secure positions leads to their being dissatisfied in their present occupations. The female cleaner at the Sydney County Council doing menial duties in the mess-room is receiving £5 a week under the board’s order. She is assisting a staff attendant who has been with the Sydney County Council for fifteen years, and whose wages, according to the award, are £3 18s. a week. The staff attendant’s wages are fixed and pegged, and neither the employer, the industrial tribunal, nor the Women’s Employment Board can alter them. This female cleaner is doing the- cleaning up for the permanent female staff of typists and book-keeping machine operators, whose award rate, after six years’ service, is £4 14s., and after ten years’ service is £4 19s. Female cleaners doing similar work under the New South Wales State Watchmen, Caretakers and Cleaners Award are paid £3 2s. a week.
– Was that a decision by the Women’s Employment Board?
– It was. The Treasurer should have a very close look at the effect of the decisions of that board on industry generally, because cumulatively what has been done will make very much more difficult his problem of organizing the financial resources of this country for the purposes of the war. For how long should a. female cleaner who has just entered an establishment receive £1 2s. a week more than the person she is supposed to be assisting, and 6s. a week or ls. a week, according to the period of service, more than the women typists and book-keeping machine operators?
I have mentioned certain specific anomalies that have arisen. I do not attribute the disastrous economic consequences that will flow to any attitude of mind on the part of the board itself; because the board has made quite clear that it regards itself as bound within the narrow limits of the regulations. In effect, it has no discretion. It does not sit as a court of law in the ordinary way, but is a legislative body. In order to establish this point, I quote from Judge Foster’s own statement. He made this statement in the course of proceedings in the Tanners case in Melbourne on the 13th August -
The words “ just and proper “ are intended obviously to cover a special case, a case where there is no male rate of pay. By the way, there is no such thing as justice or propriety in this jurisdiction. This court is not a court of law. It is a legislative body, as far as I can see.
If we want further evidence of that, it is supplied in the latest judgment given by the board in the Metal Trades case only a week ago. The chairman recognized that what he was going to do would have far-reaching economic consequences. This is what he said -
Economic consequences are inherent in the regulations themselves and must be presumed to have been contemplated by the framers of them. The board is given very little real discretion, as has already been indicated, at all events as it has so far decided to interpret them. It is obvious that the board has indicated that its real function with respect to wage fixation is to ascertain the relative efficiency and productivity of males and females - a sufficiently intricate problem - and to make decisions within the prescribed limits of GO per cent, and 100 per cent.
It cannot be seriously contended that the so-called discretionary phrases “ just and proper” and “as far as practicable” (regulation 6, sub-regulation 5) in any way control the expressed intention made abundantly manifest throughout all the relevant clauses that the function of the board was to find the common level of male and female productivity and to fix wages accordingly. It does not require the perspicuity of an expert of the “dismal science” to realize that this will have vast and important economic consequences which will by some be regarded as desirable and by others disastrous, but if the regulations command, then the board must obey.
It is clear “from many of the statements of the judge that he feels that he has no real discretion, but that the tribunal is acting as a legislative body. Parliament has decided the principles which must apply-
– He can exercise his discretion between the limits of 60 per cent, and 100 per cent.
– Apparently he believes that such discretion can be exercised only in extreme cases. The general standard applied is 90 per cent, of the male rate, and the only reason that it was not 100 per cent, is that the percentage of absenteeism is greater among women than among men.
I have said enough to make it clear that serious anomalies have arisen as the result of conflicting jurisdictions, anomalies which will, cumulatively, have a harmful effect upon industry. The Women’s Employment Board exercises its jurisdiction in the first instance in respect of females who have gone into industry to take the places of male employees. A great mass of female labour still comes under the- awards of State Wages Boards and State Arbitration Courts. In New South Wales, there are 190 awards governing female labour, and in other States there are also many such awards. Women who have been engaged for some time under those awards will find an increasing number of other women coming into the same establishments and receiving higher rates of pay, although they are less experienced and less skilled. Unless there is some coordinating authority to lay down a general standard, chaotic conditions will be created which must lead to industrial unrest. It has been claimed that the actions of the board will create a black market for female labour, because women will not offer for employment except to take the places of men. I stated earlier that the proper way to deal with the matter would be to have a single judge dealing with it as a special problem, just as a single judge deals with industrial relations in the coal-mining industry. He should function either as an arbitration judge, or as a judge acting under the auspices of the Arbitration Court. It has been argued by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Labour and National Service that the Arbitration Court is so congested that it could not deal with this problem, but I ask what Judge Foster has done as chairman of this board that he could not have done equally effectively as a judge of the Arbitration Court, or as a judge acting under the auspices of the court. If what I have suggested were done, this overlapping of jurisdictions would be avoided, and we should avoid also the danger of sowing seeds of industrial unrest among men because of the industrial conditions created for women in their absence. It may be that the Government is not ready to accept the solution which we have offered. Evidently, it is not, but I am confident that it will he forced to accept our proposal before long, and it will be interesting to study the operations of the board during the next few months. I am convinced that there will be a radical change in the outlook of the supporters of the Government before very long.
– Members of the Opposition are primarily concerned with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) ; they are not so much concerned about the remuneration for women. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has given us a dissertation on the anomalies which have emerged in connexion with the decisions of the Women’s Employment Board. Those anomalies are not of major importance, and can be easily rectified. The important thing, so far as the members of the Opposition are concerned, is their desire to humiliate the Minister for Labour and National Service, and this for several reasons. One is because they fear him, and another i3 because, in any battle of wits in this House they generally come off second best. They also believe that it is necessary to get a victory over him because, when they go to the tea parties given by branches of the Australian Women’s National League, they must he able to say something about the decline of Wardism. If they cannot tell those dear old ladies, and their equally dear old husbands, that the decline of Wardism has set in, they might find that the financial support for their next election campaign will dry up. They must be able to tell their press backers and somewhat jaded and disappointed supporters in the various electorates, that at last they have been able to force the Government to disown this turbulent
Minister whose activities are mainly directed towards helping the working classes of Australia to secure a better deal. If this scheme had been fathered by some Minister other than the Minister for Labour and National Service they would not have worried so much. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that- he was responsible for the presence of Miss Cashman on the board, and they are determined to remove her so that they can proclaim loudly that they have won a tremendous victory over what they describe as the Ward influence in the Cabinet. So far as I am concerned, they are not going to have that victory, and I hope that the attitude of the Government will be the same as mine.
– They will have it, all right.
– I do not believe that the honorable member has much reason for the confidence he has expressed. This seems to me to be a very good issue upon which to ask for’ a double dissolution of the Parliament, should the Government be forced to it. As a matter of fact, the best thing that could happen to this Parliament, now that it is becoming unworkable because of the intransigeance of the Opposition in the Senate, would be to have a double dissolution so that the people might decide the issue. I want the Labour party to be able to put its platform into effect. We must have a better state of society, and the old prejudices and prohibitions must be discarded. We must move with the times. If we want women to do men’s work, we should give to them the same remuneration as we give to men. It did not need a Women’s Employment Board to persuade reasonable people that that is the right attitude to adopt. Months ago, women were appointed as conductresses on the Melbourne trams, and 700 of them are now employed in that capacity. From the start they were paid £5 a week, which is the rate for men. There were no complaints about that at the time, and no headlines in the newspapers. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was not sufficiently concerned to enter his protest either in Melbourne or in the House. The principle of equal pay for equal work was accepted then without demur, so what is wrong with incorporating it now in legislation? I think that members opposite are concerned about forcing the Minister to “ eat the leek “. Nothing would give the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) greater pleasure when he attends the next meeting of the “ Old Nats “ or the “ Young Nats “ in his electorate than to be able to say, “At last we forced this stormy figure from East Sydney to climb down. We have his measure now and we can force the Government at every turn to discipline and discredit him, even if we cannot achieve our real ambition of driving him out of the Cabinet.” The object of honorable members opposite has been to support the Government minus Ward. If they could only dispose of the Minister, they would be perfectly happy. All the thunder this evening has been levelled entirely at the Minister, directly and indirectly. Members of the Opposition do precisely what they are told by the moneyed interests whom they serve. Their only ambition is to maintain the present state of society. They think that this is the best possible system of society and from their standpoint, they are right. But for the masses, we want another and a better system, and the Women’s Employment Board helps us along the road to our goal, because it no longer permits women to be exploited in their employment. It no longer permits the employing class to use women at a lower rate of pay when often they are doing the same class of work as males.
I direct attention to the fact that, after the outbreak of the last war, women were introduced into banks for the first time. There was a strong prejudice against them being so employed, and it was said that their engagement, was only a temporary measure. After the war, their services were retained because the shareholders received greater dividends as the result of the employment of women. The employment of women was extended, and the process has continued until at the moment they out-number men in the employ of banking institutions. The same principle was extended to the Public Service, always with a view to saving money. For many years the Labour party has protested against such a state of affairs. There is nothing new in the principle which the Government has enunciated, either in the legislation this evening or in the previous regulations which were the subject of a rather ferocious attack by the Opposition in this chamber, and an equally ferocious but more successful attack by honorable senators last week. It was because the regulations were disallowed that the Government took up the challenge and introduced this legislation. If this bill be defeated in the Senate, I hope that the Government will gazette more regulations during the parliamentary recess and resubmit the bill three months hence so that, if necessary, we may have a double dissolution on the issue. If that should occur, we shall see whether the people will support the Labour party or the nonLabour forces. I remind honorable members opposite that the double dissolution in October, 1914, was fought largely upon the issue of preference to unionists, and the people did not desert the Labour party. As a matter of fact, the Labour party won the greatest victory in its history, and had 44 supporters in this chamber and 31 out of 36 supporters in the Senate. If we had those numbers now, honorable members opposite would have something to worry about in the pace at which we would introduce reformative legislation. We have been cheated of electoral victories by gross misrepresentation, panderings to passion and to prejudice, and other trickery that would have disgusted the most hardened sinner on a race-course. I propose to read an extract from Fixation of Wages in Australia, by George Anderson. The author, who is a well-known authority on the subject, is a Master of Arts, Master of Laws and Master of Commerce of the Melbourne University, and he practises as a barrister and solicitor in the Supreme Court of Victoria. In this very informative work he cites English experience and views on what took place in England over the years in the matter of fixation of wages -
Mrs. Sydney Webb is a great English advocate of the principle of equal pay for equal work irrespective of sex. Her views are held by a large number of women workers throughout the “world, and are frequently quoted in industrial courts to support a claim for equal pay for equal work. On the 30th April, 1919. she presented a report on “ Women in Industry “ to the Imperial Government. In that report, she said that there was no more reason fur occupational or standard rates being made to differ according to the workers’ sex than according to the race, creed, height or weight. She also said that: “The exclusion of women by law or by custom from the betterpaid posts, professions and crafts has driven them to compete with each other, and with men, in the lower grades of each vocation, where they have habitually been paid at lower rates than men for equivalent work on the pretence that women are a class apart, with no family obligations, smaller needs, less capacity and a lower level of intelligence - none of these statements being true of all the individuals thus penalized. . . . That for the production of commodities and services, women no more constitute a class than do persons of a particular creed or race; and that the time has come for the removal of all sex exclusions; for the opening of all posts and vocations to any individuals who are qualified for the work, irrespective of sex. creed or race: and for the insistence, as minima, of the same qualifications, the same conditions of employment and the same occupational rates for all those accepted by the private or public employers as fit to be engaged in any particular pursuit.”
The Government does not propose to go so far as Mrs. Sydney Webb advocated in 1919, because the board is able to fix percentage rates. The Opposition would have real cause to worry if the Government moved in the spirit of that submission of 23 years ago. In my opinion, the Government has been perfectly rational and reasonable.
– That opinion may yet be voiced from the Opposition benches.
– I see no reason for all the opposition to the bill which has been uttered this evening. The long speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), in which he dilated upon anomalies, did not indicate where the Opposition stood regarding the main principles of the legislation. Last January, T visited a munitions establishment at Finsbury, in South Australia. It was extraordinary to see nineteen women working turret lathes, and twenty women working other lathes. After only a few weeks’ training, they were doing a big job a3 efficiently, in the opinion of the supervisors, as male trainees with three months’ training, and upon whom a good deal of money had been spent. It was even said that fitters employed before the war upon that particular work could not have done it better or produced a greater output than the women. They were, and are, doing a marvellous job. Why should they be discriminated against on the ground of sex, as certain honorable members would wish to discriminate against them ? They were typical of many other women who are employed in munitions establishments. It was because of all the problems associated with this subject, that the Government established the Women’s Employment Board. It appointed very competent persons, including a judge of the Victorian County Court, to serve on the board. The same argument may be used against his appointment as the Leader of the Opposition used against Miss Cashman. He said that, in view of her previous political associations, she was not fit to represent the employers. As she is representing the Government, I cannot see any force in that objection. The Government i? capable of making up its mind as to the type of person it desires to represent it, and it has appointed Miss Cashman. She was the only woman appointed to the board, though it has to deal with, the work of women. The Government made a proper gesture in appointing her to that semi-judicial position. Nothing has yet been advanced to justify the attack upon her appointment. Nobody has been able to say that she has failed in any regard, that her views are warped, that she is not intelligent or competent, or that she is not assiduous in the discharge of her duties. If the case against her stands, it must also stand against the chairman, who at one time happened to be a member of the Labour party.
It comes ill from the Opposition to talk about political appointments and political colours, because for many years they supported the Bruce-Page Government which “ packed “ the first Arbitration Court with anti-Labour judges.
Mr. Martens. - That Government appointed Judge Drake-Brockman.
– The Government appointed him to the bench, although he was an anti-Labour senator and had been president of the Employers’ Federation. Honorable members of the Opposition did not object to that. They did not object to the appointment of Judge Beeby, who had been an anti-Labour member of the Parliament of New South Wales. They did not object to the appointment of Judge Lukin from Queensland, whose record was one of bitter antipathy to the Labour party. He was behind the Chief Justice (Sir Pope Cooper), who was intriguing with the tories of Queensland against the Labour administration led by T. J. Ryan in his attempt, ultimately successful, to abolish the Legislative Council. No objection was taken to the appointment of Judge Dethridge of Melbourne, though he was a tory of the tories. When they had had things their way, it was all right. But when a supporter of the Labour party is appointed to a judicial position, honorable members opposite talk about the outrageous conduct of the Government, and its lack of a sense of fair play. A number of anti-Labour politicians began their career in the Labour party, and all their great virtues were never discovered by the Opposition until after they had committed an act of political apostasy. Once they left the ranks of the Labour party, they developed qualities and attributes which their new colleagues would never have found in them if they had remained faithful to the people who had supported them. I instance the case of Sir George Pearce. The Opposition did not have the slightest objection to his re-appointment to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The protests came from people who considered that he should not have been re-appointed because he was not capable. Honorable members opposite have a miopic vision upon these questions, and I hope that if the Senate is foolish enough to interfere with this bill, the Government will stand firm and, if necessary, have a “show down”. I know who will be shivering when the time comes for a double dissolution. Many honorable members opposite will be missing from the new Parliament; many senators now obstructing the work of the country, will also be absent. The new Parliament will have a complete mandate from the people and will be able to give effect, in its entirety, to the platform and programme of the Labour movement. I have not heard one reasonable argument, but only a mass of specious pleading from the’ Opposition this evening. The big interests of this country have always wanted the employment of women at a lower rate than the male wage.
– This bill has nothing to do with lower pay for women.
– Then why did the honorable member for Fawkner speak at such length on anomalies and refer to cleaners receiving £5 a week? The contention of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is sound. Women should receive the same remuneration as men. The bill does not go so far as Mrs. Sydney Webb 23 years ago desired that the English law should go. I have received a telegram from the Council for Equal Pay for the Sexes -
Figures quoted yesterday by Prime Minister regarding rapid progress and quick decisions by Women’s Employment Board 80 and 90 per cent, of male rates in majority of cases indicate lack of consideration given by the board to historical .facts of women in industry and to representations of workers’ advocates substantiating trade union claims for equal pay for the sexes where women are replacing men in industry. In the interests of men and women workers and community generally the Council of Action for Equal Pay appeals .to you to secure amendment in bill now before Parliament to substitute prevailing male rate for the job instead of the 00 to 100 per cent, now specified in the bill. In addition a new clause is necessary to provide that where inequality is claimed by employers the burden of proof should rest on the employer to prove exact degree of inequality in terms of clause six of the majority recommendations of the British War Cabinet Committee of Women in Industry appointed by Lloyd George in 1919 whose minute of appointment summarizes the problems inherent in the relation between wages of men and women having regard to interests of both as well as to the value of their work. We also strongly urge provision in the bill for the appointment of two full-time women representatives of employers and workers respectively.
I think that the suggestion to the unions that they should appoint a woman as their representative is good, but I consider that the proposal of the Opposition would, if it were carried out in its entirety, preclude any woman from being on the board. The Opposition is not concerned whether a woman is the representative of the employees, but is determined that one woman shall be removed as the representative of this Government, which is the biggest employer in industry to-day. I wish the bill a speedy passage and hope that, if the Opposition shows its teeth, it will be defeated, and, if it continues the fight in the Senate, and achieves a temporary victory there, it will ultimately encounter defeat at the polls. If the Parliament is undecided on the issue, let the people decide. If they have the opportunity to do so I have no doubt of what the result will be.
– I do not propose to discuss the value of women in industry. Their value goes without saying. Nor do I propose to say anything about whether women should have equal pay for equal work. We all subscribe to that principle. As a matter of fact, I have sat on many committees which have made unanimous reports to the government advocating equal pay for women for equal work. The Opposition does not challenge that at all, but what we do challenge are, first, the departure from the principles of arbitration made by the creation of this Women’s Employment Board, and, secondly, the constitution of the board. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) pointed out that the board was closely confined in its operations by the regulations. That is, of course, correct, because it is a political committee. There is no doubt about that. The whole history of the events leading up to its establishment shows conclusively its political character. It is for that reason that the Opposition is opposing it. I propose to go back over the history of this matter. It had its beginning at a conference held in Canberra last December. Out of that conference arose the ill-fated Industrial Relations Council, on which employers and employees had equal representation, with His Honour, Mr. Justice Webb, as chairman. That conference discussed the subject of the employment of women, and later the same subject came up for discussion at the first meeting of the Industrial Relations Council, when the representatives of the unions, acting contrary to the government’s stated policy, with the aid of the casting vote of the chairman, carried a resolution advising the Government to institute the principle of equal pay for the sexes. The Government then went completely back on the policy stated by its own Ministers at the December conference, and smashed the Council, and subsequently, set up the Women’s Employment Board. If that is not political, I do not know the meaning of the term. I propose to recapitulate statements made by Ministers who attended the December conference about the employment of women and the creation of the Industrial Relations Council. That conference, as I have pointed out, sat in Canberra. It was attended by judges of the Arbitration Court, Industrial Commissioners, representatives of the employers and employees, and a number of Commonwealth Ministers. I take it that the Ministers were speaking on behalf of the Government when they addressed the conference. They made it perfectly clear that it was not their intention to interfere with the functions of the Arbitration Court. As a matter of fact, so that there would be no misunderstanding, Chief Judge Piper said that he was not clear as to what the relations would be between the proposed Industrial Relations Council and the Arbitration Court, and asked that they be defined, He was answered by no less a person than the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who said -
It is proposed that the council should advise the Government on all labour matters, but will not interfere with the normal jurisdiction of the court or of the commissioners. It may recommend to the Government what should he done to improve the existing machinery. It may ask that more commissioners be appointed. It will be an adjunct to the executive power, but it will not settle disputes.
So far so good. The Attorney-General made it clear that the Industrial Relations Council would not usurp the powers of the Arbitration Court. If it was not sufficiently clear from the statements of the Attorney-General that there was to he no interference by that council with the functions of the Arbitration Court, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) swept away all remaining doubt. He elaborated to a marked degree what the Attorney-General had said, saying in no uncertain terms -
It is fundamental that we approve the policy of arbitration and that the representatives of the court should understand that there is no desire on the part of the Government to usurp the function of the court or to interfere with the arbitration machinery. Rather is it a desire to give to the court a closer knowledge of what war-time production means to both employers and employees, lt would be a mistake to attempt to adjust those things arbitrarily.
I do not hear from honorable gentlemen opposite any commendation of that excellent sentiment, expressed so sincerely by the Minister for Supply and Development. Another Minister, in the person of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), was also present, and he put the matter beyond all reasonable doubt, because he propounded the great truth that it was Cabinet’s idea that, owing to the complicated nature of the subject of pay and conditions of employment, it should be a matter for the Arbitration Court. He went on to point out - and I ask honorable gentlemen to note this, because it has a great bearing on the matter - that the main difficulty was that, if women were granted the same pay as men in the munitions industry, there would soon be a demand for equal pay in all other industries. He said that it was estimated that such a policy would involve an extra £50,000,000 per annum. He went on to say that, apart from the difficulty of financing such a scheme, it would create enormous purchasing power which, in turn, would cause a great demand for civilian goods and have a highly inflationary effect. Those remarks might well have come from an honorable member on this side of the House. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that those commendable statements made by Ministers at that conference in December showed conclusively that the Government’s policy then was that this matter should be left to the Arbitration Court. But what happened ? The employers’ representatives pointed out at the meeting of the Industrial Relations Council that, as the basic wage was based on the needs of a. nian, wife and one child, it was quite obvious that the pay of females must be a matter for the Arbitration Court. They were in complete accord with the Government. They said, in effect, “ Well, the Government is going to play ball in this matter. It is going to support the principles of the Arbitration Court”. The Government had stood for those principles for so long that it realized that the payment to women of the rate of pay prescribed for men would have an inflationary effect and that, if the munitions girls received the rates of pay prescribed for men, the principle of equal pay would have to be extended to women in all branches of industry. Therefore, the matter had to go to the Arbitration Court for decision. The union representatives were not willing to adopt the Government’s proposals. They said in effect : “ The Government seems to be getting away from our control ; we must curb it “. Although Ministers had declared Government policy, as I have pointed out, the union representatives cracked the whip. Mr. Clarey moved -
That in each of the applications before the conference, viz., Lysaght’s, master butchers and licensed victuallers (and in other later applications) the Department of Labour and National Service should hold conferences of employers and employees to discuss the terms for the entry of women into the industry concerned.
In that motion the germ of the Women’s Employment Board may be discovered. The strange thing is that the employers’ representatives supported a policy in conformity with the proposals of the Government, for Mr. Perry moved and Mr. Heine seconded, the following amendment : -
That the proposals of Cabinet in relation to the conditions of employment of women in war-time, as explained fully by the Minister for War Organization of Industry, Mr. J. J. Dedman, be endorsed, and that in the opinion of this Council the subject is one that on account of the numerous varying aspects which are involved must necessarily be dealt with by an arbitration court in accordance with the different circumstances prevailing in particular industries.
Consequent upon that move, the union representatives again cracked the whip. Whenever they crack the whip members of the Government come to heel. Last weekend the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) went to Sydney, with the Hansard proofs of a recent speech in his pocket, to attend a meeting at the Trades Hall. He expected that the unions would exonerate him in a certain connexion.
– But he was not exonerated.
– Quite so. He was sent back to Canberra with an instruction that caucus was to deal with him.
Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are supposed to be governing the country! In fact, they are obliged to bow to the behests of the trade union movement and to do exactly what they are told. In such circumstances it cannot be expected that Ministers will be able to give of their best to the war effort. “Whenever the whip is cracked by the trade union leaders Ministers come quietly to heel. Yet they have had the temerity to castigate the Opposition for criticizing, not Government policy, but the policy dictated to the Government by the trade unions.
The Canberra conference was presided over by Mr. Justice Webb, of Queensland, a gentleman with pronounced Labour views, who supported the Labour representatives on every issue that was raised. The motion moved by Mr. Clarey was agreed to on the casting vote of the chairman, who did not even put the amendment to the conference. When the history of this war comes to be written it will be stated without hesitation that the Government was not in control of the affairs of the country for the trade union leaders issued all instructions.
A later item on the agenda of the conference dealt with compulsory trade unionism, and the next thing we heard from the eminent gentleman who presided over the gathering was that he would not listen to a discussion of compulsory trade unionism because he supported it. That was an excellent observation for an unbiased chairman to make! In such circumstances the employers’ representatives considered that they had no option but to leave the conference, which they did. I do not wish to reflect upon the judiciary, so I shall content myself with simply stating the fact, leaving honorable members to draw their own conclusion.0.
The Women’s Employment Board was appointed in compliance with the wishes of the trade union leaders, who also requested that its operations should be controlled by the Department of Labour and National Service. The Government made it clear that it was prepared to accept these conditions. On the 25th March the employers were requested by the Department of Labour and National Service to select a representative to sit on this supposedly impartial body. The secretary of the Council of the Employers’ Federation advised the Government that his organization would like an extension of time in which to choose its representatives, as its organization was Australia-wide, but if nominations had to be made within the prescribed period they would be made as a matter of urgency. On the 11th April, the employers sent a nomination to both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service, but their letters were not acknowledged by either of those gentlemen. I can quite understand the failure of the Minister for Labour and National .Service to acknowledge a letter, but I am surprised that the Prime Minister did not extend that courtesy to the federation.
The Minister for Labour and National Service not only flouted government policy by repudiating the remarks of the three Ministers who attended the conference, but he also said, “I have my own ideas on this subject, and I shall give effect to them “. This he proceeded to do. On the 16th April, the names of the members of the Women’s Employment Board were announced. Although a nomination had been made by the employers’ organization, its representative was not appointed.. The attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service on this subject was in keeping with his usual attitude towards his Cabinet colleagues. On the 17th September, the subject of compulsory trade unionism was discussed in this House and the Prime Minister and Attorney-General both said that it was not the policy of the Government to force every body into trade unions. Yet on the 23rd September the Minister for Labour and National Service directed that inquiries be made of the members of his department to ascertain whether they all were in trade unions. He said that he would not have a non-unionist on his staff. The honorable gentleman flouted both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General; he is a law unto himself.
To return to the constitution of the Women’s Employment Board. I point out that the employers’ nomination wa3 made on the 11th April, and on the 16th April the names of. the board members were announced. They did not include the name of the employers’ nominee. With characteristic effrontery the Minister for Labour and National Service appointed a former assistant secretary of the Printing Trades Union to represent the employers,
– If the honorable gentleman had read the regulations he would realize that his statement is plain silly.
– I could say the same of the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry to the conference concerning the cost of employing women in munitions manufacturing. The honorable gentleman’s observation on that occasion was also “ plain silly “.
– Miss Cashman was a special representative of the Commonwealth Government and not a representative of the employers.
– The constitution of the committee provided for the appointment of an employers’ representative. The honorable gentleman also seems to forget that the Prime Minister interjected to-night while the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was speaking .that there was no employers’ representative on the board originally. The Minister for War Organization of Industry seems to think that we are as gullible ais he is.
The Opposition is concerned about this situation, first, because Arbitration Court procedure has been flouted, and, secondly, because the constitution of the board is grossly unfair. Honorable gentlemen opposite are fond of talking about upholding the dignity of the court, yet they have been parties to a procedure which altogether ignored accepted industrial standards. Their attitude is pitiful in the extreme.
The Prime Minister, in his introductory speech on this bill, referred to the congestion in the Arbitration Court, but both the right honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) took the trouble this evening to point out that the practice of the unions, a3 soon as an award is granted by the court, is to submit another log as the basis for future action in the court.
– That is plain silly.
-It is a fact. I challenge the honorable member for Bass to deny frankly that my statement of the position is not accurate.
– I say it is plain silly.
– It is not in keeping with the dignity of Parliament for honorable members so to describe each other’s utterances.
Sitting suspended from 11^5 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 1 October 19b2.
– The Arbitration Court has a number of subsidiary bodies. The Chief Judge is chairman of one committee, Judge Drake-Brockman is chairman of another committee, and there are various wages boards within the frame-work of the court. All of these have contact with the Arbitration Court and work under arbitration principles. They have the privilege of conferring with Arbitration Court judges from time to time, and they can meet together to discuss matters relative to the principles of arbitration. The Women’s Employment Board would be established on a proper footing if it were made a part of the Arbitration Court structure, with an arbitration judge as chairman, as is the case with the Central Coal Reference Board. This would also overcome criticism with regard to the political nature of the board. The Prime Minister cannot be proud of an organization with a history such as that of the Women’s Employment Board. If he intends to proceed with this tribunal, he must, if he is to be logical, go further and appoint a tribunal to deal with the wages and conditions of juveniles, because many young boys and girls, who normally would not be engaged, are now being employed as the result of man-power shortages. The next logical step would be to abolish the Arbitration Court altogether. If that were done, there would be a series of independent tribunals carrying out not the will of the Government, but the will of the trade unions. I say that advisedly, because, after three Ministers had expounded the Government’s policy on the subject of interference with the Arbitration Court, the union’s representative acted in direct contravention of that policy when he submitted a motion to the industrial conference in December last. The Government immediately retreated from its position, and adopted the suggestion made by the union representative. For these reasons, it is obvious that the composition of the Women’s Employment Board is purely political. It is a spurious body. It was begotten not by a natural father, which would have been the Government, but by the unions, which constitute the power behind the Government. Its father represents only a section of the people. The unions cracked the whip at that conference in December last and the Government immediately jumped through the hoop. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), in the knowledge that he has the support of the unions, has flouted the Government by acting contrary to the statements of policy which I have mentioned and to statements made on the 23rd September by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, by issuing an instruction that every officer of his department should be a financial member of a bona fide union. He directed that the names of any officers who were not union members should be submitted to him. This Minister is a power unto himself. He goes his own way, and is concerned not so much with the prosecution of the war as with the advancement of the Leftist peace-time policy of the party that he represents. I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. These matters should have been submitted to the Arbitration Court for determination, because that is a function of the court. The Government’s policy, if persisted in, will eventually undermine the arbitration system of Australia, and that will have disastrous results for the Labour movement. The constitution of the Women’s Employment Board does not warrant the confidence of those who should have confidence in it.
.I support the bill. I listened with interest to what the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had to say, not so much about the bill as about the sins of omission and commission of various members of the Government. When I first entered this Parliament I did so as a member of the Opposition. Members and supporters of the then Government frequently chided the Opposition for not playing the game and for interfering with the Government’s efforts. For the last 12 months I have been supporting a Labour government in this chamber, and I have had opportunities to witness the tactics to which those honorable gentlemen resort when in opposition, even in time of war, when we are fighting for the existence of the institutions that we hold dear. It is extremely enlightening to make a comparison of the actions of members of the United Australia party and the United Country party, when they were on the Government side of the chamber and their actions to-day when they are in opposition. The honorable member for Wentworth read out a list of anomalies that he said had been brought about by the establishment of the Women’s Employment Board, and referred to the overlapping of awards, which he said would bring the country into a sorry mess. We all know that there has been overlapping of State and Federal awards ever since the Arbitration Court came into existence. This has been due very largely to the overlapping of Commonwealth and State instrumentalities. It is true that there are anomalies in our industrial awards, and I presume that, while there is duplication of Commonwealth and State control, we shall always have anomalies in our arbitration system. Therefore, the honorable member’s argument is not really effective. In those days when we must marshal the whole of our resources and employ women to replace men in industry, the best kind of organization to determine wages and working conditions fox women is a board such as the Women’s Employment Board, which was set up under regulation in the first place, and which the Government now proposes to re-establish under this bill. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the Government is controlled by the unions, which were the power behind it. That reminded me of the outside powers which always called the tunes to which the Opposition parties dance. Honorable members opposite assume, from their own experiences, that this Government is obliged to carry out the instructions of the industrial organizations. It is true that the Government consults the industrial organizations, but it also consults the employers’ organizations. That is the proper procedure to follow if we are to secure maximum production from our war industries with a minimum of discord and disturbance. A great deal has been said about the representation of employers on the board. The honorable member for Wentworth was well aware that the lady to whom he referred was not appointed as an employers’ representative. She was appointd as the Commonwealth Government’s representative. I cannot understand why there should be such misrepresentation of the facts by honorable members opposite. Listening to their speeches, I had difficulty in determining whether they consider that theWomen’s Employment Board should go out of existence ; whether they support the bill with the amendments they have foreshadowed, or wish it to be scrapped and the industrial coverage of women to be effected through the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; whether they believe in equal pay for equal work, or desire that women shall be introduced into industry at a reduced rate of pay although they displace men and do equivalent work. What they really mean has not been made clear. It is said that this matter ought to be handled by the Arbitration Court, and further, that because of the waiting list of cases before that court, organizations that obtain an award to-day make application for a new award to-morrow. Either the object of that assertion is definitely to misrepresent the position, or it is made in complete ignorance of the facts. To cite one case: An organization to which I have belonged for many years obtained an award from the Arbitration Court to cover a period of two years. At the end of about three years, an application was lodged for a new award. Some years elapsed before the case was heard, because of the long waiting list, and a good deal of dissatisfaction was caused. As far back as 1940, I asked the then Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) if he would supply a list of the unions that had cases listed before the court. The answers supplied to me by the right honorable member for North Sydney is published in Hansard,vol. 163, at page 692-93. They are as follows : - 1. (a) 186cases are listed for hearing by the Full Court. This number includes 175 applications for a review of the basic wage and these applications will be determined in one hearing, (b) 59 part-heard and pending industrial disputes are listed for hearing by single judges of the Court. This number includes applications for variation of current awards grouped to indicate the number of separate hearings necessary for their determination.
Names of Organisations concerned in Applications before the Court.
Actors Equity of Australia.
Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia.
Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia.
Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia.
Australasian Coal and Shale Employees Federation.
Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers.
Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union.
Australasian Society of Engineers.
Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation.
Australian Builders Labourers Federation.
Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen.
Australian Glass Workers Union.
Australian Insurance Staffs Federation.
Australian Journalists Association.
Australian Railways Union.
Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees Association.
Australian Rope and Cordage Workers Union
Australian Textile Workers Union.
Australian Timber Workers Union.
Australian Saddlery, &c, Workers Employees Federation.
Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association.
Australian Workers Union.
Australian Bank Officials Association.
Blacksmiths Society of Australia.
Boilermakers Society of Australia.
Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
Federated Agricultural Implement Machinery and Ironworkers Association of Australia.
Federated Artificial Fertilizer and Chemical Workers Union of Australia.
Federated Clerks Union of Australia.
Federated Coopers of Australia.
Federated Confectioners Association of Australia.
Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia.
Federated Felt Hatting Employees Union of Australasia.
Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australasia.
Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union.
Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia.
Federated Liquor and Allied Trades Employees Union of Australasia.
Federated Marine Stewards and Pantrymen’s Association of Australasia.
Federated Mining Mechanics Association of Australasia.
Federated Miller and Mill Employees Association of Australasia.
Federated Moulders (Metals) Union of Australia.
Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees Union of Australia.
Federated Rubber and Allied Workers Union of Australia.
Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia.
Federated Shipwrights and Ship Constructors Association of Australia.
Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia.
Federated Stovemakers and Porcelain Enamellers Association of Australia.
Federation of Salaried Officers of Railways Commissioners.
Food Preservers Union of Australia.
Health Inspectors Association of Australia.
Manufacturing Grocers Employees Federation of Australia.
Marine Cooks, Bakers and Butchers Association of Australasia.
Merchant Service Guild of Australasia.
Municipal Officers Association of Australia.
Musicians Union of Australia.
National Union of Railwaymen of Australia.
North Australian Workers Union.
Operative Stonemasons Society of Australia.
Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.
Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union of Australia.
Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia.
Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia.
Seamens Union of Australasia.
Sheet Metal Working Industrial Union of Australia.
Transport Workers Union of Australia.
Trustee Companies Officers Association.
Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia.
Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
Wool and Basil Workers Federation of Australia.
I give that information in order to prove the futility of arguing that the Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, could handle the affairs of an organization such as that covered by the bill, particularly while at least two of its judges are engaged at full time on work in connexion with a couple of industrial undertakings. Because claims have not been deal with expeditiously, industrial disputes have arisen. If there is to be in industry the smooth working that is so desirable, there must be some form of organization. The question arises:Which is the better form - that suggested by the Opposition, or that contained in the regulations disallowed by the Senate? There should be an organization that can deal expeditiously with the problems that will arise from the change over from men to women in industry, in order that there may be smooth working in the industries concerned. I therefore support the bill, because I believe that theGovernment’s proposal is the better.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) expressed surprise that nothing had been heard from the Opposition in regard to the inconsistency between the proposals of the Government in this measure, and what is known to have been Labour’s policy in connexion with the remuneration of women. I hope that when I have made my contribution to the debate, the honorable gentleman’s disappointment - in that connexion, at all events - will be somewhat appeased. Unlike most of the speakers who have preceded me, I am less concerned about the constitution of the board that deals with the conditions of the employment of women in industry, particularly in war industry, than I am about the result of that determination; although, in a general way, I am totally opposed to the duplication of arbitration authorities, because such duplication must inevitably lead to confusion and inconsistency in determinations. I consider that, the Arbitration Court is the proper medium through which all industrial matters should be canalized. If that court be incompetent to carry out those duties to the full, andif its incompetency be reflected in delay or in any other way, the proper course is so to amend the constitution of the court that it will be able to carry out all the duties required of it effectively, efficiently and expeditiously. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in his rather unconvincing justification for the setting up of this new board to deal with the employment of women, based his argument almost entirely on the fact that there had been undue congestion in the Arbitration Court. The right honorable gentleman gave a long list of delays that had occurred, some of them of very lengthy duration. Although he went out of his way to say that he merely recited those as historical facts, there could yet be no point whatever in reciting them during this debate unless they were intended to suggest that because of congestion, it was incompetent for the Arbitration Court adequately to deal with the new matter of the employment of women. The appropriate answer to the Prime Minister was made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), when he asked in what way would the work of Judge Foster and his associates be less effective were it done under the aegis of the Arbitration Court rather than by a separate entity.
The title of the bill is : “ To encourage and regulate the employment of women for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of the present war “. After hearing the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and particularly having heard the story told by the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) of the discussions that took place and the announcement of government policy by a number of Ministers at a conference held in Canberra last December, one is justified in wondering whether that is the real purpose of the measure. I confess that doubts in that respect are not allayed when one refers to the first paragraph in the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday, in which he said -
The object of the bill is stated clearly and accurately in the long title.
The right honorable gentleman then went on to say -
More precisely, the object of the measure is to continue in operation the provisions of the National Security (Employment of Women) Regulations, which would otherwise have ceased to operate from the 23rd September, 1942.
One is inclined to believe that that is the correct explanation - to save the face of the Government and to restore the dignity that it lost because of the Senate having nullified the appointment of the Women’s Employment Board. The Prime Minister went on to say -
In particular, the effective organization of the labour resources of this country, and the diversion on a large scale of women to employment in war production and essential industries, will be rendered practically impossible unless the Women’s Employment Board continues to function and exercise the powers conferred upon it by this bill. The requirements of 04,000 women for war industries cannot be met.
Surely the right honorable gentleman was not serious in stating that unless this particular instrument for dealing with the employment of women were retained, the whole purpose and requirement of that large number of women in war industries could not be achieved! I can suggest to the right honorable gentleman a much more simple way by which that objective could be realized; that is, by eliminating all the distinction that now exists between the sexes in industrial matters, and making the salary or wage applicable to the job and not to the sex of the employee. That would not involve the setting up of any new board, or the making of any new determination. One cannot forbear contrasting the present attitude of Government members in connexion with this matter with their attitude when they sat on this side of the House. This bill, which, according to the Prime Minister, incorporates government policy - by clause 6 of the schedule, containing the regulations under which the Women’s Employment Board was established - provides -
The rate of payment so decided for any adult female employee shall not be less than GO per centum or not more than 100 per centum of the rate of payment made to adult males employed on work of a substantially similar nature.
I ask honorable members to note the. words “of a substantially similar nature”. It does not say that they are to get 60 per cent, of the male rate if they do 60 per cent, of the work of men, or 70 per cent, of the rate for 70 per cent, of men’s work. It says that, at the discretion of .the board, they may receive as low as 60 per cent, of the male rate, even though their work be of substantially the same nature as that of the men. Contrast that provision with what was sought by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) who, when in Opposition, placed the following motion on the noticepaper : -
That in the opinion of this House discrimination by reason of difference of sex between workers is economically indefensible and is inconsistent with the Australian principle of equality, and that, consequently, the Government should forthwith apply this principle in all civil and defence departments by according equal wages, salaries and allowances to men and women employed on work of the same class.
The hill does not provide for that. It contemplates that, in certain circumstances, women shall not receive the same wage as men, but only 60 per cent., or perhaps 70 per cent, of it. I am inclined to favour the principle embodied in the motion which was discharged from the notice-paper only yesterday. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to have it restored to the notice-paper under my own name. If a woman delivers the same number of loaves of bread as a man delivers, or collects tram or bus fares under exactly the same conditions as a man, or turns out the same number of shells as a male employee in a munitions factory, why should she not receive the same pay? There has grown up an idea that women cannot do as much work in industry as men, but that idea is opposed to facts. Had I the time, I could place before the House evidence drawn from both Great Britain and the United States of America in support of my argument, but we do not have to go so far afield for evidence. We have it here in the proceedings of this very board. Here is an extract from the determination of Judge Foster, in connexion with an application which recently came before him: -
The evidence shows that these females as a whole are not as productive as males. In some cases, and not a few, they equal, if not excel, males in efficiency of productivity, and sometimes in both.
And yet, even in those instances where women were proven to excel, they were only awarded 90 per cent, of the male wage but it would have been competent to have awarded only 60 per cent, or 70 per cent. It is true that women are receiving 100 per cent, of the male, rate in a few instances, but that has been done by agreement between the parties; it is not the result of a deter mination of the board. It is proposed under the bill that the board shall assess the value of women’s work in comparison with the work done by men, but that principle is not applied in the fixation of the rate of pay for men. Every man, even if he performs only 60 per cent, of the normal amount of work, is legally entitled to 100 per cent, of the prescribed rate of pay. No one will deny that there is inequality in the work value of various men, and no one can deny that there are women who can hold their own with men in certain industries. The fact is that women are the victims of our arbitration technique. The basic rates of pay prescribed by arbitration courts aa-e not related to the intrinsic value of work done. It is true that margins for skill and adaptability are added to the basic rate, but the actual basic wage is not related to the work done; it includes provision for the maintenance of dependants. At one time, the wage was fixed on the assumption that it had to provide for a man, his wife and three children. Now, it is recognized that the federal basic wage is appropriate only to the needs of a man, his wife and one child. Although that is the basis upon which it is fixed, the same wage is paid without any deduction to even the most inveterate woman hater. Had there been in existence some form of family sustenance or child endowment, we should not be in the difficult position in which we find ourselves to-day. Wages would have been fixed upon the basis of the intrinsic value of the work done, or according to the cost of living for a single individual. The introduction of the system of child endowment has partly corrected the position, but the basic wage is still assumed to be adequate for a man, his wife, and one child, yet is paid to a single man who may have no notion of ever assuming marital obligations. The question now arises : Why should we seek to give to a single, or even to a married woman, a wage appropriate to a man, his wife, and one child? It is unreasonable to assume that we should, but it is no more unreasonable than to pay the full rate to a man who has not assumed, and does not contemplate assuming, family responsibilities. The correct method would be to pay to the individual the assessed value of his work, always maintaining a basic wage, but arranging for the payment of a family wage out of a community pool of some kind. Until a man assumed family responsibility be would not receive the full family wage. I know that the problem is a difficult one, and I fear that neither this Government nor any other will have the courage to tackle it. If we have not the courage to apply that principle to a single man, do not let us attempt to apply it in relation to a single woman. If the purpose of the bill is to encourage and regulate the employment of women in industry, that can best be achieved, not by a measure of this kind, which is inconsistent with government policy, but by eliminating from our arbitration laws all discrimination between the sexes, and by giving to Emily Jones the same pay for the same class of work as is given to John Jones.
.I support the bill, believing that the appointment of a tribunal such as the Women’s Employment Board was long overdue. Moreover, this should not be a mere war measure, but should remain in operation in time of peace. In the past, women have been exploited, sometimes being paid only 50 per cent, of the male rate for similar work. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) said that the fixation of wages for women should be left to the Arbitration Court, but he knows that, there are no women on the benches of Arbitration Courts in Australia.
For some years, I have listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) in this chamber. Generally speaking, he has been an advocate, of social reforms when he was not in a position of responsibility. On one occasion, be was sent by the government of the day to Geneva, and was instructed to vote, and did vote, for a 40-hour week.
– I was not instructed, but 1 voted for it.
– Then he caine back here and advocated the adoption of the 40-hour week.
– Yes, and practised it in my own business.
– Yes, but when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), as Leader of the Opposition, moved in this House for the adoption of the 40- hour week, the honorable member for Parramatta, who knew what was going on, was missing from the chamber when the vote was taken. The honorable member’s words ring true enough, but when he gets a chance to stand up for his convictions, he has not the courage to do so. To that degree, the honorable member resembles some judges of the Arbitration Court or even Judge Lukin, who is a real old humbug.
This bill is the Government’s reply to the action of the Senate in disallowing the regulations which constituted the Women’s Employment Board. “Out of evil cometh good “. The temerity of the Senate in disallowing the regulations will ultimately benefit Australian women, because the introduction of this legislation will guarantee to them greater benefits in industry than they have ever enjoyed. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated on his courage. Immediately the Senate disallowed the regulations he re-introduced them as a challenge. History has a happy knack of repeating itself.
– And an unhappy knack.
– Some honorable members will recall that in 1929-31, the Senate repeatedly disallowed regulations promulgated by the Scullin Government to cover the registration of waterside workers for employment. As fast as the Senate disallowed the regulations, the Government reintroduced them in a slightly altered form, and the proceedings became farcical. Finally, the Senate rejected a loan bill for £13,000,000, the purpose of which was to provide employment and assist necessitous farmers. The Government should not accept any dictation from that chamber of greybeards. If they obstruct our legislation, they. should be sent before their masters. The present issue presents the Government with a golden opportunity to secure a double dissolution. If the Government appeals to the people, its policy will receive an overwhelming endorsement. But the Government must not dilly-dally and retreat when the Senate begins to bark If it does, there will be a repetition of the experience of the Scullin Government, which was held up to ridicule because it lacked the courage to go to the people.
Although the Opposition repeatedly claims that it is co-operating wholeheartedly with the Government’s war effort, it utilizes every opportunity to embarrass the Ministry. When the Labour party sat in opposition, it did everything in its power to assist the Menzies and Fadden Governments. The Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin) was even criticized by some branches of the Labour party, which declared, that the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Menzies, had the right honorable gentleman in his pocket. But the. Leader of the Labour party in this chamber had only one ambition, namely, to serve the interests of Australia. Unfortunately, the present Opposition lacks those high principles. It is always sniping at the Government. This evening, it has opposed the bill because it considers that, the legal luminaries of the Arbitration Court should decide the wages and conditions of women in industry. I remind the House that for years the United Australia party Government had the privilege of appointing judges to the Arbitration Court bench. The right honorable member for Kooyong declared that the members of the Women’s Employment Board, appointed by the Labour Government, will never be able to forget their workingclass prejudices; but it is equally true that the workers never receive any benefits from judges who were drawn from the exploiting class. The fact that the Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was packed by the Bruce-Page Government made ‘ workers disgusted with arbitration laws. From the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the toiling masses have never received a square deal. The Labour Government should take the first opportunity to reconstitute the court, in order to secure a greater measure of impartiality.
The amendment which the right honorable member for Kooyong submitted is a snide one. It provides that the representative of the Government shall be a person who, for the period, of at least twelve months before his appointment, had been engaged in war production in a managerial capacity. The sting is contained in the tail. A person in a managerial capacity is obviously ‘ out of sympathy with the working class. In fact, the previous United Australia party Government selected most of the men who now hold managerial positions. I have a great respect for the right honorable gentleman, but I regret that his attack upon the Women’s Employment Board was really designed to secure the dismissal of Miss Cashman. This is an attempt also to rub the nose of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) in the dirt, because he appointed her. The Minister is courageous enough to stand up to his convictions, and he has appointed persons with ability to reach impartial decisions.
The Prime Minister stated that if tha Women’s Employment Board ceases to function, 64,000 women in war industries will not be covered by an award. When munitions factories now under construction come into production, the number will be increased to 100.000. Obviously, their working conditions must be protected. Although the Opposition declare? that the determinations should be made by the Arbitration Court, it has not found fault, with the decisions of the Women’s Employment Board. I shall briefly examine some of the appointments to the judiciary which were made by previous United Australia, party governments. The previous Labour governments had to get rid of one of the appointees, Judge Lukin, because the workers demanded it. Strikes were occurring and his effigy was carried through the streets of Melbourne. Judge Drake-Brockman was an. anti-Labour Senator, and Judge Beeby, after being a member of the Labour party, took the bait that was dangled by its opponents. Judge Piper was a further instance. The workers had no confidence in these judges. The Opposition admits that Miss Cashman possesses ability and intelligence, and that her character is beyond reproach. Nevertheless, she has been singled out. for attack, because the Opposition desires to create chaos in industry. Since the establishment of the Women’s Employment Board, no women employed in munitions factories have ceased work. That is most significant.
Speaking with their tongue in their cheek, honorable members opposite pretend to agree that women should receive the same rate of pay as males for equal work. If they be sincere, they should not oppose this bill. I go even further than the Government in this matter, because I consider that women’s auxiliaries of the fighting forces should receive military rates for certain work, such as driving transport wagons. In the last war, women drove ambulances from the front lines to hospitals. At any moment, Australia may be invaded and women in uniform will assist to defend the country. They should be paid, not 60 per cent., but the full male rate.
In conclusion, I urge the Government not to back down in this trial of strength with the Senate. If it does, it will be lost. I say to the Government, “ Go out fighting! Nail your colours to the mast! Be loyal to the women and they will be loyal to you, and you will come back stronger than ever “.
.- It is regrettable that this House should become a platform for attacks on individual members of the judiciary. The people of Australia stand for arbitration administered by judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That was made very clear at one general election when arbitration was the issue on which the people were invited to choose between the parties. Attacks upon those who occupy positions on the bench of the court strike at the very roots of the arbitration system, for which the Labour party professes to stand firmly.
– Members of the Opposition attacked Judge Foster.
– They certainly did not.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) did by innuendo.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong is well able to look after himself, as he has demonstrated tonight and on other occasions, but the interjection by the honorable member for Ballarat compels me to retort that the right honorable member has never been guilty of an attack upon the judiciary. But it is regrettable that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) seems to be making a practice of doing so. This is not in the interests of the dispensing of justice and the maintenance of industrial peace, for, if the workers, who are to be awarded their rates of pay and conditions of labour by those courts, which are presided over by judges, are to have, by speeches of their elected representatives in this Parliament, their confidence shaken in those to whom they must appeal, we cannot expect the awards of the court to be well received by them. That seems to be making a major blow at the system which is the very essence of industrial relations.
– Why attack Miss Cashman?
– No one has attacked Miss Cashman. The honorable member’s interjection serves to show the misrepresentation which has run consistently through the speeches of honorable members opposite. They have tried to hang the charge on the Opposition that it is engaged in making a personal attack on Miss Cashman. Nothing of the kind ! No word has been said against Miss Cashman from this side of the chamber. What has been said is that it is a travesty upon fair play to select a person who has been engaged as an advocate of a certain sectional interest as the representative on the Women’s Employment Board of the opposite sectional interest. That has been said, and there has been and can be no answer to it.
– The regulation does not say that she is to be the representative of the employers. She is the representative of the Commonwealth.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry surely is familiar with the administration of the Government of which he is a member, and he must know that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) acted sardonically at the outset by appointing as the representative of the employers a lady with a background of association with, and representation of, the employed interests.
– The honorable member is wrong again. The Minister for Labour and National Service did not choose her ; she was chosen by Cabinet.
– The Minister for War Organization of Industry draws a fine line, and I shall not argue the point, but I notice that the schedule to this bill which ratifies the new regulations, says, “ These regulations shall be administered by the Minister for Labour and National Service”. I think that the Minister for War Organization of Industry is wrong once more in saying that it was not the Minister for Labour and National Service who appointed Miss Cashman. However, I shall not be sidetracked into a discussion of the merits of Miss Cashman, for I know little of them. I accept the fact that she is a very honorable and efficient lady, but one would not expect a person who had represented certain sectional interests to represent the opposing interests. Her appointment to such a position was a travesty on fair play; that was the genesis of the Opposition’s protest.
The honorable member for Hunter, threatened, on whose authority I do not know, that if this bill were amended even in a minor form, the Government would go to the country on the issue. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), when first speaking on this matter, said that the Government would regard the bill as vital. If the Opposition were seeking to destroy the Women’s Employment Board, I could understand the Government regarding the matter as vital, but the Opposition with a proper sense of responsibility, has never had any intention of seeking to destroy it. We merely wish to make it a safe and reasonable tribunal, capable of discharging the functions for which it was appointed. It is intolerable that this Parliament should he subjected by the Prime Minister to a threat of a dissolution of the House of Representatives, and by the honorable member for Hunter to a threat of a double dissolution, if the Opposition goes so far as to dot an “i” or cross a “t”, which the Government has not dotted or crossed in the regulations. There is no honorable member who has spoken so frequently and with such apparent sincerity upon the need for an active and vigilant Opposition as has the Prime Minister. We have heard him make a hundred speeches in this chamber stressing his view that it is necessary for the operation of an effective democratic government that there shall be in existence an Opposition. That has been his constant counter to the contention from this side that a national government would be the proper government to manage the affairs of this country in our days of peril. Surely, the Prime Minister, when he was making those speeches, did not mean that he wanted an Opposition which should he permitted to talk but not to exercise any influence? After the last election this Parliament was left in the condition in which the Government enjoys a fortuitous majority in this chamber and no majority at all in theSenate. Surely, the Opposition has rights and the Government reason. The Opposition exercised its rights in this issue by stating that it believes that the Government’s choice under the national security regulations was wrong. It has exercised its influence to good effect by compelling the Government to do what it ought to have done in the first place, that is, deal with this matter, not by regulation, but by legislation, which would bring it into the light in this Parliament where it could be debated and where, if reason prevails, the logic of the arguments advanced by honorable members on this side, should have some effect upon the moulding of the bill. It is outrageous for the honorable member for Hunter, or any other honorable member, to suggest that the amendment proposed by the Opposition should be carried by the Government to the point of precipitating a general election.
– Is the Government not free to decide what is vital?
-Certainly, but it is also apt to make mistakes in the same way as the Minister for War Organization of Industry has made mistakes. It is for us to point out where those mistakes occur and toput the Government back on the rails. I have no doubt that the Government will be affected by what has been said by us.
– The Opposition is holding up the war effort.
– If the Government displayed a sense of reasonableness, the war effort would not be held up for a minute in this regard. Government supporters have accused the Opposition of wanting to take from women employees their rights and to put them in a position of inferiority to men in respect of conditions of service and so on. It is very easy to see where the. Opposition and the Government stand on this matter, for the women in the service of the Government, who are most directly and unquestionably subject to the decisions of the Government, are those in uniform - the members of the auxiliaries to the various fighting services. I remember very well the great difficulty experienced by the government of which I was a member in persuading leading figures in the present Government to agree that women should assist the fighting forces by being enlisted into auxiliary services. The then Government did not wish to do things without consulting the Opposition, and the Opposition was consulted. After months of negotiation we established the first women’s auxiliary - the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. We established that force of women on a basis which we believed to be fair. Their rate of pay was set at two-thirds of the rate of pay of men doing equivalent work, but, as the most of them were not to live in barracks but were to live out and would have to pay as much for board and lodging as would have to be paid by men in similar circumstances, we fixed their living-out allowance at the same rate as that provided for their male equivalents. We had not been out of office for more than a few weeks before the new Government, by administrative action, reduced the rate of living-out allowance of these women.
– That has long since been rectified.
– It was rectified owing to pressure from honorable members of the Opposition. Not only did the present Government reduce the living-out allowance, but it also reduced the rates of pay of young women under 21 years of age. It is extraordinary, therefore, that an accusation should be levelled at the
Opposition that it does not wish to act fairly by women workers. The living-out allowance was reduced from 30s. to 23s. 6d. a week, and the rate of pay of women in uniform under 21 years of age was reduced from the basic rate of 4s. to 3s. 6d. a day.
– I understand that the honorable member, who is a member of the Advisory War Council, did not raise any objection to those reductions.
– How did the honorable member for Ballarat obtain that information?
– I formed that opinion by a process of reasoning.
– It is quite untrue to say that the Opposition members of the Advisory War Council concurred in the reductions. Minors in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force do exactly the same work as women over the age of 21 years. It was paltry, in my opinion, for the Government to reduce their pay by 6d. a day. Many of the girls affected had surrendered good jobs in order to enter the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. What I have said is a complete rebuttal of the charge that honorable members on this side of the chamber are not in favour of according proper conditions to women workers. Had the regulations that were disallowed by the members of the Senate been interpreted reasonably by the Minister for Labour and National Service there would have been no need for the introduction of this bill. It is because of the sardonic treatment of this subject, by that honorable gentleman especially, that members of the Opposition are pressing their views so strongly. We believe that the Government representative on a board of this description should possess the qualification to place a proper value on the work of women. The tribunal should not be loaded against either the public or the Government. The Government is by far the largest employer of female labour, and there should be a properly qualified woman member on the board to watch the interests of the taxpayers. A woman with some managerial experience, and with proper industrial perspective should be appointed to the position. Ihope that even at this late stage, the Government will see the reasonableness of this claim.
.The members of the Opposition appear to be opposing the Women’s Employment Board mainly because of its personnel, but they have lost sight of the most valuable work that the board has already performed. The introduction of this bill became necessary because the members of the Senate disallowed the regulations under which She board had been operating. In his second-reading speech the Prime Minister said that the effective organization of the labour resources of the nation and the diversion on a large scale of women to employment in war production and essential industries was needed, and without it, a maximum production would be impossible. Without the assistance of such a body as this board, it would have been impossible ro achieve the results that have been obtained. The Arbitration Court could not possibly have done the work in the time available; yet honorable gentlemen opposite have declared that it was wrong to set up this special- tribunal. They have apparently quite overlooked the fact that the entry of women into industry on such a large scale created a problem that demanded special measures. The amendment foreshadowed by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) provides that -
The representative of the Commonwealth shall be a person who has, foi’ a period of at least twelve months before his appointment, been engaged in war production in a managerial capacity.
The expression “war production” has not been defined. What is meant by it? Would a man who transports potatoes to a military camp be regarded as being engaged in war production? Would the manager of a firm manufacturing chocolates for the American soldiers be regarded as a person “engaged in war production in a managerial capacity “. The amendment is a kind of red herring. The Government was faced with the necessity of fixing the wages and conditions of women war workers with the utmost expedition because of the large number of them involved. Had it not met the position promptly a great deal of discontent would have arisen, with hampering effects on the war effort. The thousands of young girls who had entered war industries, and also the many young married women who had taken up war work after their husbands had joined the forces, were entitled to the quick determination of their wages and conditions. Obviously the Arbitration Court could not have met the need of the case. The experience of the trade union movement during many years ha« been that the court, moves slowly. .The court, in fact, provides only a tardy procedure for the investigations of the claims submitted to it. The Women’s Employment Board has worked expeditiously and smoothly. There have been none of the irritating delays that are common in Arbitration Court procedure. The Prime Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech that the board had already heard 85 cases and that 50 decisions had been given. The hearings have been completed in the other oases and the decisions of the board are expected in the near future. Fifty oases are still awaiting hearing, so that the abolition of the board would cause a great deal of confusion which should be avoided. No doubt many more women will be diverted into war industries in the next few months, and this also makes it imperative that the board shall continue to function. The men in the fighting forces whose civilian positions -are being taken by women, are deeply interested in the conditions of employment and the wages that will be paid to the women To treat these women unfairly would b« tantamount to treating the members oi the fighting forces unfairly. It is a deplorable feature of our economic and industrial life that the members of trade unions have to threaten to strike, and sometimes actually to go on strike, before they can move the court to hear their claims. The fact must be borne in mind, too, that low wages lead to excessively long working hours, for workers who earn low wages are willing to go to great lengths in order to eke out their earnings to something like a subsistence standard. Many women are willing and even anxious to work seven days a week, and 60 hours a week, although it. has been proved over aud over again that such long hours reduce rather than increase production. Women have commitments similar to those of men. Out of their wages they have to meet the same transport charges and the same charges for canteen meals as do men. They have to pay insurance premiums at the same rates as men. Many of them have to pay other people to mind their young children while they are at work. Housekeeping also will probably cost a woman more because she will have to send laundry out and rely more upon prepared foods. Furthermore, if her husband is working, their joint income will be subject to heavy taxation. Women who are compelled to meet all of the obligations of men are prepared to do the same class of work as men. Yet the Opposition is attempting to break down the conditions of employment of women in industry and to prevent the functioning of a board designed to establish fair wages and conditions for them. It is well known that, even before the war, moves were being made in the United States of America and Great Britain to provide equal pay for the sexes for the same classes of work. The Monthly Labour Review of November, 1941. issued by the Bureau of Labour Statistics of the United States of America, made the following statement : -
Increases in average week’s earnings ot women occurred in most of the industries, including electrical machinery, hardware, woollen and worsted goods industries. Previously, women’s earnings were lower than men in every industry reported and in nearly half of these industries they averaged less than the lowest average for men (45.5 cents in cotton mills).
This shows that there has been an approach to the problem of establishing comparable rates of pay for men and women in the United States of America. The Opposition appears to be anxious to get cheap female labour, irrespective of the effect of such a policy on the nation’s war effort. It has a conservative outlook and is opposed to any change, even though there may be good cause for change. It is the advocate of cheap female labour, and it wants this avenue of exploitation to remain open for all time. The following statement appeared in the British Labour Research Pamphlet, No. 11, of November, 1941: -
In certain trades it is recognized “ in principle “ that women replacing men on work not performed by women before the war should receive the men’s rate. Thus, in engineering an agreement between the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the general unions and the employers, provides that women on men’s work should be paid, starting at the women’s rate, on a rising scale reaching 75 per cent, of the men’s rate and bonus after 20 weeks, and, after 32 weeks, the full men’s rate if able to carry out the work without additional supervision or assistance.
Agreements on similar lines have been reached between the employers and the woodworking, chemical and transport unions in Great Britain. This shows that the principle which this Government supports has already been established in Great Britain and the United States of America. I draw attention to a resolution passed at the 23rd session of the International Labour Office at Geneva in 1937. This resolution concerning women workers was submitted by Mr. McGrady, and Miss Abbott, government delegates of the United States of America to the conference. It is as follows : -
Whereas in view of the social and political Changes of recent years and the fact that women workers have suffered from special forms of exploitation and discrimination in the past, there is need to re-examine their general position; and whereas it is for the best interests of society that, in addition to full political and civil rights and full opportunity for education, women should have full opportunity to work and should receive remuneration without discrimination because of sex, and be protected by legislative safeguards against physically harmful conditions of employment and economic exploitation, including the safeguarding of motherhood; and whereas it is necessary that women as well as men should be guaranteed freedom of association by governments and should be protected by social and labour legislation which world experience has shown to be effective in abolishing special exploitation of women workers; therefore, be it resolved: That the 23rd Session of the International Labour Conference, while recognizing that some of these principles lie within the competence of other international bodies, believes them to be of the greatest importance to workers in general, and especially to women workers; and therefore requests the governing body to draw them to the attention of all governments with a view to their establishment in law and in custom by legislative and administrative action.
The facts that I have stated show the advances that have been made in the struggle to gain equal pay for the sexes. Women have full political and civil rights, and they have full opportunities for education. I am particularly interested in this subject, because in the area which I represent in this Parliament women will be employed in industry for many years- to come. This will be neces-sary after the war because of the importance of establishing our secondary industries on a peace-time basis.
– But the Government proposes to put the women out of employment when the men are released from the war services.
– We must always have women in industry, particularly during the period of post-war reconstruction, when we shall experience competition from other countries, which will endeavour to prevent us from developing our secondary industries. In order to maintain the secondary industries that have developed owing to war-time conditions, we shall have to retain women in industry. Our women are competent, and they are prepared to work in industry provided that they are granted conditions of employment and rates of pay comparable with those provided for men.
– In this debate honorable members on the Government side of the House have posed as champions of womanhood and have endeavoured to place members of the Opposition in the supposed position of exploiters of women. However, we can easily test their bona fides before examining this matter in detail. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in his usual dramatic, emotional, and pathetic style, virtually wept on the shoulders of ali the women of the Newcastle district, and told the House that he was the champion of women’s rights, doubtless in the expectation that, at the next elections, they will champion his cause. Let us examine the position in the district where the honorable member resides. There is a large steel f actory at Newcastle, and I assume that many of the honorable gentleman’s constituents work in that factory. There are plenty of jobs in that establishment which could be well done by women, thus releasing men for other essential work. We are agreed that, where women can do the work of men in the present state of national emergency, they should be permitted to do so. In fact, it is the duty of the Government so to organize the man-power of the nation that women will take the places of men in industry, releasing them for jobs which they alone can do. However, I have yet to learn that any women are working in an industrial capacity, in the steelworks at Newcastle. Is it suggested that there are no women in that district capable of working in the factory ? There is a large munitions establishment at Lithgow in the electorate of Macquarie, which is represented by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I have been informed authoritatively that at least 800 men employed in that factory could be replaced by women, but that women are not employed because of union opposition to the proposal. I have also been informed on the highest authority that there is adequate accommodation available in the district for all of the women who could be employed. I have notified the Minister for Munitions of this position. I mention these facts in order to test the sincerity of the criticism which has been directed at the Opposition and to show that the unions are opposing the employment of women.
I refer now to the subject of wages for women. The Government should be foremost in upholding the principle that it has enunciated of equal pay for equal work. But the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has pointed out that members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force under the age of 21 years, who have released men from Air Force establishments for more important jot>3, have had their pay reduced by 6d. a day by the present Government. This reduction is enforced irrespective of whether the members concerned are doing the same work as members over the age of 21 years. The reduction’ was made only recently. I do not argue the merits of the case. I merely state what the Government has done.
– How many times has the Arbitration Court fixed a wage for women under 21 years of age at the same rate as that paid to women over 21 years of age?
– I am not disputing the merits of what the Government has done.
Mr.Curtin. - That is the weakness of the Opposition’s case. It has no merit whatever.
– Honorable members on the Government side of the House have charged the Opposition with not being agreeable to the payment of equal wages for equal work by the sexes. I say that the Government is not upholding that principle. That is demonstrated by the instance to which I have referred. The reduction of 6d. a day for minors serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force is still effective.
– It is not.
– It was until recently. That raises another very important consideration. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made a statement concerning a reduction of the living-out allowance paid to members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) interjected that the Advisory War Council had agreed to that reduction.
– The matter was never considered by the Advisory War Council.
– I am glad to hear the Prime Minister say that. I was about to inquire how the honorable member for Ballarat had acquired the information, and by what oath of secrecy he was bound if he had imparted to him Advisory War Council decisions that were not available also to every other private member.
– It is not. suggested that a member of the Advisory War Council made a statement?
– The honorable member for Ballarat interjected when the honorable member for Indi was speaking that the Advisory War Council had made a certain decision, or that he understood that it had. The impression conveyed was that he knew what had happened at the council.
The merits or otherwise of the Women’s Employment Board raises the whole subject of arbitration. Admittedly, the employment of women is a difficult problem for any government. Arbitration is a bulwark of our wage system. The question arises : Does the Government wish to retain the Arbitration Court? I remember an election that was fought many years ago on the retention of the arbitration system. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) defeated the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, in his electorate on that very issue. The people of Australia overwhelmingly decided that the arbitration system as then established must stand. But the Women’s EmploymentBoard strikes at the very foundations of that system, because frequently its awards are in direct conflict with those of the Arbitration Court. There are two types of individuals on the one job. An unskilled woman takes the place of a man, and the skilled woman is subject to an award of the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned cases which the Prime Minister should examine in order to understand the anomalies that are being created by the awards of the Women’s Employment Board. He said that an unskilled woman who has just been appointed by the Sydney County Council is doing cleaning work. Her wage is £5 a week, and her senior, who for fifteen years has been working under award rates and conditions, receives £3 18s.
The Arbitration Court awarded a rate for the skilled woman, and her wages are pegged by a government decision. But the unskilled woman, who is her subordinate, receives £5 a week. Skilled ledgerkeepers and stenographers, who spent quite a long period studying for their avocations and burnt the midnight oil in order to make themselves competent, receive under an Arbitration Court award £3 10s. a week; yet an unskilled person who is doing menial work or work that does not require a particular degree of skill, receives 50 per cent. more.
– The honorable member is arguing that the awards of the Arbitration Court are too low.
– I am not arguing anything of the sort. My contention is that there cannot be these two conflicting determinations; there must be either the one or the other. If the design really be to destroy the Arbitration Court, or to sabotage its awards - sometimes that would appear to emerge from the comments of honorable members opposite - I congratulate the Government on its efficiency. Sabotage must be the result. Is it imagined that there will be contentment in industry when two persons are working alongside each other, one under an Arbitration Court award at £1 10s. or £2 a week less than another who is not working under an award?
– Judge O’Mara said yesterday that there are six different rates for concrete mixers in New South Wales, all of them fixed by the Arbitration Court.
– I agree that there is overlapping. But is the rough and ready justice that I mentioned the other day to be the solution? When the Arbitration Court delivers an award, it may make a mess of it, but it certainly does not make the continual mess that the awards of the Women’s Employment Board will cause, not only to industry but also to the Government, which will have to stand up to the anomalies that will be created.
– The honorable member knows that the Women’s Employment Board does not fix the wage.
– The Women’s Employment Board fixes the wage according to the base rate of the man.
– It does not; it. fixes the degree of efficiency of the woman relative to that of the man.
– It takes into account what the man receives.
– It does not; if has nothing to do with what the man receives.
– The rate of wage is determined according to the percentage of efficiency of the woman relatively to that of the man, not according to the wages that are paid in other sections of industry under Arbitration Court awards. There will be thousands of anomalies. The Prime Minister has stated that the Women’s Employment Board has acted very expeditiously. He gave instances in which decisions had been reached in a few days. A decision cannot be made in a very short period unless not much consideration has been given to the consequences of it. Delay in the Arbitration Court is caused by consideration of the implications of decisions. If an award be given to a particular industry, the Arbitration Court has to consider the effect on re lated industries, and that causes a good deal of delay. But the Women’s Employment Board strikes a dead line at 60 per cent, or 70 per cent.; because there is no scientific method of determining exactly the efficiency of a woman relative to that of a man. The board makes a stab at it. Acting on that principle, any board could make a decision in a short period. The whole question does not revolve around whether or not honorable members on this side are in favour of the Women’s Employment Board. We recognize the difficulties of the Government. The Government must take responsibility for whatever organization or agency it sets up for the determination of these matters. But when it puts forward a board which it asks the Opposition and the country to accept as an impartial tribunal, we are entitled to examine the personnel of that tribunal in order to determine whether or not it measures up to the claims that the Government makes on its behalf. In this case, Ave have to consider the appointees. A lot has been said about Miss Cashman. I do not know the lady; but from what I have heard of her, she seems to be a woman of integrity and character. Nobody on this side has disputed that. There have been no unfavorable comments in regard to her intelligence and ability. What has been challenged has been her fitness to act as an employers’ representative, in view of the fact that she has never been an employer or associated with employing interests. On the contrary, the whole of her career has been spent on the opposite side of the fence. Therefore, it is the height of irony to ask anybody to accept her as a representative of interests which she could not possibly represent.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the largest employer - the Commonwealth - must not have a representative? The manager of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory is an employee of the Grown.
– I agree that the Commonwealth should have a representative. But he should be known as the Commonwealth representative, and not as an employers’ representative. Every government nominee on boards with which
I am acquainted is known as the Com monwealth representative. I have never previously heard of an individual being appointed supposedly to represent private interests, but in reality to represent the Commonwealth. If the desire were to appoint Miss Cashman as the representative of the Commonwealth, there would have been no complaint had it been stated that she represented the Commonwealth as an employer.
– In this case, the Commonwealth is the principal employer; and the decisions of the tribunal deal substantially with works that are under Commonwealth control.
– There was nothing at any stage of these proceedings to prevent the Government from appointing whomever it liked as the Commonwealth representative. But to put up a wellknown union official supposedly as the representative of employing interests, without stating particularly that those employing interests were the interests of the Commonwealth, was to invite the strongest criticism from the Opposition. Had the same sort of thing been done by a government composed of honorable members who sit on this side of the House - had a representative been selected supposedly to represent union interests, from among those who had always opposed unions - there would have been the greatest outcry this House had heard.
– An employer of labour was sent to Geneva to represent the Commonwealth. The Employers Association was asked to send another man as its representative. The employers’ representative was W. C. Thomas, and I represented the employees. There were two bosses - one representing the Government and one representing the employers.
-If the Prime Minister tries to make us believe that Miss Cashman was really appointed as the representative of the Government, he will meet with a lot of opposition from this side of the House. However, is this matter of the appointment of Miss Cashman to be made a vital issue ? In my opinion, it would be a tragedy to force an election at this time on anything that was not of vital importance. If the Government forces did that, the enemy would, no doubt, take full advantage of the distraction. If it is desired to have the benefit of MissCashman’s services on the board, they can be had by appointing her, as the representative of the organizations with which she has been so long associated, namely, the industrial unions.
– What about the rights of the Commonwealth as an employer?
– No one can deny that the board, with two union representatives and a government representative in the person of Miss Cashman, would be overloaded in favour of the union. I am not considering for the time being the findings of the board, but only its constitution, and I say that a tribunal, constituted as this one is, might be expected to be biased in favour of the employees. I do not know whether that bias will be exercised. Very often, when persons are appointed to tribunals of this kind, they disappoint their critics by discharging their duties impartially.
– Does the honorable member say that, if the services of a woman on the board are to be secured, it is the duty of the unions to appoint her?
– Seeing that so much has been said on the subject of women’s employment, and equal pay for the sexes, it might have been expected that, of two union representatives, one of them would be a woman.
– Would not the same argument apply in thecase of the employers’ representatives?
– Well, I would not object to that.
– Then the Government, as an employer, would have the right to appoint a woman as its representative?
– The Government can appoint anyone it chooses.
– Provided it does not appoint Miss Cashman!
– It has already appointed Miss Cashman as the supposed representative of the employers. Does the Government propose to stand by that appointment, or will it admit that she is, in fact, a representative of the unions?
– Does not the honorable member think that Miss Cashman is as well qualified to represent the Commonwealth as she is to represent the unions?
– -In respect of intelligence and experience, she might be well qualified to represent the employers, but having regard to her background, no one would be prepared to accept her as the representative of the employers, any more than the unions would be prepared to accept as their representative some one who had previously been secretary of the Employers Association. If the Government wishes to find a way out of this difficulty, all it has to do is to appoint Miss Cashman to the board as one of the representatives of the union, thus avoiding the possibility of an election. The threat of an election did not disconcert any one on this side of the House, but apparently it worried the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I have listened with interest, if not enlightenment, to the speeches of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) on the subject of industrial arbitration. Now, apparently, we are expected to know all about the matter. The Opposition, through the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), has given notice of a new provision which directs the Government, in effect, as to whom it shall appoint to the Women’s Employment Board. It does not name the actual person, but it lays down the qualifications which the appointee must possess. Paragraph 5 of the schedule to the bill states -
For the purposes of these regulations there shall be a Women’s Employment Board consisting of a chairman, one representative of the Commonwealth, one representative of employers other than the Commonwealth, and two representatives of employees.
The proposed new sub-paragraph is as follows : - (2a) The representative of the Commonwealth shall be a person who has, for a period of at least twelve months before his appointment, been engaged in war production in a managerial capacity.
That reminds me that anti-Labour governments always insisted, when appointing Labour representatives to travel overseas, upon a panel of names being submitted to it from which the choice was made. I always objected to that procedure, believing that the unions were entitled to appoint their own representatives.
– The employers are not given that privilege in this instance.
– They will have the right to nominate one member of the board.
– Did they select Miss Cashman ?
– No, but they can select one representative: I gained my industrial experience in a hard school over a long period of years. The industrial experience of the honorable member for Richmond is confined to growing bananas, and avoiding the payment of award wages if he can. The honorable member for Fawkner may know something about preparing briefs for a court, but he knows nothing about Arbitration Court procedure. Whenever a Labour government appointed any one to the Arbitration Court Bench I had to listen to the same kind of objections as those raised by the honorable member for Richmond. When Mr. Dunstan was appointed to the Arbitration Court in Queensland, persons like the honorable member for Richmond said that, because he had been reared in an industrial atmosphere, and had been an organizer for the Australian Workers Union, he must be biased in favour of the workers. However, after he had been on the Bench for a few years, his ability and impartiality were recognized by every one, even the employers, and his success was undoubtedly due in large measure to his long association with the industrial movement. He was succeeded by Mr. Riordan, the father of the honorable member for Kennedy, and he, too has won a reputation for himself for his sense of justice. I have ‘heard that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on two occasions attacked Sir William Webb, of the Queensland Arbitration Court, saying that he was frightened of the unions, and had labour sympathies. As a matter of fact, I have heard Sir William Webb tell union advocates that he was not concerned with what the Government’s intentions might be, but only with the proper interpretation of the legislation with which he had to deal. He is an ornament to the bench, and has had long experience in the interpretation of the provision for preference to unionists, which honorable members opposite call compulsory unionism. Under this provision, there has been less industrial unrest in Queensland than in any other part of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and I are old union officials, and we know how long it takes to have a case dealt with by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Some of the judges of that court say things from time to time which make one wonder whether they are fitted for their positions. For instance, it was reported some time ago in the Sydney Morning Herald that Mr. Justice Piper had said that he would not know a coal-mine if he fell down one. Honorable members opposite say that Miss Cashman must be biased because of her long association with industrial unionism. If that be so, what can we expect from Judge Drake-Brockman, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? For years, be was chairman of the Employers Federation. He was appointed to the Arbitration Court, although he possessed no special qualifications, for the purpose of making way for a Country party representative in the Senate team from Western Australia. Honorable members opposite have declared that they do not wish to get rid of Miss Cashman. I am not convinced by that statement. In my opinion, their sole purpose in opposing the bill is to secure her dismissal. They wish to dictate to the Government the personnel of the tribunal. The board will not fix wages or hours of labour. Those conditions are prescribed by the Arbitration Court, and that is the basis on which the board will work. Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I regret the introduction into the debate of references to the relative efficiency of the sexes. One of the grouches of the employers is that they have to pay to the inefficient worker the same rate as the efficient worker receives. The court has always prescribed basic wage rates for male and female workers, though the male rate is the higher.
In my opinion, women who substitute for men in the factories should automatically receive the male rate. If the bill contained that provision, the Opposition could only declare that it objected to the principle of equal pay for the sexes for equal work performed.
Some honorable members have urged that the board must look after the interest of the people. During the last war, the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Hughes) appointed a shipping tribunal for the purpose of preserving peace on the waterfront. He told me that the work had to be done, and that the matter of payment did not concern him.. The sole object of the tribunal was to ensure continuity of work. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) know nothing about the conditions of the workers. If they did, they would have voiced different opinions from those which they expressed this evening.
– I would not have spoken at this late hour if representatives of the Government had not injected so much venom into the debate. Their speeches make it appear that the Opposition desires to exploit female labour in the factories. That is gross misrepresentation. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) interpreted the bill correctly when he said that it does not provide for the fixation of wages or hours of work. That statement contradicted earlier remarks by honorable members opposite that the Opposition is not desirous of giving a fair deal to women workers. They seem to forget that we are dealing with a measure to encourage and regulate the employment of women for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of the present war.
I have followed the debate attentively and, so far as I am aware, there is no opposition to the principles of the bill. Personally, I accept them. Therefore, I fail to understand why so much bitterness has been displayed by some supporters of the Government. Obviously, they endeavoured to create sectional hatred. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) declared, that the Opposition wants cheap female labour, even at the expense of retarding the war effort. That remark was unfair and, like many other statements during this debate, had nothing to do with the bill. The Government should be gratified that the Opposition has not objected to the principles of the legislation. The machinery is provided in the schedule, which the Opposition has not criticized. Yet honorable members opposite declared that we are endeavouring to create chaos in industry, and uttered threats of a double dissolution if the bill were rejected by the Senate. What justification have they for assuming that? Miss Cashman is not mentioned in the bill, and it is unfair to the Opposition to say that we wish to cause her dismissal. I cannot understand why she has not been made the representative of the employees on the board. No one has criticized her adversely; tributes have been paid to her ability and intelligence. No one wishes to do her an injustice. All this trouble is a mere storm in a teacup. I am prepared to support a principle of equal pay for the sexes for equal work done. That principle is generally supported throughout the community, chiefly by the Opposition. I do not wish the statement to ai pear uncontradicted in Hansard that the Opposition was opposed to the principle. In war time we look to women workers to carry on our industries while the men are released for the fighting forces. They deserve the highest rates that industry can afford. The proposed amendment provides that the employers’ representative shall possess managerial experience. That is not unreasonable. The schedule provides that -
For the purposes of these Regulations there shall be a Women’s Employment Board consisting of a chairman, one representative of the Commonwealth-
– As an employer.
– Then why has the bill been drafted in this manner? In addition to the chairman and one representative of the Commonwealth there shall bp - one representative of employers, other .than the Commonwealth, and two representatives of employees.
Miss Cashman should be transferred to the position of employees’ representative. She would fill it with credit to herself and advantage to women workers. I see no reason why both the representatives of the employees should not be women. It would be of advantage if they were. 1 make that suggestion to the Government.
– The board should be composed entirely of women.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The employers could not object, provided they could secure the necessary efficiency. If Miss Cashman were made the employees’ representative, neither the Government nor the Opposition would have to yield one point.
– in reply - I hope that the House will pas j the second reading immediately. I undertake that when we resume our sittings this afternoon, the committee stage will be dealt with. I considered very seriously the amendments foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden). I am ready to accept the proposal that the Women’s Employment Board shall be the judge of the degree of retrospection that shall apply to its findings as representing a part of its arbitral authority. The date was put into the regulations when they were first gazetted, because there was no authority in existence to govern the employment of women. We had placed women in employment in advance of the assessment of their wages and conditions. We considered that the findings of the board should apply, without any injustice to any one, from the date when women entered the service or the date of gazettal of the regulations, whichever date was the later. The other amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition is one which, as he will see at once, if he looks at it again, so restricts the Commonwealth in the choice of its representative on the board as to state an entirely new principle in legislation. I have looked at it most closely, because, as I said in my speech to the House when announcing our intention to bring down legislation to cover the situation caused by the disallowance of the regulations by the Senate, this Government does respect the authority of the Parliament. I have sought to see where it would be practicable to do what the Leader of the Opposition suggested, but
I have not been able to do so.For example, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Daniel McVey, who has been seconded to the Department of Aircraft Production, because of his great business experience, could not be appointed, under the terms of the proposed amendment, to represent the Commonwealth on the Women’s Employment Board in determining the conditions and wages of women to be employed in the construction of aircraft, because he has not had twelve months’ experience in a war-time industry. His experience for the most part has been in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and he has not had a sufficiently long managerial experience in the Department of Aircraft Production to qualify him to be selected as the Government’s representative.
– That presupposes that Mr. McVey is the only man available.
– I am not saying that, but it would be acknowledged, I think, that, but for the disability which the proposed amendment imposes upon the choice by the Government of the Commonwealth’s representative, he possesses all the qualifications necessary for the position. I am not saying that Mr. McVey would be selected as the Commonwealth’s representative. I am simply citing him as a representative of the type from which the Government would make its choice but for the restriction that the Leader of the Opposition would impose upon it. The Government’s experience in industry is unfortunately limited almost to the period since the onset of the war. The amendment specifies managerial experience for twelve months in war production. This extensive programme was initiated under the previous administration, but, in respect of the employment of women, it began really to expand only with the advent of this Government and the coming into the war of Japan. Under the limitations which the Leader of the Opposition seeks to impose upon our choice we should be deprived of the experience of those men whom we have taken from private industry into war production, because such men were not in war production before Japan came into the war.
– How many hundreds of people in Australia would be qualified?
– They have to be employees of the Commonwealth. Moreover, they must have had twelve months’ managerial experience in war production for the Commonwealth.
– It means that no person appointed by the present Government would be able to accept the position.
– It does mean that.
– The amendment does not say that the appointee has to be an employee of the Commonwealth.
– It says-
The representative of the Commonwealth shall be a person who has, for a period of at least twelve months before his appointment, been engaged in war production in a managerial capacity.
– That is so.
– Is it contemplated that the representative of the Commonwealth shall be a person who has all those qualifications, but is now in private employment ?
– Why not?
– I see. Now we are getting into it. He shall be theoretically the representative of the Commonwealth, but in fact heshall be associated with the conduct of some private enterprise.
– It does not say that at all. The right honorable gentleman is not generally unfair.
– It either means that or this : that he shall be a person who is in the service of the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable gentleman appointed Mr. E. G. Theodore as Director-General of Allied Works.
– I did.
– He would be qualified for the appointment.
– No; he has not had the necessary twelve months’ experience.
– Of course he has had twelve months’ experience in managerial work and in war production.
– In what direction.
– He has been associated with minerals, with base metals and with all sorts of things connected with war production. If the case were put the other way, the right honorable gentleman would not agree that Mr. Theodore was not qualified.
– The employees with whom the regulations are concerned are, for the most part, women who are to replace men engaged in the manufacture of munitions and aircraft and in other factories. It, surely, is not contemplated that women are to work in mines, on harbours, or on what are called works.
– ‘Cases were cited to-night.
– Yes, for the most part factory workers and clerical workers or women engaged as shop assistants or barmaids - vocations which the board, in its discretion, would consider to be appropriate for women to follow in war-time That means an extension of the kind of vocation that women followed before the war. I am quite certain that the limiting words in this proposed amendment so restrict the Government’s choice in the appointment of the Commonwealth representative that it would be extraordinarily difficult for the Commonwealth to be fully satisfied that it was nominating as its appointee the most qualified person that it could and ought to get.
I invite the House to dismiss all prejudice and bias in connexion with this matter and to recall what took place when, in an atmosphere quite detached from developments or potentialities, the right honorable member for Kooyong moved to disallow the National .Security (“Women’s Employment) Regulations under which the Women’s Employment Board was set up. In the course of his speech in reply, which it was impossible for me to answer, he said that the private employers of Australia, who were concerned with what the board would do, had no representative on the board, and that he considered that was wrong. Now, although the motion for the disallowance of the regulations was defeated, I was so impressed by the reasonableness of the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion that we proceeded to amend the regulation in order to ensure that the private employers should be able to be represented on the hoard by a person of their own unfettered choice. We did not say that the representative of the employers should conform to this condition or that qualification. This bill prescribes that the Minister for Labour and National Service shall confer with the employers’ organizations as to who shall represent the employers. When the employers submitted their nomination, unless there should be something against the man’s character - which I should not regard as at all probable - the Minister would, as a matter of course, in order to give effect to the spirit of the act, appoint the person nominated. Similarly, with the trade unions’ representatives. It must be acknowledged that the trade unions do not contain as many female members as they do male members. They are fearful that the incursion of women to industry in wartime will involve the men in a permanent deprivation. Therefore, the interests of the trade unions are paramountly concerned, not with what will happen during the war, but with the legacy after the war. That fear is real, because the trade unions remember what occurred after the last war. Therefore, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, when the board consisted of three, said that it desired to appoint a man who had considerable experience of trade union administration and dealing with awards, particularly awards .that cover a certain class of woman worker.
Mr. Wallis was nominated by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The bill provides that the Minister shall consult the Australasian Council of Trade Unions concerning who shall represent the employees. All the engineering trades are involved in this matter. The skill that their members have acquired is in danger through the mass production processes that are being developed in order to obtain better results, and the members of the engineering unions are concerned lest the craftsmanship which they have developed over the years shall be completely discounted. They are afraid of the dilution of labour. That is one of the great problems that the Government has to face. We may have to ask the engineering unions to accept even more drastic dilution plans than have yet been applied, and we cannot expect them to accept such plans unless reasonable guarantees be given that the plans will be applied only for war purposes, and that they will not be used as a foundation for the post-war industrial structure.
– That is quite reasonable.
– I am glad to hear the right honorable gentleman’s remark. I am sure that he will acknowledge the difficulties that have faced the Government in this matter. Skilled workers are naturally fearful lest their standards shall be lost. The Government considered, in the circumstances, that it was wise to constitute a board of this character. The bill provides that the board shall be reconstituted, though not necessarily of the same personnel. I have no quarrel whatever with the present personnel of the board. I think its members have done good work. I am satisfied with their integrity and qualifications. I do not think that the Commonwealth Government should have conditions imposed upon it in respect of its appointees. The act which provides for the appointment of a government representative to the board of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which company the Commonwealth holds a majority of the shares, makes no stipulation concerning the qualifications of the Commonwealth nominee. In fact, the present Commonwealth representative is a government servant. He was appointed because of his public position, and I hope that he will continue to represent the Commonwealth Government, regardless of any changes of government. I accept more responsibility than should be placed on the Minister for Labour and National Service for the appointment of Miss Cashman to the Women’s Employment Board. I regard Miss Cashman as a woman of proved competence and long experience in dealing with questions relating to women’s employment. She had ceased to hold office as a trade union official and had been appointed by the previous Government as a. Commonwealth officer. She was, therefore, a public servant, just as was the person appointed to represent the Commonwealth on the board of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. -
– Then the Commonwealth Government could appoint a telegraph messenger or any other officer to such a position?
– Yes; but I take it that any government would need to be satisfied that the person appointed was qualified to do the work involved in the position.
– I did not speak on the motion for the second reading of the bill, so perhaps I may be allowed to say, by way of interjection, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) appears to have covered the ground, and to have fairly met the suggestions, contained in the speech of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), respecting the representative of private employers and the representatives of the unions. . Seeing that a great deal of the taxpayers’ money will be involved in this matter, I put it to the right honorable gentleman that he could now surely agree to the appointment of a well-qualified private business man as the Commonwealth representative on the board.
– I feel strongly that it would be an affront to the women of Australia not to appoint a woman to the board. The Commonwealth Government owes it to the women of this country to make certain that there is a woman on the board. I have no responsibility for the appointment of the representatives of either the employers or employees, but I have responsibility for the appointment of the Commonwealth Government representative. One-half of the whole of the voters of the Commonwealth are women. Many women are being brought into industry to replace men who have been called up for service in the fighting forces. Woman’s position in industry is the subject with which the board will have to deal. The problems in relation to the employment of men in industry are determined by the Arbitration Court.
– Why not appoint a majority of women on the board?
– I hope that I have some sense of proportion, and also a sen.se of practicality. As it happens, the Government is responsible for the appointment of only two of the five members of the board, namely, the chairman and the representative of the Commonwealth. Of the other three one is designated a representative of private employers, and the other two, as representatives of trade unions. The Government will have no say in the sex of those three representatives.
– A provision could be put in the bill that would ensure the appointment of women.
– It is considered proper, in inviting certain bodies to make nominations for the board, to allowthem a free choice.
-The Government did not adopt that attitude when it appointed Mr. Taylor to the Commonwealth Bank Hoard.
– Who said so?
– Mr. Taylor was supposed to be the representative of the rural industries.
– That is not the case. The Government did not appoint him to represent the trade unions or any particular political party. It appointed him because he was a fit and proper person, in his own qualifications, to serve on the board.
– Surely the right time to discuss this question is at the committee stage of the bill.
– I quite agree with the right honorable gentleman, and I express my regret to him and to honorable members generally for having replied in such detail, butI considered, having regard to the strongly expressed views of some honorable gentlemen on the foreshadowed amendment, that I should indicate that I had given it serious consideration.
– I appreciate that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Loan Bill (No. 3) 1942.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1942.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 387.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -
Beef (Restrictions on sale and consumption ) .
Control of -
Sale of meat.
Stock foods and remedies.
Simplification of meals.
Orders by State Premiers - Queens land, Western Australia.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders by State Premiers - New South Wales (2), Victoria, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 3.10 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the financial difficulties encountered by small businesses arising from war taxation and the restrictions on capital assistance from private banks or the public, will he make provision in the Mortgage Bank Bill for assistance to be given to such businesses in cases where this would be in the public interest?
– The attention of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is drawn to the Commonwealth Bank Bill, now before the House, from which it will be seen that no provision, such as that suggested in the question, has been made.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
l asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am informed that a large amount of work would be involved in answering the honorable member’s question. It is desirable to avoid this, if possible, particularly as there is a shortage of staff in Commonwealth departments. I should be glad if the honorable member would simplify his question. If that be done an endeavour will be made to answer it as completely as circumstances permit.
y. - On the 24th September the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) asked the Treasurer the following question, upon notice: -
Will the Treasurer inform the House approximately how much of the public debt was held, at the 30th June, 1942, by (a) the Commonwealth Bank, (&) .the trading banks, (c) the savings banks, (d) the insurance companies, (e) industrial and commercial companies, and (/) the general public?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
According to the information available, the total debt of the Commonwealth and the S.tate, at 30th June, 1942, was held as follows: -
Information is not available to supply the full details required by the honorable member.
Strikes in Industry.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l.-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 September 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1942/19420930_reps_16_172/>.