16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. X Cunningham) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state the total amount of inscribed stock sold to the private banks since the Curtin Government took office, the total amount of treasury-bills sold to those banks during the same period and the total amount of treasury-bills funded in that period?
– The information will be obtained.
– by leave - I appreciate (he difficulties of the
Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) in trying to arrange the business of this chamber to suit the convenience of the House of Representatives. I had a similar experience for some years, but I think that there has been a tendency on the part of the House of Representatives to have no regard whatever for the Senate or for the convenience of honorable senators.
– The position has not improved of late.
– I do not comment on that aspect of the matter. The concluding paragraph of section 53 of the Constitution reads -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
Some honorable senators on the Opposition side were disappointed and grieved - particularly Senator Spicer, who had spent a considerable amount of time in studying the Income Tax Assessment Bill - when the Senate sat throughout Wednesday night and then found that the Government had no business to bring before it on Thursday. That is a matter of the past, but, as far as the future is concerned, I understand that a most important bill will be discussed in the House of Representatives next Wednesday. From information that I have obtained from members of that House, the discussion on that bill and other matters make it unlikely that the business of Parliament will be concluded next week. Therefore, I suggest that the Senate should be adjourned to next Wednesday week, or even to a later date.
Another reason why I make that suggestion is that Western Australia has not been fully represented in this chamber for the last month. I understand that the Government of Western Australia proposes to meet next Tuesday, and that only one candidate will be nominated by it to fill the vacancy that has arisen in the representation of that State in the Senate. After the appointment has been made by the Parliament of Western Australia, tothe pleasure of the Opposition and, perhaps, the displeasure of the Leader of the Senate, Mr. Charles Latham will enter this chamber as a representative of Western
Australia. If the Statute of Westminster Bill is to he discussed in this chamber, I suggest to the Leader of the Senate that the debate should not be proceeded with until Western Australia is fully represented, seeing that Mr. Latham is a returned soldier, and that the returned soldiers of that State are opposed to the bill. I consider that this matter is above party politics and I make the suggestion in all sincerity. When the Leader of the Senate discusses the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Cur tin), I should likehim to say that members of this chamber object to members of the House of Representatives referring to honorable senators as greybeards. One member of this chamber has a grey heard, but he has more vitality than many members of the House of Representatives who do not possess a beard.
– by leave -I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for having raised this matter at the present juncture. I say without reservation that, when I was Leader of the Opposition, I always found the present occupant of the position willing to co-operate with me in his capacity as Leader of the Senate. On those occasions when he was unable to comply with my wishes with regard to the arrangement of the business of the Senate, I knew that there was no fault on his part. With all respect I suggest that the position has been somewhat cased during recent months. I, at any rate, have found a greater desire on the part of the Government to consult with me as to the convenience of the Senate than there probably was at an earlier stage. That may or may not be the exact position, but I have found the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) most anxious to know how the business of the House ofRepresentatives suits the convenience of the Senate. Of course, no Prime Minister can guarantee that he will be able to control the House of Representatives exactly as he would like.
– He cannot control even his own party.
– Regrettable as it is, that is a common complaint; it is not peculiar to a particular party. I can give an undertaking that as far as possible I shall always consult the Leader of the Opposition in arranging the order of business of the Senate, and the periods of adjournments. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the Senate should adjourn to-day to next Wednesday week hut I am afraid that I cannot give a promise so far ahead as that. Personally I do not consider that the position which he anticipates is likely to arise. The business of the Senate could, in my opinion, he concluded to-night, but that depends on the business to he dealt with in the House of Representatives during the remainder of the sittings. I know that the Prime Minister desired to conclude the sittings next week, but developments in the House of Representatives yesterday upset the plans of the Government in that regard. I think that the Senate could safely adjourn to-day until next Wednesday.
– The House of Representatives does not begin the secondreading debate on the Statute of Westminster Bill until next Wednesday.
– Then we could adjourn until next Thursday.
– Most of us have booked our railway seats and made arrangements to return to our homes to-night.
– We must be here while Parliament is sitting.
– Why does not the Government keep Parliament fully employed when senators and members are in Canberra?
– I am not aware that any break has occurred. Whatever inconvenience may be experienced by honorable senators we cannot predict the course of business in the House of Representatives and we have no control over that chamber. At the usual hour for the adjournment of the Senate to-day, I shall know more about the possibilities next week. All I can promise is that I shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition on the matter, and I am sure that by mutual arrangement the best interests of honorable senators can be served.
– On the 25th September, Senator Herbert Hays asked me whether I would make a statement concerning the processing of last season’s flax crop, and whether the whole of the crop would be dealt with before the 1942-43 crop is harvested. The Minister for Supply and Development has now furnished the following information: -
Approximately 03,000 tons of straw was received from the crop sown in 1941. Of this straw, »3,172 tons lias been de-seeded: 34,205 tons retted, and 13,500 tons scutched. It is anticipated that by the end of the accounting period for the season, i.e. 13th November, 1942, de-seeding operations will be completed, 55.000 tons will be retted and 22,000 tons will be scutched. Scutching operations have been held up at. new mills owing to the delay in delivery of 22 additional scutching machines, deliveries of which have only recently commenced. The manufacture of these machines has been delayed owing to more urgent priorities being accorded tn machinery and equipment required for fighting services and munitions establishments. At the 30th November, which is the end of the Flax Production Committee’s accounting period, only a small quantity of the 1042-43 crop will have been harvested. Harvesting and delivery will be spread throughout the States over the period ending Mardi, 1043, by which date it is anticipated that the processing of Mie bulk of the 1041 crop will have been completed.
– “When answers to questions on notice are not available at the time the questions are asked, but are available at subsequent sittings of the Senate, the practice in future will be for such answers to be given after questions on notice have been dealt with.
– It frequently happens that answers to questions are not available until after the Senate has gone into recess, in which event the information is sent to honorable senators by letter. There should be 30me means by which such answers are automatically incorporated in Hansard. Questions are asked in the Senate in order that the matters to which they relate may be ventilated publicly, and it Ls not right that the answers should be postponed in order to stifle criticism in the Parliament. It is not sufficient that answers be sent in writing to honorable senators after the Senate has risen for a recess. I suggest to you, sir, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of honorable senators, that consideration be given to the incorporation of the questions and the answers in Hansard, which is the official record of the proceedings of the Parliament.
– If, in future, answers to questions which have been forwarded to honorable senators after the Senate has risen are to be incorporated in Hansard, will means be provided for incorporating in Hansard the questions which I asked and also the answers in relation to canteens, thereby indicating the reason for the action which was taken ?
– Unless special provision is made, there is no way by which replies to such questions can be incorporated in Hansard, except by repeating the questions. The only reports and records included in Hansard are those 1 relating to business transacted during the sittings of the Parliament.
– by leave - In order to show that the Government has not been unmindful of the position to which honorable senators have referred, I shall say now what I had intended to say at a later hour, namely, that with regard to replies to questions on the notice-paper, it has been decided that in cases in which answers to questions on notice have not been given before Parliament rises, instructions have been issued by the Prime Minister that action is to be taken to furnish replies by letter to the honorable senators concerned as early as possible. On the resumption of the sittings of Parliament, the text of any such reply which has been furnished by letter in the interim will be submitted by the appropriate Minister to the Senate with a view to its incorporation in Hansard.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings) read a first time.
– I move -
That the ‘bill be now read a second time.
The title of the bill fully explains its object, which 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. The hill enacts that the provisions in the schedule, which are substantially the same as the provisions of the National Security (Employment of Women) Regulations, shall continue to have the force of law as from the 23rd September, 1942, and provides for the continued existence of the Women’s Employment Board established under those regulations. It also maintains in force all the decisions of the Women’s Employment Board made up to the 23rd September, 1942, and provides that current applications to the board are to be considered and decided by the board under the provisions in the schedule. As honorable members are aware, temporary provision has been made by the National Security (Women’s Employment) Regulations made on the 24th .September, 1942, for the validation of decisions made by the board until this hill finally becomes law.
It will be obvious to honorable senators that, unless the Women’s Employment Board is maintained with the powers and functions previously exercised by it, Australia’s war effort will be gravely impeded. 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. The man-power difficulty, which becomes greater daily, makes it imperative that there shall be a special industrial (tribunal operating during the currency of the war. A review of the man-power requirements of essential war production in the next six months shows that, if we are to meet our war commitments, 64,000 women must be brought into employment in munitions factories and in establishments engaged in essential industries. In addition, service needs, which involve the expansion of existing women’s auxiliary units, must be met. If we cannot bring the number of women required into employment where they are needed, fewer men can be released to the fighting services, and our armies will go short of essential war equipment. Any obstacle placed’ in the way of absorbing women in these numbers in employment would be a direct blow at Australia’s war effort and would endanger the defence of this country. Unless the Women’s Employment Board continues to function <and to exercise the powers conferred on it by the provisions of this bill, the requirements of 64,000 women for war industries cannot be met. Of necessity, these women will be engaged on what hitherto has been regarded as men’s work - an assumption upon which arbitration court wages and awards, both Commonwealth and State, have been based. Had we left the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to review the wages, hours and conditions of work throughout industry in the light of the new conditions involving the employment, in ever-increasing numbers, of women in factories and workshops, and the probable variation of methods of manufacture by increased mechanization, it would have meant, in effect, a review of our whole industrial economy, a task which could be satisfactorily attempted only by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. It would have meant that the conditions which are being created by the exigencies of war would be regarded as the permanent industrial set-up. .It would have meant also - and this is the crux of the matter - a delay of months in fixing wages and conditions. The Government was faced with the urgent problem of telling women, before it drew them into vocations in which they had never .before engaged, and in which they were required temporarily to replace men, what their rates of pay, hours of work, and conditions of labour would be.
In its short existence, the Women’s Employment Board has heard 85 cases, and in 50 of these, it gave decisions affecting more than 7,500 women. Of 49 cases dealt with, the time between lodgment of claim and conclusion of hearing was under one month in thirteen claims, one month and under two months in thirteen claims, two months and under three months in 22 claims, and three months and under four months In one claim. The time between the conclusion of the hearing and the date of the decision was under one month in 40 claims, and one month and under two months in nine claims. The average number of days between the conclusion of the hearing and the date of the decision was eleven days. On seven claims, the board gave its decision as soon as the case concluded. Objection has been raised, and, I confidently assume, will be raised again, to the ‘Commonwealth’s nomination of Miss Cashman. If this were a proposed appointment, it might be easier for honorable senators to present some semblance of a case but the stubborn fact is that the tribunal of which Miss Cashman is a member has accomplished, as I have already shown, a vast amount of work speedily and efficiently, and without industrial disruption. The board i3 not necessarily an “ equal pay “ board ; it is a board set up to consider all available facts relating to a situation at any given moment; to obtain, sift, and assess impartially all evidence submitted to it, and to arrive at an impartial judgment.
It has been suggested that private enterprise has been greatly affected by the work of the “Women’s Employment Board. That is not so. The Commonwealth and State Governments are by far the largest employers of the women, affected, or likely to be affected, by decisions of the board. At least 10,288 women were covered by claims made to the board. Of these, 55 per cent., or 5,602 women, were employees- of Commonwealth or State Governments. The largest claims affected 2,500 women employed by the Department of Munitions in ammunition and explosive factories. 1 do not for an instant suppose that any honorable senator will contend that the Commonwealth, which employs almost one-half of the women in respect of whom the board lias given decisions, should not be represented on the board. That much is, I feel sure, conceded. As an evidence of the anomalies which, in the absence of a special tribunal dealing with peculiar industrial difficulties incidental to gearing a peace-loving nation to the prosecution of war, I may mention that in some government annexes, working under thB same roof, there were women working for 54 per cent, of male rates with others getting up to the 90 per cent, of the male rate. In one small arms factory, 160 women on the 54 per cent, rate went into the fuse shop where the rate was 90 per cent. That meant that we lost the value of the work of those women foi which they had been specially trained and in which they had very special skill.
It is only right, however, to say that while I declare that the Government has no party political intent in the setting up of this tribunal, and while, as I have said, this board is not an “ equal pay “ board, it is intended definitely to act as a corrective and a preventive against the exploitation of the labour capacity of women in order that when the men in the firing line cease the heroic work of war, when those who are risking all that they have to give, even to laying down their lives in the interests of Australia, return to ns in the days of peace, they shall not have to face a form of labour so exploited and cheapened that it becomes a threat to their economic interests and to the possibility of a continuity of employment when post-war reconstruction must be undertaken.
– I do not propose to speak at length at this stage, because this matter has already been discussed very fully not only in this chamber but. also in the House of Representatives, whilst, at the same time, considerable publicity generally has been given to it. The Government should effect important changes of this kind by enactment in preference to the back-door method of regulations. Had these proposals been submitted to Parliament originally, the mistakes which have been made would have been avoided. In the short time which has elapsed since this political board was proposed, the statutory rules appertaining to it have been amended on no fewer than seven occasions. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) declared that we must have a special tribunal to deal with these matters during the war. I have no objection to the appointment of a special tribunal, but I object very strongly to the appointment of a political, and inexperienced, tribunal which cuts right across our arbitration system, which has given great satisfaction, and has evoked favorable comment in many other countries.
I take this opportunity to express strong criticism of the chairman of this board, Judge Foster, in that, knowing that the regulations were likely to be disallowed in the Senate on the 23rd September, he called a meeting of the board on that date to enable it to come to very important decisions. I ask the Leader of the Senate whether any Minister communicated with Judge Foster and ordered him to call that meeting on that date. That matter should be cleared up. If no such instruction was issued by any Minister, the Government should say so. We have always had good reason to appreciate the high standard set by our judiciary. The phrase “ British justice “ is believed and respected throughout the world. We have good reason to be proud of that fact. However, in calling this special meeting of the board, it cannot be said that Judge Foster lived up to that high standard. I draw particular attention to one aspect of the set-up of this tribunal. I take the following extract from the judgment delivered by Judge Foster on Wednesday, the 23rd September last -
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 60 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 0, sub-regulation 5) in any way control the expressed intention iw.de 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 perspecuity 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, hut if the regulations command., then the board must obey.
That statement requires no further comment.
The Government has attempted to make political capital on this subject by asserting that the Opposition is opposed to a woman being appointed to the board.
– Honorable senators opposite are opposed to Miss Cashman.
– No; we are opposed to the appointment of Miss Cashman as a bona fide representative of the employers, in this case the Government itself. Honorable senators opposite should be fair in dealing with this matter. I understand that when the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) proposed an amendment in the House of Representatives that one of the two representatives of the employees to be selected by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions should be a woman, the Government rejected his proposal. In that instance, the Government was playing at party politics. Members of the Opposition propose to submit three amendments at the committee stage. The Government is storing up trouble for itself, and will create chaos throughout the Commonwealth, if it persists in its present attitude on this matter. Whilst the wages of a large body of women employees are to be fixed by this board, very many women are receiving less than those who come within the ambit of the board’s judgments. Those women have no right of appeal to this special, political tribunal. Obviously, such a state of affairs will create widespread dissatisfaction among female employees, and will cause considerable trouble for the Government itself. However, it appears that the Government must yield to the dictates of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. It is embarrassing for the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to find that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which pays the party piper, insists on calling the tune; and in this matter the unions are aided and abetted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). I appreciate the Prime Minister’s difficulty in that respect. It is untrue to say that the Opposition is anxious to reduce women’s wages, or to create difficult conditions for them in industry. The Government may fool gome of the people all of the time; but, on this matter, it will not succeed in fooling the majority of the people at any time.
.- My objection to the Government’s proposals in respect of the appointment of the Women’s Employment Board has always been against the character of the board. I find nothing in the bill now before us which removes that objection. Until yesterday, I felt that there were some aspects at least which the Government must have overlooked. For example, although this board is primarily concerned with the fixation of women’s wages, no provision is made for the appointment of a female employees’ representative to it. That is a very serious omission.
– That is a matter for adjustment.
– I propose to give the Senate an opportunity to adjust it. The board is primarily concerned with the fixation of wages of female employees. Obviously, therefore, specific provision should be made for the representation of female employees.
– Female employees have no representative on the Arbitration Court.
– The character of the Arbitration Court differs from the character of this board, because this tribunal provides specifically for the representation of employees and employers. Actually, the decisions of the board will directly affect female employees only, although they may have an indirect effect on males.
– Nothing in the bill precludes the appointment of a representative of female employees.
– That is so; but we have had experience of what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is prepared to do in this matter. He had in force regulations providing for the representation of employees, and appointed two men to represent the employees’ interests. Having regard to that experience of the way in which the Minister is likely to act, we are forced into the position of ensuring that female employees shall be represented on the board. I am sure that Senator
Large entirely agrees with that view, and I expect the assistance of members of the Labour party to bring about that very desirable reform. It is useless to talk about Miss Cashman in this respect, because the Minister has assured us that she is a representative, not of employees, but of the Government in its capacity as an employer.
– That shows that the Government realizes the advantage of having a woman on the board.
– But not in the proper capacity. I have no reason to doubt that Miss Cashman is a competent, capable woman and, I believe, a most conscientious one. She has been appointed to represent the employers interests. My criticism of her appointment is that she i? not peculiarly fitted to represent those interests. That is not because I have any objection to the woman herself, but because her interests have been associated with employees during all her working life. That is my objection to her appointment as a representative of the employers, but the Government cannot claim that she is a representative of employees. She, as wc have been told, is a capable, conscientious woman, and I assume that, in her position on the board as a representative of employers, she will, to the best of her ability and guided by her experience, represent the employer interests of the Commonwealth. If she does not do so, then the Commonwealth is not properly represented on the board. It must be one or the other. I suggest that the matter can be very easily rectified, and, at the appropriate stage, I propose to move an amendment to ensure the representation of the interests which are most vitally concerned in the working of these regulations and the activities of the board. That can be done by an amendment providing that one representative of women employees be appointed to the board. For this I expect the full support of the Labour party, whose members have been indulging in a campaign about this legislation. It was represented in this chamber, on the last occasion on which the subject was dealt with, that we on this side were very unchivalrous, in that we objected to the presence of women on the board.
SenatorClothier. - There should be more women on all boards.
– That may be so, but there should certainly be one to represent women on this board. If that is arranged, it will be a considerable improvement in its constitution. I have said that MissCashman, in my judgment, not because of personal deficiencies, but because of her experience, is not a suitable representative of the employers. Having regard to the experience we have had of the Minister in relation to this matter, another safeguard should be inserted in the bill. We are dealing with it now upon the basis that no board at all exists. The old board has been disbanded, and we are now creating a new one. Were it not for the fact that we have had some experience of the way in which the Minister acts, I should not be disposed to direct him to appoint a particular person possessing certain qualifications to represent the Commonwealth, but, unfortunately, we know that we cannot trust him to exercise a proper and impartial judgment. I, therefore, suggest that, in addition to securing the rights of women employees, we should also take steps to ensure that the employer interests of the Commonwealth are properly represented, by amending the bill so as to indicate the type of person who should be appointed to represent those interests.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is particularly pertinent to what the Minister said in his secondreading speech. He represented the board as fully competent to deal in an unfettered manner with the question of what pay women should receive. That is not true. The board does not concern itself with the general question of women’s pay. It is concerned only with the pay of those women who undertake duties formerly carried on by men. But it is still more limited. When it has to consider a particular application, it is not able to say what rate of pay women should receive having regard to all the circumstances. Many circumstances are completely excluded from its view. It is in fact limited to one consideration only - the relative efficiency of females compared with that of males. I particularly desire that I should not be misunderstood on this subject. I agree that it is a very important question to be considered by any tribunal which has to deal with these matters, but it is not the whole question. As the board is being set up to deal with what is admitted to be a very difficult problem, I cannot understand why the Government has not sufficient confidence in the body which it is appointing to leave the matter entirely to its judgment, unfettered by these limitations, to determine the rate of pay for women who go into war industries, having regard to all the circumstances of the case.
– They do not get enough money now for the risk they take in munitions factories.
– That may be so, but this problem cannot be satisfactorily regarded by shutting out of account the fact that, as I said on a previous occasion, men’s wages are not fixed in this country solely by reference to their productive capacity. There has so far arisen under this tribunal a situation in which women, working in the same factory, are receiving rates of pay fixed by the board at over £5 a week, whilst others who have not taken the place of men, but are performing precisely the same kind of work, or even more difficult work, are paid the Commonwealth Arbitration Court award rate of £3 to £4 a week. That state of affairs does not contribute to the maintenance of industrial peace. It is more likely to create industrial disturbance. That is a very sound reason why the board should be able to take into its consideration all the facts, instead of the very limited set of facts to which it is restricted by this bill.
-We may yet accept that idea.
– It will be very interesting to hear what the members of the Labour party have to say on it. We are not concerned with obstructing the Government on this matter. I am not concerned at any time with indulging in captious criticisms and obstruction. Although honorable senators opposite may not always agree with me, I am concerned with improving the legislation that comes before the Senate. I am definitely anxious to improve this legislation, in order that the whole subject may be dealt with upon a proper basis. If we are all prepared to approach it in that way, the hill can leave this chamber a far better piece of legislation than it was when introduced.
– I support the second reading of the bill, because I can wholeheartedly subscribe to the basic principles embodied in it, and its purpose. The great weakness of the federal legislation which has been passed to deal with industrial matters is that, although it operates under the title of conciliation and arbitration, there has been far too much arbitration, and too little consideration given to conciliation. Regulations were passed on this subject to set up a board truly representative of both sides, which could meet around a table before disputes actually occurred. When it is known that a difference has occurred between employer and employee which will eventually lead to a dispute and disrupt the industry, both sides can meet in that way and settle their differences. That, is preferable to dealing with the dispute in the atmosphere of an arbitration court, before a judge, and with representatives of employer and employee arguing the case before him. If tribunals of this kind, shorn of all technicalities, confined to those directly concerned, and truly representative of the industry, are appointed, I am sure that many disputes oan be readily and satisfactorily dealt with before they reach the stage of disrupting industry. That is the correct way to deal with a matter such as this. It is true that, under the National Security Act, the Governor-General has power to make regulations, particularly in cases of emergency, to cover certain aspects of industry, but conditions are continually changing, and as this matter is an innovation so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, it is quite proper that it should be dealt with by means of legislation. The important point is : Will it be a success ? Will it be accepted by the people? Will the employers and employees who are to be affected by it be contented? Confidence in industrial tribunals is essential. How can that confidence be established? All parties must be convinced beyond all doubt that their grievances will be dealt with without prejudice. Employers and employees alike must be assured that they can expect impartial decisions. That is why the wages board system, wherever it has been given a chance to function effectively, has been successful. The weakness I see in these proposals is that certain anomalies will be created. How the Government proposes to get over them I do not know, but I shall be pleased to hear what suggestions the Minister has to make in that regard. The only solution is for the Government to remove the provision which makes the measure retrospective in its operation. What will be the attitude of this tribunal towards the problem created by having two sets of workers doing similar jobs and receiving different rates of pay? In one case, women who have been engaged in this type of work for years are being paid perhaps £3 a week, whereas other women whose services are being engaged in war-time to relieve the man-power shortage are paid a proportion of the male rate determined in accordance with the work that they can perform. This is a very real problem.
– The women who are being paid less may apply to the board for an adjustment of their wages.
– Why not deal with the matter under this legislation? I commend the Government for introducing this system of dealing with industrial matters, because it enables interested parties to meet around a table and talk over their differences. It should lead to more contentment in industry and a quicker settlement of disputes than would be the case if they were handled in the ordinary way by the Arbitration Court. I emphasize, however, that the all-important point is that tribunals of this kind must be properly balanced. There must be no suggestion whatever that any person appointed to the board is there for any purpose other than to look after the interests of those whom he represents. Unless that is so, decisions may be questioned.
– I welcome the introduction of this bill, because we are dealing with a matter of the greatest economic importance to Australia. It is unfortunate that it is necessary to have this impact upon our economic system, because not only will it affect the women whose interests we desire to safeguard, but also it will have an economic influence after the war which may be even more far-reaching than any of us imagine at present. It is important that male operatives should have their proper place in industry, and that they should he able to discharge their duties towards this country, while at the same time providing for their wives and families. Unless we are very guarded, we shall find that, to a large degree, man-power will be ousted from industry by the intrusion of 64,000 women. That is a matter of such economic importance that I am glad that the Government has seen fit to deal with the problem by means of legislation rather than by regulation. I fear that there will be complications. In fact, there are complications already, and, having regard to the economic future of this country, I should have preferred the question to have been placed within the framework of the arbitration courts. The men who occupy positions on industrial tribunals are studying economic questions such as this constantly. They are considering male and female labour and their relation to one another, and in arriving at decisions they take into account the consequences which will ensue to the body politic, just as the Tariff Board examines the economic effect of tariffs upon our economic system. The Government says - and we, must accept the assurance - that the arbitration courts could not handle this matter satisfactorily, but I see no reason why the judge who is to preside over this board should not be made a member of the Arbitration Court Bench. He could consult with his colleagues in that jurisdiction, and have access to vital economic information relating to this matter. This problem strikes far deeper than the immediate war emergency, and for that reason I welcome the fact that it is being tackled by means of legislation rather than by regulations under the National Security Act. I believe that we shall encounter not only the trouble referred to by Senator Herbert Hays, but also trouble between the sexes as the result of the impact of these 64,000 women upon industry. We all know how essential it is that the women should be employed. In my capacity as chairman of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, I have had an opportunity to inspect some of the work that women are performing in our war industries, and they are doing a valuable job. . I am one of those who believe in equal pay for equal work, but I notice that the Minister, in his carefully guarded second -read ing speech, said that the board contemplated under this legislation would not necessarily connote that principle at all.
– It will not prevent it.
– That is so. but my belief is that, generally speaking, this measure does not embody that principle. And why is that not so? It is the only method by which, when this distressing conflict is over, the male section of the community will be able to regain its proper place in our economic system. I was under the impression - quite wrongly, as it appears from the Minister’s second-reading speech - that the decisions which had already been made by the tribunal which was abolished by the action of the Senate last week would continue to be operative. However, the Government has seen fit to confirm these decisions in this legislation, and that, I suggest, is the proper course to adopt.
– It is only windowdressing.
– Undoubtedly, there is quite a lot of that going on, but we are getting used to it. When we are constituting industrial tribunals, it should be our constant endeavour to preserve an even poise. Our democratic system depends for its existence on an independent judiciary. I, like Senator Spicer, would gladly have seen this measure contain a provision compelling the appointment of a woman to safeguard the interests of women. I understand that a woman is included in the personnel of the board, but she purports to be the employers’ representative and therefore is on the wrong side of the fence. To do justice to women engaged in industry, she should be an employees’ representative, but whoever she mav be. she is branded now as the representative of the Government. It would be wise in the interests of the women with whom the board will deal, that they should have direct representation on the board because, sooner or later, other women who are receiving different rates of pay will have to be brought under some tribunal. When regulations are promulgated regarding the conditions of employment in industry, the Senate should be given an opportunity to debate their more important aspects, so that the views held by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber may be ventilated, and proper consideration given to the Government’s proposals. This would obviate promulgating regulations and amending them from time to time.
.- When the bill reaches the committee stage, I intend to move two minor amendments with a view to improving the bill, and I hope that the Government will accept them. I arn sure that the Minister in charge of this measure (Senator Keane) will realize that the amendments will improve the constitution of the board. He has stressed the fact that the board is an important one, and the Government indicated that it regards the tribunal as important by reason of the appointment of a County Court judge as the chairman of the previous board. An entirely new board is now to be appointed, and one of my amendments is designed to ensure that the chairman of the board shall have the status of at least a County Court or Supreme Court judge. I am inclined to think that he should have increased powers, which I shall indicate later. There is a good deal of misconception outside this chamber regarding the functions of the board. .The general impression is that it will deal with all classes of women’s labour. Women seem to imagine that it will fix equal pay for equal work over the whole gamut of women’s employment, but it merely deals with women who have replaced men, or are performing work that has not previously been done in Australia by women. The object of the bill was stated plainly by the Minister in the last paragraph of his speech. Much talk has been heard about women receiving men’s pay when doing men’s work, but the real object of the bill is to ensure that there shall be no women in the jobs under consideration after the war.
– The real object is to meet the war situation.
– Not at all. The Minister clearly explained that, when the members of the fighting services come back from the war, they must not have to compete with women’s labour. He said -
When the mcn in the tiring line cease the heroic work of war, when those who are risking nil th,it thev have to give, even to laying down their lives in the interests of Australia, return to us in the days of peace, they may not have to face a. form of labour so exploited and cheapened that it becomes a threat to their economic interests and to the possibility of a continuity of employment when post-war reconstruction has to be undertaken.
I think that the Government is right in this matter. The women should not be misled as to the object of this proposal. Am I to understand that, when the men return from the war, the women, so long as they receive the same pay as men, may remain in these jobs ?
– The conditions after the war will be entirely different.
– The suggestion is made in the last paragraph of the Ministers’ speech that this bill is necessary so that, on returning from the war, the men will be put back into the jobs that they have left.
– We say that it is necessary to protect the interests of the women while they are in these jobs.
– No. The Minister should read the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of the bill. Honorable senators opposite cannot get cheap popularity outside by posing as the champions of women., when, in this bill, they say to women : “ You will get temporary jobs at high wages, but when the war is over you will have to give them up.” A previous paragraph in the ministerial speech pointed out. that the number of women already dealt with by the board is 10,288. Yet. the Government says to each of them : “ We shall give you higher wages while you hold your present positions, but you must realize that they are merely temporary jobs. After the war, you must go back to your old job or be out of employment.” We are told that 64,000 more women must be brought into employment in munitions factories and establishments engaged in essential industries. Probably a total of 100,000 will foe required. A serious position has therefore arisen. These women are being trained, and they will acquire a degree of skill which they have never had before. Members of the Government pose as the Sir Galahads of the female population, but the main object of the measure is to see that women are displaced from these positions as soon as the war is over. The returned soldiers must not find themselves displaced by women who happen to have drifted into their positions, and the women should not be left in doubt as to the temporary nature of their employment.
– In some cases that is correct.
– I agree with the honorable senator that our social economics are getting out of line. I believe that the effect of this legislation will he good, but the Government cannot deny .that it is “ bamboozling “ the women of Australia by posing as the champion of women’s labour and of equal pay for equal work. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will accept the amendments which the Opposition will propose to the bill in committee. In that event, I am confident that the measure will not meet with opposition.
– Before I proceed to discuss the bill itself I should like a ruling from you, sir, as to its validity. I have always been under the impression that once the Senate, exercising its sovereign rights - if I may use the expression - has taken certain action in regard to proposals submitted to it, similar proposals may not be dealt with during the same session. I contend that this bill is in substance similar to certain regulations which the Senate disallowed last week. I therefore direct attention to Standing Order 133. which reads -
No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question or amendment which, during the same session, lias been resolved in the affirmative or negative, unless the order, resolution, or vote on such question or amendment has been rescinded. ~ Provided that this Standing Order shall not operate to prevent the proposal of a motion for the disallowance of a regulation or ordinance substantially the. same in effect as one previously disallowed during the same session.
I submit that that standing order has been either ignored or flouted by the Government, seeing that the Senate has already decided to disallow certain regulations which were similar in substance to the schedule of this bill.
– On Wednesday, the 23rd September, the Senate agreed to two motions disallowing regulations under the National Security Act in respect of the employment of women. As the result of its decision those regulations became void. The question now submitted relates to the second reading of a bill which embodies the regulations so disallowed. The Senate as asked to accept those regulations in the form of a schedule of a bill which if passed will become an act of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. This measure is not the same as a motion for disallowance, and I therefore rule that the bill, including the schedule, is in order.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President, but the measure before us, if not similar in substance to regulations which have been disallowed, is, shall I say, a first cousin. The point to which I wish to refer first is that portion of the speech of the Minister who introduced the bill in which he said that “temporary provision has been made by the National Security (Women’s Employment) Regulations made on the 24th September for the validation of decisions made by the board until this bill finally becomes law”. I contend that there was no need whatever to validate the decisions of the board because the position of the female employees now taking the place of male employees was not in jeopardy. I suggest, rather, that the validating of the regulations was a bit of political manoeuvring, in order to cast on the Senate the odium associated with action said’ to prejudice certain female employees. The board which the Government proposes to set up to deal with the employment of women in industry should be more representative. I agree that the Commonwealth Government, which is one of the largest employers of female labour in Australia, is entitled to representation on the board. Other employers of female labour should also be represented on it, as should be the female employees themselves because they will be vitally affected by any decision of the board. Their representative should be directly representative of the female workers in industry, and preferably should be a person who is a working member of a trade union. The male employees, especially those who have enlisted in the fighting forces, should also have a representative to protect their interests. A board of five members so constituted would, I have no doubt, be able to arrive at decisions regarding the temporary employment of females in industry which would be in the interests of those employees as well as of the country generally. I hope that the amendments which are to be moved will be accepted.
– The proposals in the bill before the Senate are similar to certain regulations which were discussed in this chamber a few days ago, and the arguments used on that occasion would apply to this measure. The bill before us embodies provisions for the establishment of a tribunal to control the employment of women in industry. No honorable senator on this side of the chamber has the slightest objection to the establishment of a tribunal to ensure that women shall be paid the remuneration, and shall work under conditions, to which they are justly entitled. The contention of honorable senators on this side is that this bill will not achieve that objective in the best way. Already we have established in this country arbitration courts, wages boards, and other tribunals to deal with wages and conditions in industry. If those bodies are not able to deal with the matters which may arise in connexion with the increased employment of women in industry whatever tribunal is set up for the purpose should, at least, be associated with the arbitration system which has been established. If that were done, the tribunal would have a basis on which to work when fixing the remuneration of women. With other speakers, I agree that had Judge Foster been entrusted with the task which was given to the Women’s Employment Board he would have been able to deal with the same number of appeals as quickly and as effectively as the board has done. He would probably have had to be clothed with additional powers. In his secondreading speech, the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Collings) stressed the large number of decisions made by the board in a short period. Those cases were dealt with expeditiously, not because they were handled by the board, but because of the powers vested in that body. Courts of conciliation and arbitration deal with cases brought before them on a basis which has been set down, but the board was not subject to similar rules. It operated under “ Rafferty’s rules “ ; it was free to do as it liked. Had similar powers been vested in Judge Foster, he could have done the work just as well and just as quickly under the aegis of the Arbitration Court. It has been argued that the Arbitration Court and other tribunals already in existence are so overworked that they could npt cope with the cases which might arise in connexion with the employment of women in much greater numbers. If that be the explanation, more appointments could be made to those tribunals. I find it difficult to understand why so many cases should be awaiting decision by various tribunals if, as we frequently hear from honorable senators opposite, wages have been pegged. Virtually however, they have been pegged in a few notable instances. For instance, the wages of members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces, and the incomes of men conducting small businesses and primary producers have been pegged. Government expenses, however, in respect of boards, committees, ministerial staffs, attendants, secretaries, typists, and accommodation for all these officers have not been pegged. The incomes of men conducting small businesses and of primary producers have been pegged also through taxation. The Government also endeavoured to peg profits at 4 per cent. However, in that instance, wiser counsels prevailed, and it abandoned that proposal. Many civilians are enjoying increased wages; and employees generally retain the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court for improvements of their conditions. Employees are given allowances in respect of war risks and overtime; but members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Australian Military Forces do not receive such treatment. Indeed, the Government retains portion of the soldier’s pay as a post-war credit. Our young airmen who are serving overseas do not stop to think about claiming overtime when they set out nightly on bombing raids over Germany.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– The Opposition does not oppose the bill. However, it takes strong exception to the set-up of the proposed board. It cannot be said that the Opposition has at any time opposed the constitution of a board to fix the wages of females in war industries. We realize, as the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, that the board is not being appointed for all time, but only in order to ensure for the duration of the war, that females are given their just due when they are transferred to industries to take the place of men who are called to a higher duty. These women themselves must realize that when the men return, they must surrender their places in industry to them. I commend to the Government the amendments which have been forecast by members of the Opposition. I sincerely trust that the Government will accept them.
– Professional employees’ organizations, which include State and Federal public servants, teachers, salaried railway officers and professional railway officers, are vitally interested, in the set-up of some tribunal to deal with replacement of males by females, and the conditions under which such replacements are to be permitted. These employees are engaged, almost exclusively, in occupations requiring the exercise of mental skill. The scope for the replacement of males by women is much greater in some trades than in manual occupations. It is the considered opinion of the council of these organizations that the Arbitration Court, as at present con stituted, is unable to deal with this question as expeditiously as a separate tribunal. The argument that such a separate tribunal would be duplicating the work of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, does not apply in the case of a number of these organizations, since they are of a State character, and are, therefore, not registered with that Court, and have no access to it. The awards covering most of these organizations differ from the majority of other awards, inasmuch as they prescribe not only for a minimum wage, but also classifications covering the whole range of salaries of employees in a particular industry from the manager, or permanent head, in the case of the Public Service, downwards. An elaborate structure of classifications has been built up during many years of arbitration and negotiation. The employment of women in classified positions without adequate safeguards would menace the classification of positions rendered vacant by enlistments. In effect, the main concern of these organizations with this problem is to prevent the increased employment of females from adversely affecting the positions to which men at present on service may at some time return. The proposed constitution of the Women’s Employment Board, from the point of view of employee representation, is .most unsatisfactory. If it is not practicable to secure direct representation, these organizations prefer a tribunal with a county court judge or a person of similar status as chairman and assessors or advisers, who could be called in as required to assist the chairman. I commend this suggestion to the Government and I shall support any amendment for the setting up of a tribunal on those lines.
– I agree that in war-time, when conditions change very quickly, we must adapt our normal peace-time standards and methods to the new conditions. As one who was a member of the Government which enacted the National Security Act, I fully appreciate the need which arises from time to time to have recourse to the provisions of that legislation to a degree which w,as not originally contemplated. Therefore, I am not opposed to the issue of regulations to meet special circumstances whenever important matters are at stake. However, we have been given to-day an illustration of the danger of resorting willy-nilly to the powers conferred upon the Government under the National Security Act, when due consideration is not given to the objectives to be achieved, or to the methods by which control shall be exercised. In this case, regulations have been issued for the purpose of setting up a Women’s Employment Board to deal with female labour engaged in war industries. It has already been pointed out that the original set of regulations has since been amended on six, or seven, occasions. It was owing to the fact that even the amended regulations did not meet the needs of the case, that the Opposition was obliged to take the only course open to it to rectify the position. I remind honorable senators of the petulant outbursts that were directed against us by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) and other Ministers, because of that action on our part. However, possibly as the result of the debate which took place on that occasion, and, perhaps, because of the further consideration which the Government has given to the subject, no very warm enthusiasm has been displayed by honorable senators opposite for the proposals now presented in this measure. Apparently, the bill destroys entirely the political propaganda value of the original regulations, and the board as it was previously constituted. Senator Leckie has rightly pointed out that in spite of the statement of the Leader of the Senate that the Government’s original proposal was not a party political move, but wa3 solely designed to meet the circumstances, all of the speeches of honorable senators opposite on. the subject were calculated to make party political capital out of it. This morning, we find that that enthusiasm has been completely undermined. Apparently, honorable senators opposite now take the view that no party political value is to be obtained from this measure. The Minister’s second-reading speech is illuminating. It is most interesting, first, because of its inaccuracies, and, secondly, because it contains statements which entirely explode the claim of the Government as to its real intentions when it set up the board. Our need at present is to transfer women to war industries on a fair and just basis. All honorable senators are on common ground in that respect. However, we are not in agreement on the Government’s view that thi.? cannot be effected except through the establishment of a board of this kind. Prior to the appointment of the board thousands of women were engaged in war industries. Until the advent of the Women’s Employment Board, little or no industrial trouble occurred among women workers. It might consequently be assumed, from those very peaceful conditions, that no great injustice was being done to them. Therefore, the ordinary arbitration system could have operated in relation to whatever matters came up from time to time for consideration, just as successfully as in the past. The suggestion that the Arbitration Court could not have done what this board has done is completely without foundation. The Leader of the Senate admitted, in his second-reading speech, that the matters upon which this board is asked to adjudicate are entirely dissimilar to those which arbitration courts usually settle. Consequently, the time taken by arbitration courts in their much wider field of investigation is no guide to what a judge of the court - and the chairman of this board is a judge - could have done in these circumstances. Secondly, it has been said that one of the purposes of this or any other method of conciliation or arbitration is to remove any cause of industrial unrest. I mentioned previously that there had been practically no such unrest amongst this section of the workers. However, as further women are called up, and begin to compete with men for jobs - not now. but, as the Leader of the Government says, at a later date - certain friction may be expected to occur. Whatever causes of unrest could have existed in the previous situation, it must be admitted that the position being created now, with the board only really starting on its job of adjudication, is infinitely more difficult, and the possibility of industrial strife has been greatly increased. We have been told that the matters that ha~e been referred to the board cover about 10,000 females, most of whom are engaged in government munitions factories. Upon that basis, the Leader of the Senate has tried to show how small an effect anything that could be done in relation to those people would have upon the whole- industrial position, although he knows perfectly well that, whatever anomalies the board has removed, a great many more have been created in a most vicious manner. Whilst there may be anomalies in an industry as between different factories or different trades, here we have anomalies created under the one roof. Women who were not previously engaged in an industry are now working under the decisions of the board alongside women who, long before the board was appointed, were working in it, and therefore have no right to the benefits given ‘by the board. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that the board is not removing anomalies, but is in fact creating many difficulties, which I admit have not up to the present given, rise to any great industrial trouble, although they will undoubtedly do so in the near future. Furthermore, we were justified in raising these issues, because even the present Government, with its completely rigid and dogmatic outlook, has taken into account some of the points we raised in connexion with the regulations. I admit that the Government has not gone as far as we should like, or as far as I believe it will go ‘before the bill leaves this chamber. We criticized the powers of the board, and definitely pointed out how limited was the scope within which its decisions could be made. We are, therefore, pleased that in the drafting of this bill greater latitude has ‘been given to the board. The Government has to a certain extent seen the light, and shown that it is prepared to allow the board some latitude, by amending some of the regulation’s which we were told were complete and perfect. According to the schedule, the board, instead of being tied down entirely to the efficiency aspect of female labour, is allowed to take into account such other factors as it thinks fit. That is a very satisfactory and an entirely justifiable increase of its power. I hope that the board will, when considering these matters, take into account factors which have no relation at all to efficiency, but may have a very real effect upon female employees1. Another improvement has been made in the regulations, which definitely limited the power of tie board in regard to awards. Instead of being rigidly tied down to a prescribed date, the board may now specify the date on which its awards shall become operative although it cannot go back before the 2nd March, 1942. Those two amendments were most desirable. If the Government is prepared to show the same tolerance towards, and take the same impartial view of, the proposals which we shall make in committee, we shall be able to send from this chamber a measure which is a very definite improvement upon the regulations which were criticized by those on this side of the chamber. I do not say that the bill will be perfect, because there are in the board certain inherent defects which, if the Government is obstinate, will prevent it functioning as it should and could in different circumstances. Still, I am pleased that the Government has shown some wisdom. It has realized, in spite of the continual flow of accusations from its supporters that our criticisms are obstructive, destructive and a hindrance to the war effort, that there is some substance in them, and is prepared to consider them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause 4 (Saving).
.- The first portion of this clause is quite unnecessary. Apparently it is part of the Government’s campaign to misrepresent the action which the Opposition took in this chamber last week in disallowing certain regulations. On that occasion it was pointed out clearly that the disallowance would not render inoperative any of the awards which already had been made by the Women’s Employment Board. These awards were preserved by regulations 9 and 10 of Statutory Rules 1942, No. 146, under which the determinations of the Women’s Employment Board were given the effect of awards of the Arbitration Court. There was no move in this chamber, nor has there ever been a move, to disallow either of those regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
.- I move -
That, in regulation 5, sub-regulation (1.), after the word “ chairman “ the following words be inserted: - “who shall be a judge of a county court, or a court of similar status, or a supreme court of a State, or of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.”
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the chairman of the board will have the status of a judge of a county court, a supreme court, or the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As the regulation stands at present, the Government could appoint any one to the position. I have no objection whatever to the present chairman, but there is always the possibility that he might not continue to hold that office. The amendment is innocuous and would ensure that whoever was appointed chairman of the board would have high qualifications, and would be accustomed to sifting evidence and making determinations in accordance with the merits of the case with which he was dealing.
– Much as I should like to meet the wishes of the honorable senator I have to announce that the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
.- I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to be a little more explicit in his refusal to accept my amendment. His reply would indicate that he personally is sympathetic towards the proposal, and I should like to know what the objections to it are. Surely honorable senators are entitled to some explanation as to why the amendment is not acceptable to the Government. If the amendment were carried it would not disqualify the present chairman. If the board is presided over by some one who has the status of a judge, the people generally will have more confidence in it. I should like some assurance that Judge Foster will not be dismissed and replaced by, say, a union secretary.
– I assure Senator Leckie that the Government has no such sinister intention. The Government is endeavouring to meet the wishes of the majority of honorable senators by concluding to-day’s sitting as early as possible. Nothing that I could say would alter the fact that the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment.
– Surely, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has not the effrontery to refuse 1o answer a question asked by an honorable senator on this side of the chamber merely because he proposes to adjourn the Senate at an early hour. This chamber does not normally adjourn on Fridays until 4 o’clock, and there is still plenty of time for the Minister to give reasons for the Government’s refusal to accept Senator Leckie’s amendment. The Government has endeavoured to impress upon honorable senators the importance of the work that has to be done by this board, so surely it is not unreasonable that we should endeavour to ensure that the chairman shall be a man of some status. The fact that Senator Leckie has proposed that the chairman should be some one who is accustomed to sifting evidence and giving, impartial decisions demonstrates clearly that we on this side of the chamber are fully cognizant of the importance of this tribunal. This amendment has been moved with the best possible intentions, and I consider that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are entitled to be given some reason why the -Government cannot accept it.
– I have accepted the moving of this amendment by Senator Leckie in the spirit to which Senator McBride has referred. I believe that it was moved in all sincerity, and I thought that I was meeting the convenience of honorable senators by not going into a lengthy discussion, but merely stating that the amendment was not acceptable to the Government. Should I start to give reasons for my refusal to accept it an interminable discussion might result. The Government considers that the amendment would unduly limit its choice in the selection of a chairman. It appointed the present chairman, and it has no intention of dispensing with his services, or reducing the status of the chairman, but it does not wish to be limited in its choice should the necessity for the appointment of a new chairman arise. No such limitation is imposed in connexion with appointments to the Arbitration Court. If the amendment were accepted it would mean that a man who might have qualifications and ability equal to that of Judge O’Mara, but who was not a member of the Arbitration Court Bench, would he ineligible for appointment. There are many men who are not members of the judiciary, but who have a wide knowledge of industrial matters, and such a limitation might mean that the Government would be unable to secure the services of the best man available for the job. I repeat that the Government deliberately appointed a judge to this position and it has no intention of departing from that practice.
.- I consider that the Government’s choice in the selection of a chairman for this board should be limited to a judge of one of the jurisdictions enumerated in the amendment. There is good reason for such a limitation because in the past the Government has not shown much aptitude in making certain other appointments.. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) claimed that the Government’s choice would be unduly limited if the amendment were accepted but the jurisdictions specified in the amendment include all county courts in the Commonwealth, six supreme courts, as well as the arbitration courts. In addition, it would be possible to secure the services of any qualified person by first appointing him to the Arbitration Court. That course should present no difficulty at all. Having regard to the character of the tribunal and the important work that it has to do, I consider that we are justified in moving an amendment which is aimed at ensuring that the person who fills the office of chairman shall be an individual who is fully qualified by virtue of his judicial experience.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Leckie’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . Nil
– The numbers of “ Ayes “ and “ Noes “ being equal, the question is resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That, in regulation 5, sub-regulation (1.), after the word “employees”, the following words be added: - “at least one of whom shall be a woman.”.
According to the Government, this board is to be appointed particularly for the protection of women employees. It is to be constituted in such a form that there will be representatives of employers and employees, and we should see that women employees are represented on the board by a woman. This becomes particularly necessary, because there was no representative of women employees on the former board.
– Suppose the women employees wish to decide otherwise?
– I am a little surprised that the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) should suggest that no conditions should be attached to the constitution of the board. Have we reached a stage at which the Parliament must say to the Trades Hall Council, “ You can have representation on this board, but we have nothing to say about the class of representation you are to have.” The whole purpose of the regulations is to ensure that the people who are to be protected by this board shall have ample representation. The board is to be appointed, not for the benefit of the Trades Hall Council, but for the protection of women workers. In these circumstances, we are entitled to ensure that at least one of the representatives shall be an employee of the class with which the board is to be concerned. My recollection of the action taken with regard to the representation of employers on this board is that it was quite different from what the Minister suggests should be the proper attitude to the Trades Hall Council. He says that, it would never do to dictate to that body; but, when we were considering the representation of employers, and the employers themselves made their own nomination of a representative, the Government refused to accept it, and decided to appoint an employee in place of the person nominated by the employers. If such tender feelings are to be displayed towards the Trades Hall Council, the Government should act in a similar way towards the employers. The employers should have a perfect right to appoint the same number of representatives to the hoard as the employees. I am surprised that hostility should be shown to this amendment. It seems extraordinary if, between this morning and the present time, the Labour party has turned into an anti-feminist organization.
Does the Government object to one woman being a member of the board to represent the employees? I think that the women of this country would be surprised to learn that they have been let down in this matter.
– I know what would be said by honorable senators if I submitted first the main reason why the amendment should be rejected, so I shall reverse the process. This is a restrictive proposal, which could easily prevent the making of the best appointment. There is no good reason why we should attempt to restrict the choice. “We do not do that in other regulations under which the Government makes appointments to boards. In no other case has the choice been restricted by legislative action when the Government has constituted tribunals. The principal reason why the present amendment should be rejected is that it is not acceptable to the Government.
– I am appalled to hear the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings), who has shed what is now known to be crocodile tears over the women employees in this country. Although members of the Opposition had definite views as to the reason why the Government brought this board into being, and why it wished to limit the field over which decisions might be made by t,he board, it was not till to-day that the Government admitted that the purpose of the bill was to create conditions so that the women now brought into industry could not remain in industry during the post-war period. Now we are told that, despite the fact that these women are being “led up the garden path”, all the tears that have been shed over them were insincere. We have an admission from the Leader of the Senate that this Government is not prepared to allow these women to have a female representative on the board. I know that the Minister will say that the representatives of the women on the board will be selected by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. He does not say that that Council is probably 90 per cent, representative of male workers. A nice chance the 10 per cent, of female workers associated with the Council will have to get one of their own sex appointed ! The purpose behind this proposal is that women shall not enjoy the conditions to be provided for them one moment longer than can be prevented. It must be clear to honorable senators, as ultimately it will be only too clear to the female workers in industry, that the Government has no sympathy with them, but is carrying out to an extraordinary degree the dictates of the male section of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– As the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has said, the amendment proposes to restrict the choice of women in regard to their representation on the board. Mr. Wallis, who is a member of the board, is federal president of the Clothing Trades Employees Union. Previously he was secretary of the Victorian branch. On each occasion that he has been elected he has been chosen by a majority of women, because women predominate among the members of that union. Their freedom of choice in the selection of their officers and representatives is not restricted as honorable senators opposite would restrict women employees under the proposed amendment. So far as I know the only union in Melbourne with a membership consisting mostly of female workers which has selected a woman as its representative is associated with the confectionery trade. Previously, that union was represented by a man. Should a union consisting mostly of women approach the court on any matter, it may choose as its representative either a man or a woman. It is not right to say that the Government is opposed to the appointment of a woman to the board. The women in the trade union movement may select whom they like as their representative. They may prefer to choose a man.
– It would appear that we are losing sight of the object of this legislation, which is to deal with problems associated with the employment of women in great numbers in certain industries. Surely there is no parallel between what is contemplated here and the cases cited by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). If the decision were to be left to the women employees, well and good; but here it is proposed that the Government shall make the decision. ‘ The women who are affected by this legislation constitute a new class of worker, and it is most desirable that their views should be expressed by one *of themselves. A male representative may not truly represent them. In my second-reading speech I said that this was a most important economic measure. Unless we are anxious to have industrial unrest, the large body of female employees in industry should have a voice in the fixing of wages and conditions for women industrialists. On the previous board a women was appointed to represent the employers; but this bill does not deal with the interests of employers ; it deals with women employees who will attend machines day after day.
– Does the honorable senator favour equal pay for women doing the same work as men?
– Undoubtedly I do. That is one important matter in regard to which I am in accord with honorable senators opposite. Equal pay for equal work is a sound principle. The only way to get a proper balance is to give women employees representation on the board. Those workers are the people vitally concerned, because they are the people who have to do the work. Therefore, they are the people whom this measure was designed to protect, and whose conditions it will regulate. The least that we can do is to ensure that one of themselves shall be on the board.
– Honorable senators opposite give only lip service to the principle of equal pay for women.
– I do not put that view forward, but I say that, as women are the .people mostly concerned with this legislation, they should have representation on the body which controls their conditions of employment. I support the amendment.
.- I am astonished at the attitude of the Government in regard to the amendment moved by Senator Spicer. First, members of the Government and its supporters say that women are the equal of men, and then they say that only men are fit to lay down the conditions under which women shall work.
– That has not been said.
– Ministers and government supporters, especially the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), spoke of the high standard of the work performed by women in industry ; but when it comes to appointing some one to fix the conditions of employment for women, they say that a man must be entrusted with the task. The Government has not consulted the people mostly concerned. Honorable senators will observe that whereas the bill provides that the Minister shall consult with the appropriate employers’ organizations, it does not provide that he shall consult with the appropriate organizations representing the employees. Instead, it provides that he shall consult the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The women who will be affected by this legislation are principally women associated with the engineering and metal trades. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions does not represent the metal trades. Its president, Mr. Monk, was previously secretary of the Clerks Union ; Mr. Crofts is secretary of the Gas Employees Union; Mr. Clarey is the representative of the Storemen and Packers Union; whilst Mr. Reilly is the representative of the Manufacturing Grocers Employees Union. I understand that members of unions associated with the metal trades are somewhat restive about being represented by persons who are not associated with their trades at all. Under this bill, the Ministry says not only that women shall not be represented on the board by one of themselves, but also that it will consult with a body which is not concerned in the class of work which the women to be controlled by the board will do. That is. an anomaly. There must be some reason why the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, instead of the appropriate employees’ organizations, is to be consulted. The amendment should meet with the support of honorable senators opposite who have praised women for their ability, ingenuity and adaptability. They should agree to give to women some voice in the management of concerns with which they are connected. I should not object if provision were made that one of the representatives of the employers shall be a woman. The attitude of honorable senators opposite leaves me cold. First. they exhibit great concern for the welfare and future of women in industry; but now they are prepared to turn them out neck and crop.
– Senator Leckie’s oratory, whilst being very interesting, was entirely inaccurate. Honorable senators opposite, who hare spoken to this amendment, are horribly mixed in their knowledge of the subject. After they have flogged the Government because they allege it is under the domination of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, we have a dissertation from Senator Leckie complaining of the oppressive attitude of the Government towards employees. The honorable senator mentioned the names of four gentlemen whom he associated with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. To show how little he knows about the matter, one of those gentlemen no longer has anything to do with that body. Another is not occupied in the direction which the honorable senator indicated. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions is representative of organizations which include thousands of women employees among their members. Let me read sub-regulation 3 of regulation 5 -
Before appointing the representative of employers other than the Commonwealth, the Minister shall consult the employers’ organizations; . .. .
– I have read that.
– And the honorable senator does not take objection to it, although, to be consistent, he should do so. Sub-regulation 3 continues - and, before appointing the representative of employees, he shall consult with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
The only reason why we have not specified the employers’ organization to be consulted is because we are not equipped with inside knowledge of such bodies. If honorable senators opposite will name the employers’ organization to which reference should be made, the Government will have no objection whatever to specifying it. Incidentally, I should be sorry for the strife such action would cause among employers’ organizations generally. The point is that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is an organization of employees to which we can refer with perfect confidence. The Government cannot accept the amendment for the reason, which I did not give previously because I thought that it was self-evident that its adoption would restrict the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in the choice of its representatives. Honorable senators opposite declare that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions must select a woman. The Government is prepared to leave that selection to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which can speak for organizations which include many women in their members. If it named an employers’ organization for the same purpose it would not restrict the choice of that organization by saying that it must select a man.
– The Government would not accept the employers’ choice in any case.
– Let the honorable senator try us on that point. Further, in order to ensure that there will be no ground for any suggestion of impartiality sub-regulation 5 of regulation 5 states - .
The chairman of the board may, at his discretion, appoint from time to time (according to the subject-matter to be dealt with by the board) two advisers, who shall sit with and advise the board, but shall not otherwise take any part in the decision of the board on any application.
This provision will obviate mistakes on the part of the board in dealing with industries with which its members are not familiar. I do not believe that there is any sinister motive behind the amendments proposed by honorable senators opposite. I give them credit for their desire to help the Government. At the same time, I ask them to believe that there is nothing sinister behind the Government’s proposals.
– The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Collings) has just said that he believes that there is nothing sinister behind our amendments. I cannot understand why the Government objects to this amendment. The object of this bill, as its preamble sets out, is to encourage and regulate the employment of women for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of the war. Yet the Government refuses to give representation on the board to the very women in whose interests it brings down the measure. These women are entitled to at least one representative on theboard.
– There is nothing to prevent them from having two representatives.
– Honorable senators opposite know very well that the trade unions are opposed to the. employment of women in industry, and are yielding in this matter only under pressure from the Government. I know, as well as they do, that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is opposed to the appointment of a woman as a member of this board. The attitude of the council is that women have been admitted to industry, but they shall go so far and no farther.
– The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Collings) said Senator Spicer’s amendment was restrictive. I cannot conceive what ground he has for that argument. This tribunal has been appointed to prescribe wages and conditions in respect of approximately 60,000 females now employed in war industries. That number will soon be increased to 100,000. With so many thousands of women to draw upon in the selection of a representative of female employees on the board, I fail to understand the Minister’s contention. Indeed, Senator Spicer’s amendment does not go far enough. It should also provide that the other representative of the employees should be a returned soldier. We must remember that these women are being transferred to war industries in order to take the place of men who have enlisted in the armed forces. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask that one of the employees’ representatives on the board should be a woman, and the other should represent the men who are being displaced by those women. Whether, or not, the employees’ representative is appointed by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the fact remains that war-time conditions of employment demand certain action.
– The Australasian Council of Trade Unions could still nominate a woman.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That is so; but I should prefer that the Government select the representative of the female employees from among those women. For instance, it would be fitting for the Government to select a woman who is employed in the Maribyrnong munitions factory. Such a person would understand the viewpoint of female employees better than any professional gentleman on the Australasian Council of Trade Unions whose knowledge of actual working conditions is insignificant. The representative of the female employees should be a woman worker who has a practical knowledge of all matter.” upon which the board will adjudicate. My second request that thu other employees’ representative should be a returned soldier is justified on the ground that the men who are leaving industry in order to serve in the armed forces will, upon the termination of hostilities, want their positions back. Such action would create an excellent impression among the soldiers. They would know that this phase at least of their repatriation was being attended to. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to posture on behalf of returned soldiers if they are prepared now to allow a situation to develop which will prejudice the claims of ex-soldiers when they seek rehabilitation in industry. Deeds speak much louder than words. The opportunity to do the right thing i= now offered to the Government by an industrial condition created by the war, in which women arc temporarily taking the place of our soldiers, but the Government ignores the situation, even to the extent of refusing to agree to Senator Spicer’3 amendment. I ask it to give consideration to the aspects that I have put, and to make a practical demonstration of its sym pathy with both the women and the returned men.
Senator SPICER (Victoria) [3.16J.- I am surprised at the display by the Minister of his somewhat lamentable lack of knowledge of the bill. He has told the committee that the amendment would place an unfair restriction on the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. That council has not the right to select any member of the board. All that the bill provides is that the council shall be consulted, not that the person whose name it suggests must be accepted. The Government, or the Minister, has to make the appointment. We are induced to press for the amendment only because, when the previous board operated, the Government entirely disregarded the rights of women. It appointed the people suggested by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, both of whom were men, giving no representation to women employees at all. The Minister suggested that there was no precedent for what I proposed, but there have been precedents for it in legislation passed quite recently. It was provided, for instance, that one member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission must be a woman. I did not hear the Minister complain then that an undue restriction was being placed on the Government’s choice.
– The two measures cannot be compared.
– I am disposed to agree with the Minister, because there is far more reason to appoint a woman to a body of this kind, which is peculiarly concerned with the interests of women, than to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Nobody on that commission represents either employer? or employees.
– There is that distinction, but I do not know what it. ha= to do with the case. The Government, in the appointment of this board, has recognized the existence of two types of employers, government and private, and has divided up the employer representation by appointing a representative of each. Similarly, there are two types of employees vitally interested in the work of the board. Their interests are not quite the same, and in some respects are even opposed. I do not suggest that either should be excluded, but the fact that they both exist and that their interests conflict is quite sufficient reason for the committee to insist on the interests of women being separately represented.
.- I am surprised that there has been any discussion on the amendment. I thought that the Government and the committee would accept it without hesitation, because it is so genuinely fair, and, as Senator A. J. McLachlan pointed out, will, within the next year or two, probably affect the lives of nearly 100,000 women. “What becomes of the claims of honorable senators opposite that in days gone by they assisted women in their fight for the suffrage? Only a few years ago, in order to make their claims for the suffrage heard by the British Parliament, women chained themselves to railings in London streets and to the galleries of the House of Commons. This bill, as we have pointed out over and over again, affects women, their future, and the work they are going to do in the industries to which they are called up. It is quite probable that much of their work will be compulsory before the war is over. A striking indication of the need for the proper representation of women in industry was given recently by a resolution passed by the employees of the Brisbane Tramways. The motion, which was a slur on the honour of the men who passed it, was that if women were employed on the trams, and there was no late tram to take them home, they should be compelled to walk home, and to suffer all the disadvantages that the men had suffered. That shows that women’s interests must be looked after by one of their own sex. The Government is asking for a board of five, to deal entirely and exclusively with women in industry. “We, therefore, advocate the representation of women on the board by one of their own sex who understands their problems. I am surprised that at this stage of the world’s progress it was thought necessary to discuss the amendment. I expected it to be carried unanimously by a committee ready and willing to give women the opportunity to secure the proper representation of their interests.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Spicer’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . Nil
– I move -
That, in regulation 5, after sub-regulation (2.), the following new sub-regulation be added: - “ (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 a managerial capacity.”
This matter has been debated here previously, and all I wish to say is that the bill will stand as a monument to the partisanship displayed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), who, by reason of the many statements he has made on different occasions, has shown himself to be a new Lang who “ out-Langs “ Lang. It is beyond my comprehension, having regard to the importance of the work entrusted to the board, the number of women employed by the Commonwealth, and the far-reaching effects of this legislation, that a responsible Minister should so prostitute his authority as to suggest that an employee is a fitting person to represent the Commonwealth which is an employer.
– The person referred to was a Commonwealth officer, appointed by the Government of which the honorable senator was a member.
– Any Minister who tries to extricate himself by making such a statement is only trying to fool himself and the committee. The woman was appointed to the board in quite another capacity. The way in which the Minister constituted the board will go down in history as a farce and a disgrace.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
Question put -
That the sub-regulation proposed to be added (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown)
Majority . . . . Nil
.- I move -
That, in regulation 5, sub-regulation (8.), the words “ a majority of votes “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the Chairman”.
The effect of this amendment will be that all decisions will be made by the chairman. It will be seen now that there was some significance in my previous amendment which specified that the chairman of this board should be a judge of high standing. I contend that as the chairman will be a man of repute selected by the Government and will have competent advisers to guide him, decisions of the board should remain in his hands. There could be nothing fairer than that. If the Government refuses to accept this amendment it will mean that it has no confidence in its own nominee and is suspicious of his impartiality. I hope that the Leader of theSenate (Senator Collings) will not merely say that the amendment is not acceptable to the Government. Such brief statements are not in keeping with his usual vociferous attitude. If the amendment be carried, a great deal of the ill feeling against this- measure will disappear, and the Government will be relieved of the responsibility of ensuring that the board shall be completely impartial. I have no objection to members of the board discussing, with the chairman, the evidence taken, but the final judgment should be left to the chairman. As this sub-regulation now stands, the judge would be able to cover himself up by saying that a decision was not his,but a majority decision of the board. Also the carrying of this amendment would eliminate much of the distrust between employers and employees that exists at present
.- The amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
.- The Government has deliberately adopted every available device to ensure that this tribunal will not be impartial. I should not have been disposed to support this amendment, were it not for the fact that the whole structure of this tribunal is lop-sided. The Government professes a desire to appoint an impartial, independent chairman but it is not prepared to run the risk of that chairman giving a decision which may not be in accordance with the wishes of the representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. We are told that the tribunal will be impartial, but the fact is that the independent chairman, together with the sole representative of the employers, will be overruled by the three representatives of the employees. That position can be rectified. Even at this late stage, all the appearance of partiality could be removed if the Government agreed to trust the independent chairman, whom it will appoint, to come to a fair decision after having heard the employers’ and employees’ representatives. It is deplorable that the Government should persist in the maintenance of a tribunal that is heavily loaded against the employers. I have always thought that strict impartiality, even among members of a tribunal, is perhaps of less importance than an appearance of impartiality. If we wish to engender confidence in tribunals of this kind, we should make them appear to be impartial, but the Government is setting out deliberately to appoint a board which will be loaded against the employers. Apparently, ithas not sufficient confidence in its own choice of a chairman.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Leckie’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Honorable senators will have observed that sub-regulation 5 of regulation 6 of the schedule has been amended in important particulars since the women’s employment regulations were disallowed by this chamber. I am tempted to refer to this fact becauseI am afraid that I unintentionally misrepresented some of the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) in his speech on the bill this morning. As I understand the position, the board as originally appointed was not entitled, in coming to its decisions, to have regard to any factor other than that of comparative efficiency. But that is not so now, as the result of an amendment moved by the Opposition in the House of Representatives and agreed to. The board can now have regard to factors other than comparative efficiency, and that seems to me to be an important improvement of the jurisdiction of the board. It will remove the restriction on which Judge Foster commented in the judgment to which reference has been made in the debate on the bill. The schedule was also amended in another particular, in that the board is not now bound to make its awards retrospective to the 2nd March.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - I have to inform the Senate that further consideration of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives has been deferred pending reference of the bill to a joint committee consisting of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), as chairman, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser), and Senator Allan MacDonald.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Thursday next, at 3 p.m.
The following paper was presented : -
Judiciary Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1042, No. 409.
Semite adjourned at 3.53 p.m
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 October 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19421002_senate_16_172/>.