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Friday, 29 March 1946

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - On the 14th March, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the following questions : -

1.   In the process of reinstating; exservicemen in the Public Service, what is the basis of priority on which dismissal of temporary clerks is carried out?

2.   Is it a fact, as has been represented to me, that women clerks are dismissed first, solely on the ground of sex?

3.   If so, in view of the fact that many of these women, including widows, have dedependants, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that in future those circumstances will he taken into consideration?

To those inquiries the Prime Minister replied as follows: -

1   . The order of discharge for those employed after 3rd September, 1939, is (i) women or single men; (ii) married men without family; (iii) married men, including men, who, having been married, are supporting children under the age of fourteen years; (iv) members of the forces who have served overseas in a combat area in Australia, or for not less than six. months in Australia, and persons judged to bc entitled to preference in accordance with the length, locality and nature of their service.

2.   See answer to No. 1.

3.   See answer to No. 1.

T draw the attention of the House to the fact that married men, including men who, having been married, are supporting children under the age of fourteen years, are third in the order of discharge, whilst, women, whether single or widows supporting children, are first on the list for dismissal. I do not propose to discuss the equality of the sexes in employment in the Public Service, but the Government should give consideration to the claims of women who are bread-winners as well as men who support families. I have particulars before me of the case of a woman who is a widow and supports four children. She states--

I cannot see why any government should pretend to think that all bread-winners are men. Why should those children whose fathers are dead be further penalized? They have as much right to be adequately maintained as if their father had not died: Why does our Government object to a mother's claims for an adequate wage?

Not only are women first on the list for dismissal, but in order to facilitate the return to the Public Service of the men who have been abroad they are to be demoted. During the war they have been given positions as temporary clerks on a wage equal to that of a permanent male officer, but, now they are to be demoted to a fern-ale category. My correspondent further states -

All women " clerks " are being demoted to a " female " classification, as the first step in the retrenchment programme. Single men, not necessarily returned soldiers,' either remain " clerks " on the full male pay, whilst widows with dependent children revert to the classification of typist, assistant clerk, machine operator, or some purely " female " occupation, on a wage calculated to keep only one . . . lt has been arranged that, as from the end of March, I am to be transferred to a female rate of pay, and shall have to keep five people on a wage designed to keep one. Some Government regulation precludes women from classifying as clerks except as a war-time emergency. During the war. temporary female clerks received the permanent mule rate.

I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who now sits at the table, has a kind heart and a sense of justice. 1 trust that the claims of women who are supporting dependants will receive bis sympathetic consideration, particularly at this time when there are many more widows in Australia than there would be in normal times. The matter needs more thought now than at any other period.

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