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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr BRENNAN - Is it not clear that this authority has been set np because of the increased employment of women under the abnormal conditions of war?

Mr MENZIES - I direct the attention of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to regulation 6 which refers to " a shortage or impending shortage of male labour " and provides that an employer who desires to employ females must make an application to the board, setting out the nature of the work he desires to have done. Quite obviously, this new authority will have to deal with a wide variety of callings. I criticize the regulations on the ground that they deal with a situation which is not limited in any way, and because they remove from the Arbitration Court a large part of its authority.

Mr Rosevear - No doubt the basis of the decisions of the Women's Employment Board will be the findings of th" Arbitration Court.

Mr MENZIES - We do not know that. In fact, the contrary is provided for, because, whereas the court has prescribed that the base rates of pay for women shall he 54 per cent, of those applicable to men, these regulations provide that the special tribunal may fix the base rates, but they shall not be less than 60 per cent, nor more than 100 per cent, of the rates applicable to men. The establishment of this board undoubtedly implies a subtraction from the functions of the Arbitration Court.

The second major principle that T criticize has relation to the constitution of the board. I invite the earnest attention of honorable gentlemen opposite to this point. In particular, I call the attention of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to it. Subregulation 2 of regulation 5 provides -

The board shall consist of a chairman, one special representative of employers and one special representative of employees, and, in addition, two other members to be appointed from time to time (according to the subject-matter to be dealt with by the board), one of whom shall represent an employers' organization, and the other an employees' organization.

Let us deal first with the core of the board. At first sight, it may seem to be quite fair to provide that a direct representative of the employers and of employees shall be appointed to act with an impartial chairman, because an impartial chairman should be able to make up his mind as between the interested parties. The chairman of the board is Judge Foster, of the County Court of Victoria.

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