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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr WARD (East Sydney) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - I think it will be agreed by any who care to look at this matter impartially that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has made the best case that he could make in the circumstances. But I would also say that, if what he has submitted to this House is the sole argument that can be advanced by him for the disallowance of these regulations, I can well understand why his career as an eminent, lawyer has been studded with, so many glorious failures. The right honorable gentleman is completely unrealistic. When this Government assumed office last October, it discovered that many things which might have been done had not been done. Australia is in a critical situation; but, as the result of the activities of the present Government, the situation is less critical to-day than it was when the Government assumed office, simply because the country is in a much better position to meet a crisis. The Government found itself faced with the problem that was caused by greater demands being made in respect of man-power for the services and for industry. Consequently, there was greater need for the introduction of larger numbers of women into all branches of industry. This gave rise to difficulties for the present Administration, as it would have done for any other administration; because, in having women introduced into sections of industry in which they had not previously been employed, it found itself faced with the necessity to confer with the respective trade unions, which naturally would not have co-operated unless they had been given certain guarantees, and in consequence the best results could not have been achieved. One of the matters that quite rightly troubled the trade unions was, that many captains of industry were anxious to secure the engagement of larger numbers of women for the simple reason that they regarded female labour as a reservoir from which they might draw cheap labour; they wanted the women, if they could secure their services at what are termed women's rates. Thus, a special problem was created for the Government. I am not here to examine the various reasons for the interminable delays that have occurred in the determination of matters that have been submitted to the Arbitration Court from time to time. It was necessary to dispose of these problems as rapidly as possible, because obviously the unions would have become very suspicious in regard to what was intended if decisions were delayed for twelve months or longer, as had happened in connexion with certain matters that had been submitted to existing tribunals. Therefore, the Government decided to set up a special tribunal to deal with a special problem. The tribunal established was no more than what may be termed a wages board. There are wages boards in Victoria, but the right honorable member for Kooyong does not argue that on that account the rights or the functions of the Arbitration Court are infringed.

Mr Holt - Wages boards do not deal with important matters of principle.

Mr WARD - They deal with the fixation of wages and the determination of industrial problems, which are matters that would ordinarily be submitted to the Arbitration Court for decision. That is all that this particular tribunal is to do. Anticipating one of the arguments that may be advanced in reply to my contention that delay will thus be obviated, namely, because of the regulations pegging wages the Arbitration Court will not be so busy as it has been previously, may I say to honorable members opposite that, despite the fact that wages were pegged as at the 10th February last, except under certain special conditions, the time in which the Arbitration Court may deal with the matters it then had before it has already had to be extended. The regulations first provided that those matters should be disposed of by the l3t May. An extension to the 1st June has already been made and, judging by the reports that have been received, it will be necessary to grant a further extension by many more months. Some of the Arbitration Court judges are busily engaged in other activities. Chief Judge Piper has been given the very important appointment of chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Judge Drake-Brockman is chairman of the Centra] Coal Reference Board. Already there has been considerable complaint in regard to the delays occasioned on that board. It can therefore be realized that the argument that the Arbitration Court is quite competent and able to deal with these matters expeditiously will not bear examination. The Government therefore determined to establish a special tribunal to deal with thi3 special problem.

Let us examine the remarks of the right honorable member for Kooyong. Carrying his argument to its logical conclusion, it would not be possible for women, no matter what their efficiency or productive capacity might be compared with men, to obtain the same rate of pay in any industry in which they had displaced men. The right honorable member merely proposes to give to the employers the right to introduce cheap labour into their different industries. The aim of the Government is to obtain greater production, but not by allowing the employers to exploit the situation by displacing males with female labour simply because it can be obtained at a cheaper rate. The argument that women should not receive the same pay as men, will not bear examination. The right honorable member for Kooyong spoke of the family responsibilities of a man compared with those of a woman. In his own profession, a woman charges fees equal to those charged by a man. That i3 the position also in the medical profession, and in many branches of industry, such as the boot trade, and the transport services. Women have been introduced into the transport services of Melbourne at the male rate of pay. Nobody in this Parliament has suggested that it is wrong to give to those women the full male rate. Because it was discovered that women were quite competent to do the work involved, no objection was raised by the employers or by any honorable member of this House to their being placed on an equal basis, in regard to wages and conditions, with the men whom they had displaced.

Mr Menzies - If the proposition of the honorable gentleman be that in all circumstances, whatever the nature of the work, women shall receive the same pay as men, why do the regulations provide that they shall get not less than 60 per cent, of the male rate?.

Mr WARD - The proposition is not, and I have not argued, that in all circumstances the pay shall be equal. There are many factors which, the Government recognizes shall be taken into account when determining what wages shall be paid. But it says that, where it can be shown that the efficiency and productive capacity of the woman is equal to that of the man, she shall receive the same rate of pay as the man whom she displaces. The right honorable member argues that that should not be done; that, in determining the basic wage, heed must be taken of the responsibility of the man and that therefore, no matter what may be the efficiency or the productive capacity of the woman, she must not receive the same rate of pay as the man. The Government does not accept that view. It lays down that this tribunal may fix a rate between 60 per cent, and 100 per cent, of the prevailing male rate.

Let us examine the composition of the tribunal, against which a great deal of criticism has been levelled. The regulations provide, first, that there shall be a judge as chairman. The Government selected Judge Foster, a County Court Judge in the State of Victoria. The right honorable member for Kooyong evidently is displeased because of that selection. The words that he used were, that Judge Foster will do bis best to be impartial. Doubtless he had in mind the questions that were directed to a Minister in the Senate in regard to the past activities of Judge Foster.

Mr Menzies - I tell the Minister at once that I was unaware that any such questions had been put.

Mr WARD - Doubtless the right honorable member would be aware that Judge Foster was an unsuccessful Labour candidate at general elections held in the year 1917. No doubt, because he had been in some way associated with the Labour party he then became " unsuitable " for selection as a chairman of any tribunal, although as the right honorable gentleman said, he would " do his best " to be impartial. Judge Foster has occupied a position on the Bench for many years, and, as far as I can ascertain, has filled that position with distinction.

Now I turn to the other two special representatives mentioned. Emphasis was laid on the word " special ". The right honorable gentleman said that the selection of the employers' representative was the greatest piece of impudence that he had ever known. I suggest that lawyers could far outdo me in impudence. When it was decided that a tribunal should be established, I, as Minister, was obliged to confer with the representative organizations covering employers and employees. In the case of the employers, communications were directed to the chambers of manufactures and the chambers of commerce. Every body was aware of the urgency of the matter and the need for speedy action. The chambers of manufactures communicated with the Government, and, after offering various reasons why they did not wish this tribunal to be established, asked the Government to reconsider the matter and declined to make any nomination at all. That indicated that they did not wish to sec the tribunal established. The chambers of commerce, after criticizing the whole scheme, eventually nominated Mr. Johnstone. That nomination was very grudgingly forwarded to the Government. I had also communicated with the Department of Munitions. There is nothing unusual in that fact, because that department is the largest single employer of female labour in this country. Therefore, the Government will be affected to a greater degree by the decisions of this tribunal than will any other employer. I understood that, when the Government set out with a plan for an all-in war effort, it was concerned only with getting results, and was not concerned with protecting the rights and privileges of individuals or sections of individuals. When I received the nomination of Miss Cashman I inquired regarding her qualifications, and, on finding that they were satisfactory, I selected her as the representative of the employers.

Mr Archie Cameron - -Who nominated her?

Mr WARD - The Ministry of Munitions. Why is objection raised to the appointment of Miss Cashman? It is said that she has been prominently associated with the trade union movement, and has been an employee of the Government.

Mr Holt - Has she ever been an employer ?

Mr WARD - She is now working for the Department of Munitions, which is the largest employer of women in the Commonwealth. What honorable members opposite arc troubled about is, not that Miss Cashman has had vast experience in the trade union movement, but that she might be prepared to deal fairly and impartially with the matters to be referred to the tribunal, and might favour a decision which would give to women in industry fair and just treat ment. Now let us consider the qualifications of Mr. Johnstone for the position of representative of the employers. He became a member of the management committee of the Boot Trade Union in 1900. He was a delegate to the Labour Council in 1904. He became secretary of the union in 1905, and remained in that position until the 12th July, 1921. He was an official of the union for a longer period than that for which Miss Cashman was connected with the printing trade. We now find out why objection was raised to the appointment of Miss Cashman.

Mr Harrison - He then saw the light.

Mr WARD - If Miss Cashman bad cared to ally herself to some exploiting manufacture)-, as did the honorable member for Went worth before he became a member of this Parliament, she would have been regarded by honorable gentlemen opposite as an acceptable representative. After leaving the union, Mr. Johnstone opened a retail boot shop, and then became manager of a factory. Shortly afterwards, he became secretary of the Boot, Shoe and Allied Trades Association, and is still secretary of that body. He has prepared three awards, one for the Boot Manufacturers Association, the second for the Wood Last and Heel Manufacturers Association, and the third for the Bespoke Bootmaking and Retailing Association. He is required to adhere to an agreement that any female labourers taken on to perform any work done by a male must receive the full male award rates, irrespective of age and experience. That is provided in the boot trade award.

Mr Harrison - Why was. there a scare about appointing this board?

Mr WARD - I was not scared. The fact is that I was not scared of the criticism of the Opposition, and therefore I selected as the employer's representative a person whom I consider to be best qualified for the position.' In this care I chose Miss Cashman. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) made a great deal of capital of what he termed political appointments. On this tribunal it is provided that there shall be additional representatives having special experience with regard to particular matters that may be presented for the consideration of the tribunal. In that respect the tribunal will have an advantage as compared with the Arbitration Court. A judge of the Arbitration Court may have special knowledge with regard to particular phases of industry, but this tribunal can have the additional advantage of the advice of special representatives of the employers and employees to assist it when dealing with special cases. The right honorable member for Kooyong owes his position in this Parliament to a political appointment. Sir John Latham, whom he succeeded as member for Kooyong, was elevated to the High Court Bench as the result of a political appointment. If I were the right honorable member for Kooyong, I should hesitate to argue about political appointments.

I am not at all disturbed because of the poor case that has been submitted in support of this motion, but I point out to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that he himself had something to say with regard to the employment of women in industry when he was Minister for Labour and National Service. He held very pronounced views on the subject. He was of opinion that, no matter how much they did, nor how efficiently they did it, women should never receive the same pay as men. He said as much in his submission to the Cabinet of which he was a member - and I ask honorable members opposite not to question me too closely as to how I obtained this information, but the fact is that I have here a submission to Cabinet by the honorable member for Fawkner himself. I shall not weary the House by reading the whole of it, because, like the speeches of honorable members opposite, it is interesting only in parts. It is as follows-

Mr Holt - Is the Minister in order in divulging publicly in the House the contents of a confidential document presented to a Cabinet, the members of which are sworn to secrecy? I submit that the Minister is violating the oath of secrecy by proxy, as it were, in divulging the contents of such a document.

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