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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr BLACKBURN (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Blatantly rigged!

Mr HARRISON - I shall produce evidence to show that that is rather an understatement of the position. It is as well that the House should know the facts concerning the appointment of this board. They are very interesting, and are set out in correspondence between the secretary of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Wilkins, the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, Dr. Roland Wilson, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). On the 25th March, the secretary of the department wrote to Mr. Wilkins - .1 enclose herewith a copy of the National Security (Employment of Women) Regulations, from which you will observe that the Minister is required to consult with the appropriate employers' organizations before appointing the special representative of employers to serve on the Women's Employment Board. 1 should be glad if your organization would consider this matter with a view to making a nomination at the earliest possible date. I understand that the Central Council of Employers of Australia, the Graziers' Federal Council and other bodies of employers are affiliated with your organization. No doubt you will wish to consider their views before making the nomination.

I ask the House to note that. The letter continues -

I am writing in similar terms to the secretary, Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, with which is affiliated the Metal Trades Employers' Association of New South Wales.

If the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures could agree to nominate the same person, it would be of considerable advantage and would enable us to get the board established with a minimum of delay.

Time is needed to communicate with all the organizations affiliated with an Australiawide body such as the Associated Chambers of Commerce. The letter was received on the 27th March. Since employers' organizations cover the whole Commonwealth it was impossible to give an immediate reply. Consequently, the federal secretary of the Central Council of Employers telephoned to the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service informing him of the probable delay and asking for a short postponement of the appointment; but, if the Minister felt that the need was so urgent, a hurried nomination would be made. No such indication was given by the Department of Labour and National Service. If this matter was so urgent, the employers should have been informed and they would then have hurried to make a nomination. On the contrary, they were given to understand that there was no urgency. On the 11th April, Mr. Wilkins wrote to Dr. Wilson as follows: -

In reply to the invitation from the Minister for Labour and National Service dated 25th March, relative to the nomination of an employers' special representative for appointment to the Women's Employment Board, I am now directed to advise that the Associated Chamber of Commerce of Australia, the Central Council of Employers of Australia, and tho Graziers' Federal Council of Australia, while objecting to the principle involved in the constitution of the Women's Employment Board, have decided in view of the Minister's specific request, to nominate Mr. D. R. Johnstone, secretary of the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers and Allied Trades Association, 12 O'Connell-street, Sydney, for this position.

The objection of the above organizations to the constitution of the Women's Employment Board is based on the fundamental fact that the board's operation and jurisdiction will conflict and usurp the functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in dealing with the terms and conditions of women's employment. It is therefore requested that this objection be communicated to the Minister for Labour and National Service.

That letter was not even acknowledged, and on the 16th April, the names of those who had been appointed to the hoard were published.

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