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Thursday, 21 May 1942

Mr HOLT (Fawkner) .- Before proceeding with my objections to the statutory rule that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) seeks to disallow, I desire to make a few general remarks upon the problem of the employment of women, in view of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has seen fit to misrepresent my views upon the matter. I am of opinion that a woman who does the same work as a man, equally well and with the same endurance, should be entitled to the same standard of living as her male counterpart. Having stated that general proposition, I add that the whole problem of what is a proper and equitable rate of payment for females is most complex and difficult. If I needed any. evidence to support that contention, it was to be found in the evasiveness of Ministers at question time to-day. They shuffled about in order to avoid having to state precisely the rates of pay that are now being made to women who are doing work comparable with that of men in certain branches of the fighting services, and departments controlled by the Government. It is notable that Ministers who have in the past been most forthright in their views that there should be equal pay for the sexes are not putting that principle into practice. I call attention to it-he fact that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who, as Minister for Munitions, employs a great many women in munitions factories, and as Minister for the Navy employs members of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, has on the notice-paper the following motion -

That in the opinion of this House discrimination by reason of difference of sex between workers is economically indefensible and is inconsistent with the Australian principle of equality., arid that, consequently, the Government should forthwith apply this principle in all civil and defence departments by according equal wages. salaries and allowances to men and women employed on work of the same class.

It will be very interesting to see what the honorable gentleman does about the payment of female employees in the two departments he administers. My view that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work is shared by honorable gentlemen opposite, but in particular cases it is often impracticable to pay to a woman the same money as would be paid to a man.

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