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Thursday, 21 May 1942

Mr HOLLOWAY - No. A rate is fixed, and the employer is told that that is what has to be paid. This matter has been fought in the courts many times, because employers have put females on work usually done by males and have continued to pay them the female rate. This is an innovation, and for that reason had to be dealt with in this way. It is not novel to have another tribunal, working hand in hand with the Arbitration Court. Organizations of both employers and employees often convened a wages board or a round-table conference in. order to cover sections of a trade, industry, or craft, that were not covered by an award of the Arbitration Court. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) knows as well as anybody that, ever since the inauguration of federation, a fight has been waged for what is described as a common rule. Because the court has never been able to effect that purpose completely under an award, wages boards have had to be brought into existence in order to close gaps. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), I believe, and certainly the honorable member for Fawkner. (Mr. Holt), have said that there is something wrong in the Government being classified as an employer in a court or before a tribunal. Every body knows that there is no sense in that contention. Surely, the industrial officers associated with Victoria Barracks and other Commonwealth establishments have for years, ever since the last war, appeared in courts as representatives of the Commonwealth Government or a Commonwealth department, as the employer. Therefore, there is nothing novel in the Minister for Labour and National Service appointing some authority to represent him as the temporary employer.

Mr Hughes - What is the personnel of the new tribunal?

Mr HOLLOWAY - As the regulations set out, the tribunal consists of an equal number of representatives of employees and employers, with a judge as an impartial chairman. The old custom has been followed of appointing a judge if one is available. A judge is supposed to be, and every one will agree that he is, as nearly as possible capable of displaying impartiality as a chairman. Whatever the political beliefs of a judge might be, I do not think that any one would impugn his impartiality. The right honorable member for Kooyong has stated that he has not the slightest doubt that a judge would be fair and impartial, whoever he might be. Some honorable members have said that the selection of representatives has not been made in the orthodox way. The only point made in proof of that is that the Minister appointed an employers' representative to represent the Government. The Chamber of Manufactures objected to that.

Mr Guy - The Minister knows that the woman in question has been an employee, not an employer, for some years.

Mr HOLLOWAY - Many persons who have held the highest positions in Australia, including several Prime Ministers and Attorneys-General and more than one Minister for Defence have previously been representatives of employees and officers of trade unions. That background, in this country and in Great Britain, has produced some of the greatest men. The man nominated by the employers to sit on this tribunal was at one time the secretary of the Boot Trades Federation. After his retirement from that position, he was appointed secretary of the boot manufacturers because of his experience and ability. I said at the outset that I wanted to keep away from political issues, and to discuss the merits of this piece of industrial machinery. I defy any honorable member to show any defect in the machine that has been erected, or any lack of wisdom in its having been erected for the purpose that the Government sought to achieve. There is no justification for levelling the charge against the Minister for Labour and National Service that an unsuitable person has been appointed as the representative of the employers. From 60 per cent, to 80 per cent, of the work which will form the subject-matter of disputes considered by the tribunal will be done by the Government itself. The Minister appointed a member of the board to represent him as the employer in this case, and therefore no injustice will be done to the employers. The only consideration that appears to concern some honorable members opposite is " How will it affect the employers ? " ; but in this case the employer is doubly protected. Most of the work regarding which the tribunal will be required to arbitrate is being done in government workshops; most of it is being done for the Government, and the annexes and most of the machinery have been provided at the expense of the Government. In every case contracts are let at rates fixed in conference with representatives of the Government, and the result must be an increased production of munitions within the shortest possible time. This will add greatly to the number of persons employed in the factories. It is not just to continue to call upon those controlling factories and workshops to employ boys or unskilled labourers, to operate machines until the engineers left in these establishments represent only a small percentage of the employees. An agreement has now been reached, and where the board determines that machines operated by women have previously always been operated by men, the same wages are to be paid to the women as was formerly paid to the men. Otherwise, under the iron law of competition, it would be impossible for the male members of the trade unions to preserve their industrial rights.

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