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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) seeking equal pay for men and women public servants. It will give an opportunity for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the members of his party to show their sincerity in this matter on two counts. The first is that they always plead that this Parliament cannot legislate on such industrial matters as this. Nevertheless, there is no limit to its power to legislate on industrial conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service or in Commonwealth Territories. The Government can show now that it really believes in equal pay for the sexes. The second count is that, since last week, it has at last become Liberal dogma that there should be equal pay for men and women. The only party represented in this House which does not believe in equal pay for men and women doing work of equal value is the Country Party. Therefore, I would expect all members of the Labour Party who have proclaimed this principle for some decades, and members of the Liberal Party, who have proclaimed it for the last seven days, to join in supporting the proposed amendment.

In most other comparable public services in the English-speaking world this either is the practice already or it will be within the next couple of years. I direct the attention of honorable members to a publication produced by the former Minister for Labour and National Service two and a half years ago, a publication which reviews the position in various countries in regard to equal pay. It appears from this that, in the case of the United States of America, the wage rate of Federal Government employees is based on the job and not on the sex of the worker performing it. Again, in the Federal Civil Service in Canada, the Civil Service Commission determines, in relation to classified civil servants, salaries for the various classifications of jobs, irrespective of the sex of the employee. Salaries within any particular grade are the same for men and women.

Thirdly, in February, 1955, the United Kingdom Government agreed to introduce the principle in the administrative and legal departments of the non-industrial Civil Service, the change to be introduced over a period of six years by granting female members of the Civil Service annual increments which would, by 1961, bring their pay to the level of the male civil servant performing the same work. Lastly, in New Zealand in October last both the Government and the Opposition supported a bill providing for equal pay for men and women performing equal duties in the Dominion Public Service.

As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, this matter is the subject of an International Labour Office convention - No. 100, which was passed in 1951.

Mr McMahon - With what reservations?

Mr WHITLAM - The convention is quite clear. You have had two years in which to study it and your Government has had nine years. Other governments have not had the difficulty in understanding it and have not perpetrated the delay in carrying it out which your Government has shown. I have asked several questions in the House on this subject. It now appears that some 32 countries have ratified the International Labour Office convention. They include all the countries on the continent of Europe except Sweden, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal. Spain and, presumably, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco. All the Warsaw Pact countries and four countries of the European Economic Community have subscribed to this principle.

In the United States of America, some twenty of the States have adopted it. They include all the heavily industrialized states, those in the north-east, around the Great Lakes, and along the whole western seaboard. In Canada, seven of the provinces have adopted it - not only the Dominion itself, but all the industrialized provinces and all the prairie ones, too.

The convention has been discussed with «he Australian States for some time now.

When the former Minister for Labour and National Service made a statement on this subject to the Parliament on the 15th October, 1953, he said that his Government had no objection to the principle of equal pay for men and women for equal work. He said that the Victorian Government had stated that it favoured ratification of the International Labour Office convention. In November, 1953, the New South Wales Government told this Government that it favoured ratification of the convention. South Australia and Western Australia, at that time, said that they did not agree to the ratification and the other two States expressed no view at all. The matter was discussed with the States again in July, 1954, again between January and March, 1956, and again in April last, and we are no nearer carrying out this convention in Australia than we have been at any time since our representatives attended the conference of the International Labour Conference nine years ago. This is one respect in which we can carry it out. I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) interjected when I was speaking earlier because he has remained very uncommunicative on this subject. Our record in ratifying International Labour Office conventions is the worst in the English-speaking world. We have ratified 25 International Labour Office conventions out of, I think, 116 which have been passed. In September, 1959, the Minister for Labour and National Service said -

I hope to be in a position to present a statement relative to some or all of these Sessions-

That is, from 1957 onwards - during the present sessional period of the Parliament.

Again, in September of this year, he said -

It is hoped to table the statement relative to the 1957 Session during the present Parliamentary session.

He has so far presented no such statement. During his term of office - last year and this year - we have, for the first time for some years, been told nothing about pending International Labour Organization conventions. Therefore I suggest that we should at last have some action on this equal pay convention which was passed nine years ago. We do not have to wait for State approval to take action. The bill before the committee concerns our own employees. If there were frankness and honesty on the Government benches honorable members there would support this principle which they say, as a government, they do not object to, and which they now say, as members of the Liberal Party, they support.

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