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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . - I am bound to welcome the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in his role as the exponent of frankness and honesty. This, I think, will be very warmly received on both sides of the chamber. Of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these, " It might have been ". Here are these gentlemen sitting opposite, their hearts bleeding for the principle of equal pay in the civil service - a matter, which we have just been eloquently told is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government - yet all the time that they were in office they just did not get around to implementing it.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - But the women regard you as their man.

Mr MENZIES - So you concede that, do you?

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They vote for you because they like your voice.

Mr MENZIES - You are now insulting women by telling them that they were beguiled by my voice. But I was not talking about the new comers. I was talking about my friend sitting opposite who now has discovered this great urge to provide equal pay for women. He knows perfectly well that the debate on this bill is just the wrong place in which to raise this matter. This bill deals with employment under the Public Service Act. There is a vast amount of employment by the Commonealth which is outside the Public Service Act. If equal pay were introduced under this bill it would at once create an anomaly. Indeed, that is probably the object of the Opposition's proposal - to create an anomaly which will prompt action elsewhere to force the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with this great issue under pressure by the Commonwealth Government. That, of course, is the whole idea and apparently the Opposition admits it. We recall how in the past the New South Wales Government put pressure on the arbitration tribunal. But the Arbitration Commission is the proper place for this matter. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) well knows, it has dealt with this matter in the past. It has fixed a percentage of the male basic wage as the female basic wage. It cannot be said that the people who did that were tories. Not for one moment!

Mr Galvin - They were influenced by tories.

Mr MENZIES - It cannot be said that they were either tories or influenced by tories. The honorable member knows per.fetly well what I mean. The Arbitration Commission fixed a percentage of the male basic wage as the female basic wage. What happens in the Commonwealth Public Service is that the differences which exist between male and female rates correspond to differences between the male and female basic wage. In other words, if there is a difference between the male basic wage and female basic wage of £150, that difference is carried through the salaries for various positions. The basic wage, male and female, is dealt with by the Arbitration Commission, but the margins added to that for the Commonwealth Public Service are non-discriminatory as between men and women doing the same work. Therefore, on a proper analysis, what the honorable gentleman is trying to do - I do not really think he is trying to do it, but he appears to be trying to do it - is to ask us to decide a basic wage issue in this Parliament on an amendment to the Public Service Act, and I am jolly well not going to do it.

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