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Thursday, 26 March 1942

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) (Leader of the Opposition) . -I move -

That Statutory Rules 1942, No. 92, under the National Security Act 1939-1940 [National Security (Employment of Women) Regulations], bo disallowed.

I have previously referred to Statutory Rule No. 92,. which contains only three regulations. I again enter an emphatic protest against the attitude of the Government in introducing, by means of regulations, important laws which become operative from the date on which they are gazetted, or from the dates specified, in the regulations. This particular statutory rule was gazetted on the 2nd March last. Sub- regulation. 1 of regulation 3 states -

(   1 ) Any female may be employed in the Department of Munitions or the Department of Aircraft Production or, with the approval of the Director-General of Munitions or the Director-General of Aircraft Production, by any employer, on work, not requiring the skill of a tradesman, customarily performed by males, or, notwithstanding anything contained in any law or any instrument (including any award, order, determination or agreement) having effect by virtue of any law, on work not requiring the skill of a tradesman, which is work reservedto males by any such law or instrument.

I have no objection to that subregulation, but it is not possible to disallow a portion of a regulation. I particularly direct the attention of the Senate to sub-regulation 2 of regulation 3, which states -

After the coming into operation of Regulations to be made under the National Security Act 1939-1940 governing the employment during the present war, of females on work reserved to males, whether by force of law or because of widely acceptedcustom, the employer of any female employed under this regulation si lull be liable lo pay to that female, as from the commencement of the employment, the rates of pay prescribed by or under those Regulations, and, pending thu prescription by or under those Regulations of rates of pay and conditions of employment in respect of that female, the rates of pay and conditions of her employment shall be as determined by the Minister of State for Munitions or the Minister of State for Aircraft Production.

Political interference with the functions of the Commonwealth or State Arbitration Courts, under the powers given to Ministers under the National Security Act, is deplorable. A large section of the people was amazed at the action of the Government during a sitting of the full bench of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court on the 23rd February last, when an application for the fixation of the rates of wages to be paid to females in a certain industry was being heard. A representative of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the liaison officer to the Minister for "War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions attended the court and requested it not to deal with the application as the Commonwealth Government intended to review the matter. With dramatic suddenness, according to the press report, the court adjourned. 1 have never previously heard of such an action. I remind the Senate that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has made approximately 100 awards for women engaged in industry, and the State courts of New South Wales about 149 of such awards.

The introduction by the Government of Statutory Rule No. 2 of 1942 provides further evidence of political interference. These regulations relate to the wages of men engaged in the maritime industry. We find the Government compelled to take the matter out of the hands of the Arbitration. Court and set up a special tribunal in order to comply with the request of prominent members of the Labour party and of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. This was done after conferences at Canberra between the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other members of the Government, in order to satisfy members of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions who pass votes of confidence in the Minister for Labour and National

Service (Mr. Ward) and the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) but votes of censure on the Prime Minister. I object to the Minister for Aircraft Production or the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), who are old and prominent members of the Labour party, under the guise of war-time needs, taking this ma tter out of the hands of "the Arbitration Court and having wages and other conditions fixed to suit their own political supporters- This is intolerable, and I ask the Senate to vote for the disallowance of the statutory rule.

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