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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) . - It is appropriate that I should say a few words in reply to one or two arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has, it is alleged, rendered a disservice to the country by the appointment of the board to which objection has been taken; but a better selection has never been made in the his tory of conciliation and arbitration in this country. A particularly good choice is that of MissCashman. I have had a little experience in this field, when I was a rural commissioner on the Board of Trade in New South Wales, from 1919 to 1922. I sat under several judges, including Judge Beeby and Mr. Justice Edwards, who complimented the woman in question whenever she appeared to give evidence.

Senator McBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - For whom did she appear ?

Senator ARTHUR - For the employees. She was appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire with two other women into certain matters relating to wages. These regulations set out what the board has to do. If there is a shortage of man-power, and women have to be employed, it is obligatory on the employer to set out the conditions. Miss Cashman was operating under section 79 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. Act, which provides that the Board of Trade shall, after public inquiry into the average cost of living, declare the living wage to be paid to adult male and female employees. I wish members of the Opposition would bear in mind that the greatest employer of female labour in Australia is the Commonwealth Government.

Senator McBride - Are there figures to prove that?

Senator ARTHUR - Absolutely, but Senator McBride is not very good at figures. Without quoting figures, let me ask the honorable senator, who is supplying money for the employment of female labour? I am sure that the woman member objected to is impartial, and has a wider knowledge of the subject than any other woman in Australia. We must face the fact that female labour will be increasingly employed in the near future. It must come soon, and our desire is to see that the fair thing is done. But what did the Arbitration Court do? It fixed a basic wage for males and then prescribed 50 per cent. of that wage as the basic wage for females. Fortunately, that figure has been raised to nearly 60 per cent. Under these regulations, the board can investigate the work being done by women and fix a wage accordingly. The time is long overdue when all women who are engaged on work normally done by men should be paid the full male basic wage.Recently, I was informed that women engaged on certain precision work connected with our war effort, and formerly done by men, had actually increased production. Now that an attempt is being made to see that justice is done to women, the Leader of the Opposition wishes to disallow the regulations because the employers' representative on the board is the most capable woman for that class of work in Australia.

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