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Wednesday, 13 May 1942


Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) . - I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). Here, again, we have an outstanding example of the repeated attempts that have been made by this Government to introduce its own party policy under the cloak of a war emergency. Ever since this Government assumed office, despite frequent appeals by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to the people of Australia for unity, it has engaged on a purely political campaign to introduce the Labour party's platform. In this case, the Government has not had the courage to come out in the open, but has attempted to achieve its object by setting up a special board. The position has been outlined fully by the Leader of the Opposition. The policy of this Government is dictated to it by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I would have had some admiration for the Government if it had had the courage to tell the people of Australia that it was the policy of the Government that women engaged in war industries, and in fact in all industries - because that is what it will mean - should receive the same wages as men. But it has not done that; it has resorted to subterfuge. I should like to make itquite clear that I am not now discussing the wages that women engaged on war work are entitled to receive ; I am discussing the method by which the Government has attempted to achieve its object. Apparently, the Government has heard rumblings throughout the community indicating discontent with the practice of introducing the policy of the Labour party under the cloak of essential war measures, and has become more cautious. Instead of deciding this matter by straight-forward regulations, as it has the power to do under the National Security Act, it has put out a smokescreen to hide its intentions, and so to save it from the fury of the public. I have no intention of reflecting in any degree on the chairman of the board, nor on the real representative of the employees, Mr. Wallis, but the purpose of that board is clear beyond all doubt when we see the representative who has been appointed by the Government, allegedly to look after the interests of the employers.


Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator suggest that the woman in question does not represent the employers?


Senator McBRIDE - I say definitely that she does not represent the employers of Australia. The employers nominated a representative when they were asked to do so, but their wishes were ignored by the Government. This board is obviously weighted in such a way that its decisions will conform to the wishes of the Government, and, of course, of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which dictates government policy. However, the Government will not escape the opprobium of the people of Australia by retiring behind this smoke-screen; it cannot disguise its designs or deflect the criticism which will be encountered. At such a critical stage in our history, when the Prime Minister is pleading for unity and a 100 per cent. war effort, it is pathetic that the Government's actions, time after time, should be motivated entirely by political bias. There is no question of justice in this matter at all; it is merely a question of party aims. If justice did actuate this Government in taking such action, then it is a reflection upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and an insinuation that justice cannot be obtained through that tribunal. Government supporters cannot have it both ways. If they consider that the Arbitration Court is a competent and impartial tribunal, this matter should be referred to that court.


Senator Arthur - We cannot wait twelve months for a decision.







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