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Wednesday, 23 September 1942

The PRESIDENT - As those words are not personally offensive, I cannot ask that they be withdrawn.

Senator SPICER - Perhaps I can put the Leader of the Senate at ease by saying that I did not intend to suggest that he used those words. What I meant was that the whole import of his speech was that the needs of a man have nothing to do with the matter at all.

SenatorCollings. - I accept the honorable senator's apology, although I did not say that either.

Senator SPICER - The honorable senator indicated quite clearly that the only matter to be considered is determining what proportion of the male wage a female should receive is the value of her work.

Senator Collings - Exactly.

Senator SPICER - In other words he says, " in fixing the female's wages, the only factor to be taken into account is the value of her work. If it is equal to that of the work done by the male, then she must receive the same wage as the male". The male receives a wage which is measured by reference, not to the value of his work, but to family responsibilities. The Minister cannot have it both ways. That principle has been recognized in this country for years.

Senator Arthur - What about the single man ?

Senator SPICER - His wage is looked at from the point of view that some day he is going to be a married man. At any rate that is the fiction. It may be laughable, but I have never heard the Labour party object to it. Until this afternoon I believed that it was a major plank in the Labour party's platform, that

Labour did not believe in the idea that the value of a man's work should just be measured up, and that he should be paid what he was worth. Labour members say, " No, we will not have that ", or at least that is what they used to say. They have told the Arbitration Court time after time : " It is no use employers saying that they cannot afford to pay these wages, they must pay them ; if an industry cannot afford to pay a wage sufficient to keep a man, his wife and children in decent comfort then it should not be in existence at all ".

SenatorCollings. - There is nothing wrong with that.

Senator SPICER - If that is right, the Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot then say that in the case of the ascertainment of the proper wage to be paid to women the sole question to be considered is the value of a woman's work as compared with the value of a man's work, and if they happen to be the same she is therefore to be paid the same. Those two things will not go together. If we measure what is paid to women solely by reference to the value of the work done, then presumably we must apply the same principle to men. The result of that, as has been pointed out. in Judge O'Mara's judgment, would be perhaps to bring about an increase in women's rates, but certainly a reduction in men's rates. That is one approach to this problem. The other approach is that we should have regard to the fact that at any rate men's wages should not be fixed merely by reference to the value of their production, but regard should be had also to their obligations to their families. That is all left out of account in these regulations, which have been deliberately framed in order to ensure that this body, appointed to deal with what we all knowis a difficult problem, should not be able to look at the whole field, but must restrict its vision to the simple problem of what has been described by Judge O'Mara as the comparative efficiency of women as against men. Any one who approached this problem fairly, and endeavoured to create an unbiased instrument to carry out the difficult task of settling it, would ensure that that body was competent to look at the whole issue, and to see it in its proper perspective in relation to the methods by which wages are fixed in this country.

Senator Collings - The regulations do not limit the scope of its inquiry.

Senator SPICER - They do, and, as I understand it, Judge Foster has clearly indicated in his judgments that the tribunal is limited to the consideration of comparative efficiency.

Senator Collings - That is it.

Senator SPICER - Well, that is a limitation, so far as I know. The Government has not said to the board : " You go and fix the wages for women, having regard to all the circumstances."

Senator Collings - It does not say that they shall not.

Senator SPICER - That is what the regulations provide -

The board shall decide a rate of payment under sub-paragraph 6 of paragraph (6) of sub-regulation 4 of this regulation which it considers just and proper in all the circumstances and shall-

This is mandatory - as far as practicable assess that rate by reference to the efficiency of females in the performance of the work, and any other special factors which may be likely to affect the productivity of their work in relation to that of males.

That 13 a perfectly clear statement that the matter to which the board has to have regard in determining women's wages is the comparative efficiency of females as compared with males.

Senator Collings - After examining all the fact3 and circumstances.

Senator SPICER - Yes, it is all there. It is a nice lot of words. I am interested to hear what the Leader of the Senate has to say on this question of legal interpretation, but if there is any dispute as between the Minister and Judge Foster I prefer the judge's opinion, which is that these questions of which we have been speaking, including the fact that the male basic wage is fixed not by reference merely to productivity but has regard to family responsibilities, are all outside the scope of the board, and that the one thing it has to consider is the relative efficiency of the male work as compared with the female work.

I object also to these regulations because they take away the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. If this had been a matter of urgency, there is no reason at all why, if the Government desired, another judge should not have been appointed on the Arbitration Court bench to deal with it. One honorable senator said, " But, look, they have dealt with 46 cases". Who has dealt with 46 cases? Has Judge Foster? He sat on those 46 cases, and has taken part in the consideration of the evidence and in their determination, but what he could do as a member of the board I should have thought he could do as a member of the Arbitration Court.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator knows the difference between the procedure laid down for the board and the Arbitration Court.

Senator SPICER - There is no reason, as I said before, having regard to the present powers of the Government, why it should not have appointed within the arbitration system a board, say, of three members, comprising a judge and two referees, one an employer and one an employee. That of course would have been fair, but the Government does not like and does not understand fairness. Still, it could have been done. It could have dealt with 46 cases as quickly as the board has done.

Senator Foll - The Commonwealth court had been dealing with the matter.

Senator SPICER - Yes, but the Government did not wish the court to deal with it. Unfortunately, the Labour party is displaying all the characteristics of a totalitarian party. Once upon a time it understood an appeal to justice, but now I am afraid that its enthusiasm in that direction has waned. It does not come into the open and say that the sole matter with which it is concerned is the putting of these regulations into operation in order to make sure that the policy of the Trades Hall Council becomes law. That might be a little too blatant, so it reaches the same result by indirect methods. It appears to follow the forms of democracy, but make3 sure that this tribunal is not independent. It does not provide for the fair determination of the issue, but it ensures that its policy will become effective. It is desirable that we should not forget that, after all, Hitler got into power in Germany by paying lip-service to the formula of democracy; but, when be obtained power, he was prepared to destroy the democratic system. I see some proof that the Labour party is proceeding along similar lines. It is so imbued with the desire to see that the policy preached at trades hallsbecomes law that it is willing to sweep everything aside in order to gain its end. On reading the regulations, people might think that they were fair;but, on looking into them, it can be seen that they are designed to bring about a result that will merely give effect to the policy of the trade unions.

Senator Keane - That is rubbish !

Senator SPICER - I invite the Minister to give one explanation as to why the Government is not prepared to refer the question of the wages of female employees to a tribunal consisting of a judge, two representatives of the employers, and two representatives of the employees. The plain fact is that the board consists of a judge, three representatives of the employees and one representative of the employers. I regard Miss Cashman as an employee. Cam honorable senators opposite satisfy me that Mr. Essington Lewis would be a suitable representative of the trade unions on a wages board ?

Senator Ashley - Why select Mr. Lewis ?

Senator SPICER - He is a fair representative of the employers, but by no stretch of the imagination would I have the audacity to suggest that he would be a proper person toput on a board as a representative of the trade unions. This board is just as bad as, or worse than, the board appointed under earlier regulations which were attacked by the Opposition. The question is not whether the decisions of the board have been good or bad. This is a biased board, which was deliberately appointed for the purpose of being a biased body, in that there is not equal representation on it of employers and employees. It is almost indecent that Ministers should continue the pretence in this chamber that Miss Cashman is a bona fide representative of the em ployers.

SenatorLarge. -She was selected because of her ability.

Senator SPICER - She was not selected by the Employers Federation.

SenatorCollings. - The regulations provide that the employers' organization has to be consulted, and the Government did that.

Senator SPICER - We were told that the Minister asked whether the Employers Federation would make a nomination and that a certain person had been nominated. That was so much " eyewash ". Although the Minister consulted the employers, he was not at all interested in what they had to say. Although he had their nomination, he said : " I shall not appoint that person. He might put the employers' point of view. We must see that the employers' representative is a person who is peculiarly competent to consider matters from the employees' point of view. We shall, therefore, appoint Miss Cashman to represent the employers." That action was a reflection on the Minister responsible for it. One speaker said that the Minister concerned in this matter was a responsible Minister. All that I can say is that he does not display his responsibility by carrying on in that way. The whole thing appears to me to be a device to create, under the cover of National Security Regulations, a body which is loaded, and it is because I object to the use of the powers conferred upon Ministers under the National Security Act in this way that I shall support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.

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