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Wednesday, 23 September 1942

Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesPostmasterGeneral) . - Three fundamental issues arise in this debate: The first is the claim that has been made by the Opposition that Miss Cashman is the employees' representative; the second is the assessing of the value of female services compared with male services, and the third, and most important, is the dislocation that will be created in in- . dustry, and the setback which our war effort will receive, if this motion be carried.. In his contribution to the debate,. Senator Spicer painted an interesting picture. He said that there would be three representatives of employees on one side of the table, and one representative of employers on the other side, with a judge sitting at the head of the table. If it be correct that every person who at any time has been associated with a trade union must be classed a3 a representative of the employees, the honorable gentleman might have gone to the extreme and put the four representatives on the one side of the table, leaving no one to represent the employers, because in 1904 Mr. Johnson, who is classed as a representative of the employers, was on the management committee of the Boot Trades Union. In that year, he was appointed a delegate to the Trades and Labour Council, and in the following year he was appointed secretary of that union, in which position he remained until 1921. Mr. Johnson has been connected with the trade union movement longer than Miss Cashman has been. The main objection of the Opposition to Miss Cashman's appointment is that she -has been associated with a trade union, and therefore should be classed as a representative of the employees. Mr Johnson's selection by the employers as their representative indicates that they are not greatly concerned because a man has had experience as a member of a trade union. Another interesting fact is that, although Miss 'Cashman was appointed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), she was selected by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin). Senator Spicer also said that Miss Cashman, was one of two who were appointed.

Senator Spicer - No.

Senator ASHLEY - I thought that the honorable senator said so. Another point raised by Senator Spicer was that, if female labour were engaged in industry it would lower the standard of male wages. Indeed, the honorable senator almost shed some crocodile tears at the thought that the standard for males employed in industry might be lowered. There was an agreement between the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and industry generally which applied to the Postal Department. Under that agreement it was agreed that women should be employed in the Postal Department in order that men may be released for war service. At present the postal authorities are awaiting an award as to the payments to be made to females employed in that department. It is clear, therefore, that not only the munitions industry but also other industries, as well as government departments, will be affected by the decision.

Senator Gibson - -Can this board override the decision of the Public Service Board?

Senator ASHLEY - Yes, with the consent of the unions. Evidence has already been given in connexion with the matter. The Opposition has a responsibility in this matter, for should there be chaos and unrest in industry, we cannot maintain the present output of munitions . and equipment generally, much less increase it. The board has already given decisions in 46 cases, and no complaint has been received regarding them.

Senator McBRIDE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Nonsense !

Senator ASHLEY - .Complaints regarding the decisions of the board should be made to the Government which appointed the tribunal, but no such complaints have come to hand. Had complaints been received, they would have been investigated, and if justified, they would have been rectified.

The Opposition continually states that it is out to give 100 per cent. assistance to the Governmentin its war effort, but we had evidence last night that letters had been written to Opposition members of this Parliament asking them to bring before their leader ways in which they could discredit the Government and thus retard the war effort.

Senator Spicer - The letter did not say that.

Senator ASHLEY - Not in those words. Only by accident one of the letters came into the hands of a member of the Labour party.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The letter did not say what the Minister says it did.

Senator ASHLEY - I shall produce the letter.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is no need to do that, as I have one with me. The Minister has not correctly interpreted the letter.

Senator ASHLEY - It is time that the Opposition came out in its true colours and said that it would no longer offer assistance to the Government, but would impede its war effort. Should these motions be carried, that would be the result. I warn the Opposition that should its move for the disallowance of these regulations be successful, other regulations will be promulgated, and they may provide for women in industry being paid at the same rates as men until such time as the Government can obtain access to the Arbitration Court. The Government cannot have production held up because of efforts to create industrial unrest. The greatest possible output is necessary if this war is to be won.

Motion (by Senator James McLachlan) put -

That the question be now put.

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