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Wednesday, 24 March 1965


Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania)

I move -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

Mr. Deputy President,it is with a deep sense of responsibility that I take the opportunity to raise this matter on behalf of the Opposition in the Senate. My purpose is to draw the attention of the Senate and of the people of Australia to the anomalies that exist in the rates of pay of female members of the defence forces, particularly members of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps. For the purposes of comparison I shall use the female ranks of the Army because they canbe more easily compared with the male ranks than is the case in the other Services. In the Navy, female personnel are classified mainly in the nursing section. In the Air Force, females are classified as wing officers, squadron officers and section officers, corresponding to the male ranks of wing commander, squadron leader and flight lieutenant. In the Army the ranks for both males and females descend as follows - major, captain, lieutenant, warrant officer 1st class and 2nd class, staff sergeant, sergeant, corporal, lance corporal and private. So, in order to bring the anomalies home clearly, I have chosen as the basis of comparison, the Woman's Royal Australian Army Corps.

In this chamber on 9th April last year, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), speaking in a debate on equal pay for the sexes for equal work, admitted that his Government accepted the principle of equal pay. I understand that that principle is embodied in the policy and platform of the Liberal Party as an objective which the party hopes to achieve. During the course of the debate last year the Minister went on to explain that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is accepted by the Australian people as the medium for determining rates of remuneration. I would like to point out that female members of the armed Services have no access to the Commission. As a matter of fact, in the reference library of this Parliament one can find very few records showing that Service pay has been considered in relation to the pay of females in industry.

I would like to point out to the Senate that a male lieutenant in the Army receives £41s. a day, while a female receives £2 10s. l1d. a day. A male capain receives £5 3s. 9d. a day, as compared with £3 5s. 6d. for a female captain. A male major receives £71s. 7d. a day as compared with £3 16s. 7d. for a female. This relative scale continues down the line. A male warrant officer 1st class receives £3 6s. 2d. a day while a female receives £211s. 9d. A male warrant officer 2nd class receives £3 3s. and a female £2 9s. 8d. A male staff sergeant receives £2 18s. l0d. and a female £2 6s. lid. A male sergeant receives £3 8s. Id. and a female £2 3s. lid. A male corporal receives £3 2s. 3d. and a female £1 15s. Id. A male lance-corporal receives £2 4s. 2d. and a female £1 12s. Id. while a male private receives £2 ls. 3d. and a female private £1 10s. 2d. For this comparison I have selected a lieutenant in the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps who receives lis. 4d. per day less than a corporal with no trade at all, and in many cases the corporal is under the control of and answerable to the lieutenant.


Senator Wright - Would the honorable senator give me the rates of pay for the corporal?


Senator O'BYRNE - A male corporal in Group 1 receives a base rate of £2 8s. 7d. per day, and in Group 7 he receives £3 2s. 3d. per day.


Senator Wright - What is the female rate?


Senator O'BYRNE - A female corporal in Group 1 receives £1 15s. Id. per day, and in Group 7 she receives £2 8s. 9d. per day.


Senator Wright - If the female lieutenant receives £2 10s. Hd. and the female corporal receives £1 15s. Id., I find those figures inconsistent with the statement that a female corporal receives lis. 4d. more than a female lieutenant.

Senator O'BYRNE__I did not say that.


Senator Wright - It is confusing to me.

Senator O'BYRNE__It is rather difficult to explain these matters because of the figures that have to be produced. I am establishing that the principle of equal pay for equal work in respect of females in the Army has not been followed in accordance with what the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) said last year when outlining the Government's policy during the debate on equal pay for equal work. He referred to 8 statement which was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) on 8th October 1962, who said, amongst other things -

The Commonwealth Government's obligations under the Constitution of the I.L.O. with respect to the instruments are to consider itself whether effect can be given to them;

He also added - to refer them to the State Governments and consult with such Governments about their implementation; to inform the Commonwealth Parliament and the Director-General of the I.L.O. about the outcome; to submit reports to the I.L.O. as requested; and to consult with the States from time to time to review the possibility of implementation. The Commonwealth Government has honoured these obligations in every particular.


Senator Cormack - When did he say that?


Senator O'BYRNE - Senator Gorton said that when he was speaking during a debate on equal pay for equal work on 9th April last year.


Senator Cormack - The honorable senator has just referred to a statement made in October 1962.


Senator O'BYRNE - Senator Gorton was quoting a statement which the Minister for Labour and National Service made on 8th October 1962, The point I am making is that the female members of the armed Services have not been covered by the statements of either Senator Gorton or Mr. McMahon. As a consequence, we find that the differential between the male rate and the female rate ranges from 54 per cent, up to a little over 60 per cent.

In 1937 the Federal basic wage for females was fixed at 54 per cent, of the male wage. I can refer to cases in which the differential between the male and the female rate in the armed Services remains at the 1937 Federal basic wage level. In the 1949-50 basic wage inquiry the judges who conducted the inquiry fixed the female basic wage for Federal awards at 75 per cent, of the male rate. In most States the wagefixing authorities followed the Federal lead and raised the basic wage for females to 75 per cent, of the male rate.

A male lieutenant in the first year of service in the Army receives £4 ls. per day as against £2 10s. lid. per day for the female lieutenant, which is 63 per cent, of the male rate, but after four years or more the female lieutenant receives £2 14s. per day as against £4 14s. lOd. per day for the male lieutenant. That represents 56 per cent, of the male rate. A female captain after four years receives 53 per cent, of the male rate.

The Australian Labour Party has expounded from time to time its attitude towards this whole subject of equal pay for equal work. The Federal Leader of the Australian Labour Party, Mr. Calwell, in his policy speech said -

1.   We believe that women should toe paid equal pay with men for work of equal value.

2.   The Labour Government will support the adoption of the principle.

3.   The Labour Government will put this into effect in the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth Government instrumentalities- and it can be quite reasonably claimed that the armed Services are Commonwealth Government instrumentalities -

4.   The Australian Labour Party will honour Australia's international obligations by ratifying the I.L.O. Convention on this question, which is equal pay for equal work toy the sexes.

The States which have pioneered the raising of the status of women, socially, politically and industrially, have been New South Wales and Tasmania. Women covered by the Female Rates Act were granted equal pay on 1st January 1963. All women teachers, of whom there were 12,000, and approximately 600 other public servants, 400 hostel cooks, 400 to 500 petrol sellers, many sections of :nunicipal employees and some 15 additional categories of shop assistants came under the provisions of the Female Rates Act of 1958. It is important to note that at the present time employers in New South Wales can avoid the implications of State legislation by transferring to the Federal jurisdiction. The point I am making is that the female members of the armed forces cannot transfer to any other jurisdiction but that of the financial section of the defence forces. Over the years these anomalies have been perpetuated, and it is the responsibility of this Government to make an immediate review of the matter.

During the course of the Senate debate on equal pay for equal work last year, Senator Wedgwood was quite forthright in her views. She said she regretted that the debate on equal pay for men and women was turning into a party political debate, because she felt that the cause of women would be greatly prejudiced should it continue in that form. I say to Senator Wedgwood that unless this matter of equal pay for men and women is raised, the present Liberal-Country Party coalition Govern ment will continue to shirk its responsibilities on the issue. Senator Wedgwood said -

There is a great amount of frustration in the minds of women in the professional classes. This is so particularly in the case of women teachers who are called upon to qualify for a certain position. They and many other women have to undergo the same competitive eliminative examinations as mcn and they find on appointment, particularly in the Public Service, that they work side by side with men who have inferior qualifications and inferior capacities, and they receive less remuneration than the men do for the work.

In the armed Services not only do people of equal rank working side by side and doing the same work receive differential rates, but also women with ranks which are three, four or five degrees higher are working for less remuneration than male members of their staff. Earlier, I pointed out that a female lieutenant receives £2 10s. lid. a day whilst a male corporal on her staff receives £3 2s. 3d. a day. A female corporal working in the same office or the same area receives £1 15s. Id. a day. A staff captain filling a male vacancy gets 2s. 6d. more than is received by the male sergeant clerks whom she controls on her staff.

These matters are of great importance because of the principle that is involved in them. It has been recognised by the defence forces and by the Government that there are certain areas in which no discrimination can be made. For instance, all army personnel living out receive the same living out allowances, irrespective of sex. Male and female members pay the mess fees appropriate to rank, regardless of sex. All members, regardless of sex, receive equal clothing allowance, travelling allowance and meal allowance, but a male member receives a marriage allowance whilst a female member receives nil. At this level there is discrimination but there is equality when it comes to a matter of the amount of money paid out of the pocket of the member. I bring these anomalies before the Senate for consideration. It is interesting to note that in the New South Wales Public Service equal pay is applied to these categories: Female clerks in positions graded for males, medical officers, microbiologists, pharmacists, psychologists, radiographers, laboratory assistants, analysts, cooks, dental officers, medical technologists, junior registrars, legal clerks, solicitors, draftswomen visual education directors, research officers, physical education supervisors, editors of school magazines, geologists, herd clerks, agronomists, plant pathologists, botanists, and extension officers in the Department of Agriculture. Amongst municipal employees there is equality in such categories as cashiers and car drivers.

I have seen the calibre and quality of the women who are selected and who become permanent members of the armed Services. They have a high level of intelligence and they are dedicated and conscientious. Their counterparts in the Public Service and in outside fields have had their status recognised. In New South Wales they have equality. Elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth women are entitled to at least 75 per cent, of the male rate. I have a comparison of the rates received in the teaching services of the various States. In Victoria women receive from 80 to 93 per cent, of the male rate, in South Australia an average of 85 per cent., and in Western Australia between 80 and 90 per cent. In New South Wales there has been equality since 1st January 1963. In Queensland women receive 90 per cent, of the male rate. In Tasmania women have averaged between 82 and 90 per cent, of the male rate and since 1st January of this year margins have been equal.

An effort was made in Tasmania to have legislation to provide for equal pay for equal work. It was passed by the House of Assembly but when it went to the Legislative Council - a notoriously reactionary group of people - the measure was defeated. As Senator Wedgwood said, the day will come when the principle of equal pay for equal work will be accepted generally. Included in that acceptance are many other things relating to recognition of the status of women.


Senator Wright - What is the present proportion in the Commonwealth Public Service?


Senator O'BYRNE - Seventy-five per cent. Various awards have included figures in excess of that, but that is accepted as the norm.


Senator Cormack - What is the percentage in relation to margins for skill?


Senator O'BYRNE - I understand that in the awards that have been brought down by the courts there is equality in the margins for skill, but that is another matter. The point I continue to stress is that the base rate for females accepted by the arbitration tribunal is 75 per cent, of the male rate, but this is not the case with females in the Defence Forces.

I now refer to the legislation that has been introduced in New South Wales. On 1st January 1959 female workers in industry in that State were granted 80 per cent, of the male rate. In January 1 960 this was increased to 85 per cent., in January 1961 to 90 per cent., in January 1962 to 95 per cent, and in January 1963 to 100 per cent. That proves that this principle has been accepted in New South Wales. Legislation was introduced to give effect to the State Government's proposals and the matter is no longer in dispute. But in the Commonwealth sphere, with the Government professing its desire to accept this principle and with the opportunity always at hand to implement its desire, nothing has been done. Is the Commonwealth Government for or against the principle? I should like to see the tame senators on the Government side do what governments do at the United Nations or at conferences of the International Labour. Organisation - either abstain from voting against their principles or vote in favour of action being taken immediately to correct the anomaly.

While this anomaly exists the best interests of the armed Services, particularly in relation to female members, are not being served. During the last 18 months I understand that 12 female officers have left the Army and only six have been recruited. In 1963-64, 163 other ranks left the Services and enlistments totalled only 142. Surely this alone should prove to the Government that its unfair treatment of female members of the Services is not only basically wrong but is also doing a grave disservice to the Army.

Women have come a long way in their battle for equality. I have met women in responsible positions and their claim for equality cannot be doubted. Senator McKellar stated last year that there is a difference in the nature of work performed by men and women. He asked who would like to see a woman in a shirt. Well, the Army girls wear shirts. He then went on with a lot of other nonsense about the mastery of man, but we must face the facts of life.


Senator Prowse - It is the women wearing the trousers of whom we have to be afraid.


Senator O'BYRNE - They are doing that, too, in many cases.


Senator Hannaford - They are still rocking the cradle.


Senator O'BYRNE - They are doing that as overtime.


Senator Kennelly - They have gained civil rights.


Senator O'BYRNE - They have gained civil rights; they have gained equality and political rights; they have gained equality in educational opportunities, and they have gained entry to most occupations but their work is valued at a lower rate than that of men. Women in the social, political and educational field perform very important work, but it is a melancholy fact that in economic terms of hard cash women in the armed Services of this country have been robbed by this Government and will continue to be robbed by this Government until such time as the anomalies that exist in rates of pay have been removed.







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