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Wednesday, 24 March 1965

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - I regret that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) takes this attitude and says, as he terms it, that it is a case of grandstanding. He says that this matter was fixed a week ago. I even doubt that statement. I do not think it was fixed a week ago. As far as the official attitude is concerned, it is still not fixed yet. Any departmental committee that might be meeting or any departmental investigation that might be held certainly does not mean that it has been fixed, to use his term, and the matter is certainly not before this Parliament. Any decision that may have been made is not within the comprehension of this Parliament to be debated today and therefore, as far as this Parliament is concerned, the matter is still in abeyance.

The interesting thing is that on the Minister's own data, wage rates were adjusted in the Army in June last and, as Senator O'Byrne corrected him by interjection, it was done in January of this year in the other two armed Services. To take Senator Henty's statement that it was June of last year, it is now nine months later and the rest of the Services have not had their pay rates brought up to the same level or to the level that they think fit. There has been no investigation made of the matter for nin? months and yet the Government wonders why there is discontent, not only in the armed Services, but among whatever people the Government deals with. Today there are stop work meetings throughout Australia because two Public Service unions are merely asking that they be permitted to have talks with the Commonwealth Public Service Board. We have the situation of the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service organisations, which is the representative of the rest of the unions in the Public Service, waiting to go to the Prime Minister of Australia to say: " For goodness sake, put more staff on the Public Service Board so that at least they will talk to us about our wage claims." I mention that in passing. Does the Government realise that it is a lackadaisical attitude it is taking to these things over which it has jurisdiction?

There is a principle involved in this which the Minister was very careful to sidestep. I regret he did that. When Senator McKenna raised the general question of equal pay on 9th April 1964, there were two Ministers who tried to have 5s. each way. But at least they did say what the Minister did not say today - that the Government agreed broadly with this principle of equal pay for the sexes. The Government went on to say that because of this that and the other thing, the matter could be brought before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In a past debate I remember congratulating the lady in the Chair today, Senator Wedgwood, when she put her finger on this whole problem. She said that the armed forces cannot be divorced from the general principle of equal pay for the sexes. She said that it was a question of simple justice. She did go on to say that even though it was a matter of simple justice somebody subordinate to the Government - suggesting the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - could take up this whole question under its own steam. If the Government believes that, it should instruct the Commission tomorrow morning to investigate and report on the proposal for equal pay, the desirability of it, and its cost. I hope that if ever we can stir the Government to do that, that when the report is prepared it will not come down like the report of the Allison committee, which the Minister spoke about, which is the most secret document I have ever heard of in this place. The Minister took advantage of quoting from the Allison report but he is the only senator in this chamber who has a copy of it.

Senator Wright - Have you seen it?

Senator WILLESEE - No. It has never been tabled and it has never been seen. The Government has it. The honorable senator should look at the questions in " Hansard " over the years where Government supporters and Ministers have said they were unable to get it. This matter was debated on the 9th April 1964. I quote from " Hansard " of that date. Senator Anderson said -

I make that point because the Opposition has based its case on the statement that the Government is diametrically opposed to equal pay for the sexes whereas in point of fact it is not.

But the Government could have fooled me because of the way it has carried on. Then Senator Anderson quoted from a document as follows -

Since the 1920's it has been the practice in the Commonwealth Public Service to pay to females and males alike the same margin where they occupy the same positions.

As Senator Henty pointed out quite correctly a moment ago the situation in the armed forces today is that women do receive 75 per cent, of the male basic wage, as in outside industry.

Senator Kennelly - No. If I remember correctly it is 66} per cent.

Senator WILLESEE - No. My information is that the Commonwealth Public Service and the women's Services are in line with outside industry in general. They all receive 75 per cent, of the base rate for males. That base rate varies in outside industry. This means that there is a full total wage being paid and whether it is jiggled with reels or merry-go-rounds it does not matter. Sometimes a higher margin has to be paid to women to bring their pay up to the male basic wage. As I have said, women in the Services receive 75 per cent, of the male rate. When we come to the rate for responsibilities for rank it is then that the women receive 66} per cent, of what I might term the margin. There is a base rate for a person in the Army. Added to that is an allowance for their rank. If the person concerned is a lance corporal he is paid 2s. 1 Id. for the rank. In addition there is a variable rate for a particular skill which, in the case of a lance corporal, varies from 2s. 6d. to 17s. 2d. So actually there are three components in the fixing of the wage. In the first component women receive 75 per cent, of the base rate. In the second, they receive 66} per cent, of the component for rank. In addition they receive a margin for skill.

I suggest that in paying those rates the Government is not upholding what it claims to be doing in the Commonwealth Public Service where, to use the words of Senator Anderson, female employees receive the full amount for margins. In my book, a margin is a margin - that is, anything that one receives over and above the basic wage. It is true that some of the disability payments are the same for both men and women. As Senator Henty has pointed out, until comparatively recently, in calculating pay for female members of the Services officers received 75 per cent, of the male basic wage plus 66} per cent, of margin for rank. In the pay of an officer nothing is allowed as a margin for skill such as is paid to other ranks; the rate is fixed as an officers rate and is applicable to the appropriate rank. So the Government is not carrying through from the Commonwealth Public Service to the female members of the armed Services the rates that it ought to be paying.

I do not see how honorable senators opposite can debate this subject without discussing the principle involved. On 9th April last, when we were debating the principle of equal pay for men and women for work of equal value, we pointed out that the Government then had a golden opportunity to apply that principle to the Public Service. It was claimed that to do so would set a precedent. We are now asking the Government to consider the matter as it affects a narrower field. It is a field which does not come as much to the fore as does the field we discussed last year, because in peace-time a comparatively .small number of women are employed in the armed Services. When the Government introduced its conscription legislation last year, we pointed out that if it had run the armed Services in the way in which they should have been run there would have been no need to introduce conscription. The evidence we have brought forward today supports what we said on that occasion.

If the Government wants to bring women into the armed Services and wants them to make a career within the Services, it ought to be offering them some inducement. By doing that the Government would be helping to provide a firm base for further expansion. All that a government can do in peace-time is to ensure the establishment of a trained base upon which expanded infantry forces and the like may rest. The Government cannot establish that base so effectively when it gets away from this principle of equal pay for equal work, which has been enshrined in the Declaration of Human Rights, which has been mentioned in debates of the United Nations ever since the establishment of that organisation, which has been referred to in declarations of the International Labour Organisation to which this country is a .party, and which has been upheld in the Treaty of Rome.

It has been stated that this principle has not been adopted in outside industry. Let me mention a few Federal awards under which the total pay received by women is the same as that received by men. I refer to the Confectioners Award of 1959; the Footwear (Wood, Heel, Last, Counter, Unishank and Toe Puff) Manufacturing Award of 1951; the Graphic Arts (Interim) Award of 1957; The Journalists (Australian Associated Press) Agreement of 1959; the Journalists (Worker Newspaper, Sydney) Award; the Marine Stewards Award; the Hotel Employees (Northern Territory) Award; the Musicians Award; the' Printing Industry (Northern Territory News Services Ltd.) Agreement of 1954; the Rubber, Plastic and Cable Making Industry Award of 1957; the Saddlery, Leather and Canvas Workers Award of 1951; the Felt Hatting Award; the Commonwealth Hostels Award; the Dried Fruits, etc. Industry Award: and the Flax Industry Award. So it is not true to say that in no part of the Australian wage-fixing structure is provision made for equal pay for the sexes. In view of these facts, how can the Government continue to adopt the narrow attitude that has been adopted by Senator Henty and say: "We are doing this because we know there is an inquiry on "? Incidentally, I very much doubt whether the inquiry finished one week ago.

The Government has been set a lead by the United States of America. Indeed, in other spheres in which the Commonwealth has jurisdiction - interstate commerce, commerce with foreign nations and so forth - the Government has demanded that there shall be equal pay for the sexes. I have not checked on the position in the United States of America over the last 12 months, but when we considered this subject in March 1964 twenty-two of the American States had adopted equal pay for the sexes. In the United States, neither the unions nor the employers can sign collective bargaining agreements unless they make provision for the principle of equal pay for the sexes. As adoption of this principle is being advocated all over the world, as it is supported in declarations of the International Labour Organisation, as a lead is being given by the United States, and as we make much of the fact that we do not discriminate between peoples of different colour, class and creed, surely it is -time that we ceased to practise discrimination in the industrial field simply because a person happens to be born as a girl instead of as a boy. The American Constitution declares that all people are born with equal status, and at long last the Americans are recognising that fact in practice. The difference between America and Australia is that America has leadership but Australia is lacking in leadership.

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