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Wednesday, 24 March 1965

Senator CORMACK (Victoria) .- I should have thought that the heat would have disappeared from Senator O'Byrne's proposal after the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), who represents the Treasurer in this place, had spoken. The Minister satisfied me, but apparently he has not satisfied all members of the Opposition, by his statement that, having removed anomalies in rates of pay for male members of the armed forces, departmental committees have been considering anomalies in rates of pay for female members of the Services. I should have thought that all argument on that aspect of the matter had come to an end.

Senator Willeseehas raised an entirely new aspect of the matter. The honorable senator is always succinct and worth listening to. Apparently on this occasion he prepared his speech, which was ably presented, with great speed after the Minister resumed his seat. The honorable senator moved away from the problem of anomalies in rates of pay as between male and female members of the armed Services and dealt with the responsibility of the Government in relation to equal pay for the sexes in the wider civil field. He referred to declarations by the International Labour Organisation and similar bodies. We had a debate on that subject in April of last year. But today we are discussing the position, not of men and women who are engaged in industry, but of those who are engaged in military professions, whether they be in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force - I use the word " military " in its widest concept. An equality of service is not demanded from men and women who are engaged in the military profession. I do not care what anybody says to the contrary. We could never get an equality of effort from both sexes. Perhaps in theory an equality of sacrifice is demanded of men and women in the armed Services, but surely there is not one honorable senator in this chamber at the present moment who would advocate that the same risks be demanded of Australian women in times of war or urgency as are expected of men.

Senator Buttfield - Why not?

Senator CORMACK - All I can do is to speak from my own personal experience. Curiously enough, a certain standard of morality is expected from some people even when you are engaged in war. However, we discovered during the war against Japan that in relation to the treatment of prisoners, for example, we could not expect from the Japanese the normal' standard of morality that could be expected of a European power.

In wartime it was the normal practice to establish a casualty clearing station for each division. In those days 12 members of the Army Nursing Service were allotted to a casualty clearing station and no commander in his right senses would put a casualty clearing station staffed by members of the Army Nursing Services in support of a division which could easily be penetrated by the enemy with which the division was engaged. The practice at that time was to place male nursing orderlies in the forward casualty clearing stations instead of members of the Army Nursing Service. I think that action was very proper because it seemed to me impossible that any Australian society would accept the placement of female nurses in forward and poorly defended localities. Who knows but that in the defence of Australia we will not be involved in that problem.

Senator Branson - Do not forget what happened to the Army nurses who were taken prisoners.

Senator CORMACK - It was because of that experience that we pulled the nurses out of the forward areas and I hope that in future we will do the same.

Senator Wright - Chivalry is one thing, but does not every member of the armed Services have the same duty?

Senator CORMACK - Not in a war. It is the risk of death that is involved in the profession of arms in wartime. We will go a little further since I seem to have fallen into a bed of feminism. However brave women may be - and they are brave, perhaps braver than the men - the fact is that they cannot adequately replace men in the theatre of operations.

Senator Buttfield - Rubbish.

Senator CORMACK - I have not gone through the pangs of childbirth so that on that subject 1 cannot make any comments. I. revert to my original postulate, that in the armed forces - in this profession of arms which requires the penalty of death in defence on one's country - you cannot put women into forward positions to accept this responsibility and I would not be a party to such an action.

Senator O'Byrne - I have seen a woman cavalry officer.

Senator CORMACK - Where?

Senator O'Byrne - In the Russian Army, when I was liberated from a prisoner of war camp.

Senator CORMACK - The honorable senator is not advocating that for Australia, is he?

Senator O'Byrne - The honorable senator was saying that women cannot do it.

Senator CORMACK - I did not say that women cannot do it. I am saying that I would not be a party to such an action and this must be the basis on which you approach the problem as to the relative rates of pay for the sexes inside the Army, Navy or Air Force. Senator Henty, who represents the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), has made it perfectly clear that, over a vast panorama where women can effectively replace men, in communications, in base areas and the like, they will get completely equal margins for skill. I regard a total wage in relation to the base rate, in the words of one distinguished member of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, as a social wage. I rest my case on this proposition: The social wage for a female officer or other rank in the armed Services is 75 per cent, of the base rate. 1 shall maintain that principle for as long as I am in the Senate, provided that the female margins for skill are equal to those of the males.

Senator O'Byrne - Could the honorable senator guarantee that the report will give the females 75 per cent?

Senator CORMACK - I am not guaranteeing anything. Senator Henty has said this afternoon in the Senate that, ever since the anomalies in rates of pay for male members of the Services were attended to, an inter departmental committee has been sitting to deal with the problem of anomalies in rates of pay for female members. The Minister said that the committee has recommended that steps be taken to correct the anomalies and that the recommendation has been sent through government channels. 1 assume that it will be acceded to because he evidenced the fact that the trend has been established by other committees which have made recommendations to the Government. 1 am quite satisfied that justice will be done and, as far as I am concerned, this debate does not have much left in it. I am not going to say any more about it.

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