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Wednesday, 24 March 1965

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) . - This has been a remarkable debate. First the Opposition was accused of timing its raising of this matter of urgency to coincide with the completion by an inter departmental committee of its investigations. Let me say that the Australian Labour Party gave permission last Wednesday to Senator O'Byrne to raise this matter, but the Government had no work for us last Wednesday and the Senate rose on Tuesday. We had to wait until today to raise the matter. I believe that effectively refutes the accusation that the Labour Party knew that there was a report and that it was to be tabled.

Much as I believe in the principle of equal pay for the sexes, that is not the question involved in this debate. The question for discussion at the moment is whether the Government wants women in the Army, but only on the cheap. According to the statutory rules and regulations under the Defence Act of 30th July 1964, the male rates of pay in the Army were increased. What was wrong with increasing the female rates at that time? If the Government does not want women in the Army, that should be said, but they should not be kept in the Army for nearly nine months on the cheap.

Senator O'Byrnehas said ; and it has not been contradicted - that a female captain in her first four years of service receives 63 per cent, of the pay of a male captain. After that period the percentage drops to 53 per cent, of the pay of her male counterpart. A female lieutenant receives 63 per cent, of the male rate in her first four years of service and after that she receives 56 per cent. Senator O'Byrne has asked whether this is why women cannot be attracted into the Services - they are cheap labour. If the Government wants them - and I take it that they are wanted - I cannot see why, at least where they are doing equal work, their pay should be kept down to the percentages I have stated, when the male rate has already been fixed. lt seemed to me to be a natural corollary of the increased rates for male members of the Services that the Government would examine the position of women in the Services and at least preserve the previous relativity. It is interesting to note that at this time, as Senator Henty has said, there is a report in front of the Government for consideration. I believe the Government deserves condemnation for not automatically fixing the rates for all members of the Services at the one time. Senator O'Byrne has said that women in the Services receive the same living out allowances as their male counterparts. They have to pay the same amount in the headquarters mess as do male personnel of equal rank; they receive the same clothing allowance, the same travelling allowance and the same meal allowance. It is astounding to me that this position has been allowed to continue since July of last year when the male rates were fixed.

If the figures quoted by Senator O'Byrne are correct - 1 have no reason to doubt them - is it any wonder that dissatisfaction exists? We find that the W.R.A.A.C. lost 12 officers last year and received only six recruits to take their places. Worse still, 163 other ranks left while only 142 were recruited. Does the Government need an extra nine months to consider raising the pay of women in the Services after the pay of the men is increased? Senator O'Byrne's information is that the total number of women in the Army today is 55 officers and 525 other ranks.

I do not think anyone can fail to gain the impression that it was the intention of the Government to treat this Service, and particularly the women in it, in a way that will not induce people of the calibre that everyone wants to see in the defence of this nation to join up and make a career of military service. I understand, that if a servicewoman in the W.R.A.A.C. reaches the rank of captain at 28 years of age and remains in the Service, as I believe she can, until she has to resign at the age of 50 years, she may get no higher remuneration in those 22 years. The Minister has admitted that there are so few female majors in the Army that it is an impossibility for all of those who wish to attain that rank to do so. I heard what Senator Cormack said about active service. Am I right in saying that it takes eight men behind the line to keep one man in the line?

Senator Mattner - It takes nine.

Senator KENNELLY - That is one better. A woman in the Services should be entitled to at least the same rate as those nine men. We say that the Government will not enhance the prestige of the Army or help with the defence of this nation if it adopts what to my mind is a very mean attitude towards the women in the Services. Taking a cue from what the Minister said, all I hope is that the report on the pay of servicewomen will not remain before the Government as long as has another report that it has had before it for quite a number of years. I sincerely hope that if, in the future, rises in pay are given to male members of the Services, the Government will use a little commonsense in this regard. I do not say that in any offensive manner, but we are dealing with the Services and if the Government wants the co-operation which it is entitled to expect from employees, whether they are in the forces or anywhere else, it should treat them as they ought to be treated and not keep them waiting for nine months for well merited pay increases. Whatever the Government decides about the report on the pay of females in the armed forces - I refer particularly to the Army - I hope that it will do the decent thing and date any increase in remuneration back at least to the same time as the men were given rises.

Senator Morris - But the Minister more or less suggested that.

Senator KENNELLY - He suggested it; but I have heard such suggestions for a long time. I suppose we in this place are more concerned with defence today than we have been for a great number of years, and I therefore wonder why a determination of this matter should take even the time the Minister stated. I want to know for how long the committee sat and whether it was asked to get a move on, or whether the Minister was satisfied that this was cheap labour? If that was his idea, the sooner he gets it out of his head the better. We want the best Army we can afford and one that we can be proud of.

Senator Kendall - We have that now.

Senator KENNELLY - That may be so, but judging by the way the Government is treating a section of the Army it must think that these people are second grade. We all recognise that, in the world as it is today, this country has an obligation not to rely always on friends, because those friends might not always be willing. Let us pull our weight but, above all, let us have Armed Services in which the personnel are happy with their conditions. I cannot imagine any woman in the Services today having to wait nine months or longer for a rise in pay similar to that granted to the men. All I say is that the Government should pay up and pay quickly.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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