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Wednesday, 24 March 1965


Senator BISHOP (South Australia) . - Mr. Acting Deputy President, 1 support the position advanced by Senator O'Byrne and I hope that honorable senators will remember that this motion refers to the grave anomalies in the rates of pay of female members of the Defence Forces. I say that because during the contribution by the last speaker, Senator Branson, it seemed to me that he was mainly on the defensive, that he did not answer the propositions that we had advanced that there are anomalies, but that he simply said: " If you were in power you would not be able to do the things you are asking us to do." The Opposition makes no apology for its stand on this matter. We have taken it up on many occasions. For example, nobody would challenge that the Opposition has always advanced and supported the claims of industrial unions for advanced pay increases in a situation of inflation. We have argued that the Government should not intrude in basic wage cases opposing claims of the Australian Council of Trade Unions hut should assist the Commissioner and the unions particularly where claims are based on the escalation of prices. Only last year we argued a case for equal pay for the sexes. We have heard the Government's attitude towards it and in my opinion it is quite wrong. I do not think, in this circumstance, that the Government's attitude towards the anomalies and the claim for equal pay in certain circumstances in the Services can be sustained.

The Government cannot defend its attitude by referring to the situation during World War II and saying that the Australian Labour Party allowed the women's rate to be set at 54 per cent, of the male rate. The fact is that during the last war the Labour Party pegged wages for females at the then prevailing rate of 54 per cent, of the male rate. But what the Labour Party did do during the war - and nobody acknowledged it - was to recognise the principle of equal pay by setting up the Women's Employment Board. This Board decided to investigate the situations such as we have today where servicewomen are doing the job of men. What the Labour Party did was to set up a special board under the late Judge Foster to consider whether women doing the jobs of men were entitled to equal rates of pay, not just the basic wage or the margin but the total pay. The fact is, as we all know, that many women who worked on railway jobs, as conductresses, driving buses, in the factories as process workers or producing munitions received the full total of the male wage. In many cases this level has been maintained since those war years.

The Labour Party did this and other governments decided to follow the move. References have been made tonight to the pattern of increasing rates of pay for women. Following the move to which I have referred, the industrial movement went to arbitration and obtained the 75 per cent, margin of the basic wage for females. Later on somebody else pressed forward and got the J 00 per cent, margin. Speakers on the Government side have said: " We did this; you did not ". The Government has belatedly followed the pattern outside the Services. What the Opposition is saying to the Government is that the pattern outside, even now, is not good enough and it has to take account of changed conditions

Of course what is happening is that an increasing number of women are not only entering industries and offices but are entering special jobs and doing tasks which they never did before. In these circumstances women have to be recognised as new units and hr.ve to be paid accordingly. This is happening in the Services. Everybody knows - and I hope nobody will dispute it - that the aim of the Services is to relieve men from desk jobs and administration, from accounting and from transport pools so that they can go onto the front line. If a service woman takes up this occupation surely she should get the same rate of pay as the man whose job she performs. This is the pattern in outside industry. As Senator O'Byrne said, the trend in every State now is for the rate of pay in special occupations, such as that of teacher, to be advanced from the old 64 per cent, to 80 per cent. Some times it is more in various Slates. Later on 100 per cent, will be paid in some classifications. I hope that this will be done in my own State where the new Labour Government has announced its intention to introduce new equal pay legislation. This is a first step. It is true that New South Wales Government has introduced equal pay legislation. It was followed by the Tasmanian Government but that legislation was held up. Now it will be followed by the South Australian Labour Government which has promised to legislate in this way. This is the background the Government should be considering when talking about rates of pay for women in the Services. Nobody can argue against this pattern which has developed in the community. Because of it the Government has to make provision for new rates.

I notice that amongst Government supporters there is a certain difference of opinion. As 1 understand the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty), when he was replying to Senator O'Byrne, he accepted that the general responsibilities and powers of servicewomen are the same as their counterpart, the males. If this is so it is another good reason why they should be treated the same as to pay. But when Senator Cormack spoke he claimed that this was not so. I am prepared to accept the Minister's point of view. I know that this is so - that these people have the same responsibilities. Why should a female section officer in the Women's Royal Australian Air Force who carries out the same job as a male who has gone on active service somewhere be paid less than the male officer? Why should the female transport officer receive less than her male counterpart? There are many women in the Services replacing men in transportation and other jobs. Why should they not receive the same recompense?


Senator Buttfield - Can you tell us how much it would cost?


Senator BISHOP - That is not the question. That is the attitude of all employers. Every time these moves are advanced Senator Buttfield gets up and says: " Yes, the principle of equal pay is a good thing." But every time we test that statement in this chamber she supports the Government and says it cannot be done. When the Opposition brought forward a motion on equal pay last year the same thing happened. The Government said: "Look, despite the fact that we have had representations from the Australian Council of Trade Unions to do something about this and despite the fact that the white collar workers have claimed that we should do it, our position is based on the fact that in Australia there is a basic wage. Because there is a basic wage which makes provision, according to history, for sustenance for a family unit, the trade union movement should go to the courts or should accept a single basic wage. What I am putting is that this is a negation of the Government's responsibility because, under the charter of the International Labour Organisation, the Government had a responsibility to canvass the situation properly. If it found it could not instruct the sovereign States to carry out the principle of equal pay what it should have done - and what we are asking for tonight partly - was to offer equal pay to all Government employees and to consider, in the light of how the Services have been treated, the question of anomalies within the Services. We do not mind if the Minister says that the Government will canvass this question of equal pay and also the anomalies. But I want to put it to the Senate that in respect of Service pay honorable senators would think, to listen to the Minister, that these people are being handsomely treated. We know this is not so. The engineers' case took four or five years to be heard. Upon it are based most of the engineering classifications for rates of pay. As I remember it this case was finished in 1963 after a very prolonged hearing. Because of the very low wage standard and the lack of housing, many officers left the armed Services. I think that at least 100 left. I received a reply from the Minister in which he stated that as a result of the increase in pay it was expected that that loss would be stayed.

Female members of the Services have npt been well treated. If it was right to adjust the rates of pay of males in July last year, it would have been right to adjust female rates immediately afterwards. I cannot see any reason why the defence Services should follow trends in industry, because the Services now find themselves in an entirely new situation. It is their intention to free men to take part on active service. Who will say that before this year has ended we all will not be in the front line and that the girl who is doing signals work, the girl who is doing transport work or the girl who is doing an accounting job will not be just as important as the man whose job she has taken over? I appreciate the sympathy that is displayed by the female supporters of the Government; but it is sad to see each of them, including Senator Buttfield, having supported the principle of equal pay for the sexes, at the last moment voting against the proposals we advance. I shall not quote instances from " Hansard " as my time is nearly gone, but everybody knows that that has happened.

There is no grandstanding in what the Opposition is doing tonight. We say that an anomaly exists. Everybody knows there is an anomaly in regard to the rates of pay of female members of the Services. I have already referred to the fact that adjustments in the rates of pay of servicemen were delayed for a long time - probably for twelve months. I have already emphasized the fact that female members of the Services have been very badly treated. How can the Government justify the lower percentage of margin for rank that is accorded to women as opposed to men? Why should a female non-commissioned officer or commissioned officer receive a margin of only 66} per cent, for skill, supervision or rank when a rating of 100 per cent, is accorded to men? Are not the responsibilities of men and women in similar positions the same? The Minister has said that they are. He has stated that the female member is subject to the same disciplines, has the same responsibility and has to employ the same skills as her male counterpart. We know that in the months ahead an increasing number of women will be performing the tasks that men are performing now. Because of these facts, we cannot compare the position of members of the Services with that of employees in outside industry. When Labour was in office at least it did set up the Women's Employment Board - a development that was quite revolutionary at the time. Since then there have been a lot of industrial determinations which have provided for equal pay for the sexes where the same kind of work was being performed.

I suggest, Mr. Deputy President, that the motion has been well timed. There has been no leakage of information as far as we are concerned, because we have been told, upon making inquiries about the Allison report, that it is not yet available. All we know about is the industrial trend, the escalation of wages for male members of the Services and, more particularly, the anomaly that exists in relation to female members of the Services.







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