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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- " 9a. Section thirty of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (4.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the rates, or scales of rates, of salary payable to female officers shall not be less than the rates, or scales of rates, of salary payable to male officers performing equivalent duties.'.".

I move this amendment with a great deal of pleasure, because I think we have reached the stage at which we should recognize the right of women performing equal duties with men to receive the same rate of salary as men. This principle has been adopted by, and is recognized in, public services other than the Commonwealth Public Service throughout Australia. I know that conductresses on the trams in Victoria receive exactly the same wages as do male conductors. I know that women porters employed by the Victorian Railways receive exactly the same salaries as male porters. I know, too, that assessors in the Commonwealth Taxation Department receive the same margin over the basic rate as do males, but that their base rate is only 75 per cent, of the base rate for males. In other words, they receive something like £104 a year less than men receive.

Mr Makin - Lady members of the legislature receive the same salaries as male members.

Mr CALWELL - The five lady senators receive the same salaries as the male senators.

Mr Makin - They receive the same as Senator Wood.

Mr CALWELL - They receive the same as Senator Wright, Senator Wood, or any other senator. As a matter of fact, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, their intelligence is of a much higher quality than that of Senator Wright or Senator Wood. We did have a lady member of this place who received the same salary as every other member of the House of Representatives. She received a salary equivalent to that received by every other member of the Ministry at the time she held a portfolio. She was a charming member of this chamber.

Mr Menzies - There was one on your side, my dear fellow, and you put her out.

Mr CALWELL - That is true. But we did not put her out because she was a woman; we put her out because she was not a member of the Labour Party. We have no hesitation in removing members who are not members of the Labour Party. Indeed, the party that supports the Government in South Australia has already placed Senator Buttfield No. 3 on its ticket to ensure her defeat at the next election. But that is another matter.

Women doctors receive the same salaries as male doctors in the public hospitals throughout Australia. Women lawyers are paid exactly the same as male lawyers. I do not know how women teachers are paid in the teaching services of the States, but I should imagine that women professors in the universities - and there are some - and women lecturers are paid salaries equivalent to those paid to male professors and lecturers.

Mr McMahon - Women are not paid the same salaries as men in the New South Wales teaching service.

Mr CALWELL - I am talking about university people, not teachers in the teaching services. The time has arrived when the services of everybody should be treated not on the basis of sex, but on the basis of his or her intellectual contribution to community welfare. If we have in the Public Service women who are doing work equal to that being done by men, they ought to be paid the same salaries as the men are paid.

Other countries which we would have regarded as backward countries years ago are much further advanced in this field than we are. The United Nations organization, which does not always enjoy the respect that it should in this chamber, adopted the principle of equal pay for equal work long ago. Some countries have not only adopted but have implemented the recommendation of the United Nations organization in this matter. Speaking now as a layman, not as a lawyer, I submit that, under our external affairs power, we should have adopted and implemented that recommendation in the federal sphere, and also endeavoured to induce the States to implement it. At all events, we can make a start in our own Commonwealth Public Service and in the Commonwealth Territories. It is because I think it is better to start now rather than later that I have moved the amendment. I ask the Government to accept it. If it will not, we shall divide the committee on the issue because we want to indicate to the people that women, having the same voting rights as men, should have the same pay as men if they do the same work as men.

There is too much Victorian influence being exerted in this chamber. Perhaps the fact that it was not until 1906 that women in Victoria enjoyed a vote for the Legislative Assembly is still weighing heavily on the minds of those members of the Ministry who come from Victoria. Be that as it may, conservatism is still affecting the minds of the Ministry with regard to the position of women in the community. If the Government will not act now, some other government will within the next few years. We think this Government ought to act now because it is entitled to establish at least one monument for its eleven years of office. We are prepared to help the Government establish that monument by persuading it to accept the proposition of equal pay for women doing equal work. I hope that we shall see some of the Liberal Party members on the Government side, and some Country Party members too, who attend quite a number of women's gatherings between elections seeking to persuade the women to vote them into office, indicating that they do not regard our womenfolk as inferior beings who ought to be paid only 75 per cent, of the male rate when they happen to be employed in a government department or otherwise on the government pay-roll.

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