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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has completely begged the question. We on this side of the committee believe that there is a growing body of world opinion which accepts the principle of equal pay for men and women doing equal work, and that there is an increasing demand by the public in that respect. There is an increasing realization also that there is no differentiation between the abilities of the sexes, particularly in administrative work, and it is time for the Commonwealth to do something about it. This is quite relevant to the province of the right honorable gentleman as head of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is not the purpose of the Opposition to pressurize anybody into anything. If it is a question of high policy, as the right honorable gentleman has so eloquently explained, there is nobody else to whom it should be more properly handed to settle than the Prime Minister. This Parliament and this Government should see that it is done.

Obviously, the Prime Minister does not suggest that the lady senators should be paid a proportion of the salaries that are paid to other members of the Parliament. Here in this place is probably one of the few sections of the community where women can achieve equal pay for equal work. The principle is accepted also in the payment of fees to women doctors under the health and medical scheme. So it is not so much a question of creating anomalies by accepting the principle of equal pay but simply a question of removing an anomaly that is offensive to nearly all women in the community. We must accept the fact that many women have equal responsibility. That is the case with many women in Public Service employment and in the case of widows with children who are receiving less wages than men without children. There is no justification for that position. It is up to the right honorable gentleman to find some standard other than the precedents of the past and try to lay down some principle that is more acceptable to modern thinking and in line with the prosperity about which he speaks so often.

Question put -

That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Calwell's amendment) be so inserted.

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