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Wednesday, 3 June 1942


Mr McEWEN (Indi) . - I wish to refer to certain aspects of the rates of pay and allowances ofRoyal Australian Air Force personnel. Last October, a motion was submitted by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) censuring the previous Government for certain things, including the rates of pay of service personnel. The then Opposition intimated that if it assumed office it would increase the rates of pay of service personnel. Subsequently that was done in respect of the majority of personnel, for rates of pay were increased by ls. a day. That was a simple step which every one could understand, but it might have been thought that the honorable gentlemen who supported that procedure had something more in mind that the giving of an extra ls. a day to members of the armed forces. It might havebeen considered that their policy would have included at least the maintenance of existing allowances to persons engaged in the services. It was with great surprise, therefore, that I discovered that shortly after this Government assumed office certain reductions were made of the rates of pay and allowances to members of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force and permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force.

I shall deal first with living-out allowances. The rates paid during the regime of the previous Government were fixed, having regard to comparable rates of pay of males and females in industry. Taking this factor into consideration the rates for women were two-thirds of those fixed for men, but, on the assumption that it would cost women just as much as men to live out, the living-out allowance was made identical in each case. It did not take the present Government long to reduce the living-out allowance for certain women. Previously, the livingout allowance was 2s. 5d. a day for both men and women in the case of personnel living out of barracks but in their own homes, and 4s. 4d. a day for both men and women living out of barracks but not in their own homes. This Government has reduced that rate for women to 3s. 6d. a day. I should like to know by what process of reasoning the Government has concluded that women are able to live out more cheaply than men and yet pay the same fares and the like. I should think that the great majority of women affectedby the livingout allowances are required, after their period of training at recruit-training depots is completed, to live away from their own homes.


Mr Baker - Does the honorable gentleman agree with the policy of equal pay for equal work?


Mr McEWEN - That question scarcely arises in respect of myself, but I can quite appreciate that it arises in respect of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin)., who has had a notice of motion on the business-paper for a considerable period, the purpose of which is to obtain the approval of the House to the payment of equal rates for both sexes. I cannot reconcile the view expressed by the Minister for the Navy in his notice of motion and the view expressed in his ministerial capacity, for the reduction of the livingout allowance applies to members of the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service as well as to members of the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force. The honorable gentleman appears before us in two guises. He is not only Minister for the Navy, but also Minister for Munitions. As Minister for Munitions he is responsible for the employment of a substantial number of women at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. I am given to understand that, after a preliminary period of training lasting for two or three weeks, the women employed at Lithgow, if they prove competent, are paid the same rates as men for the same work, irrespective of whether they are adults or minors. This brings me to another point to which I invite the attention of the Government. How can the practice of paying girls of seventeen and eighteen years of age at Lithgow the same rates as are paid to adult males be reconciled with the reduction of the rates of living-out allowance?


Mr Chifley - I do not think that girls of seventeen and eighteen years of age are employed at Lithgow.


Mr McEWEN - My advice is that they are so employed. Why should the Government, while paying such rates at Lithgow, seek to reduce the rate of pay to women, under 21 years serving in the armed forces, particularly as they are required to do exactly the same work as their adult sisters?


Mr Rosevear - For how long has this been going on?


Mr McEWEN - It goes back as far as January last. The reduction of the rate of living-out allowance following the reduction of pay for minors has had such a serious effect upon the remuneration of the girls during the last, two or three weeks that the Government has been obliged to prescribe a minimum rate of £2 16s. a week, pay and allowances, for members of -the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force, and I presume that the same rate applies to women engaged in other branches of the armed forces. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to these matters. I am certain that, upon reflection, it will realize that the reduction of the living out allowance is unjustifiable. It is impossible for girls to live under reasonable conditions on the reduced rates. I asked a question of the Minister for Air on this subject two or three weeks ago and the honorable gentleman said, in his reply, that the step had been taken as the result of an agendum prepared for the previous Government. I do not desire to discuss that aspect of the subject, for I agree with the Prime Minister that discussion of a secret agendum should be avoided; but I am compelled to say that if this proposal originated during rho regime of the previous Government it certainly did not reach the stage at which political consideration was given to it. The subject may have been given departmental consideration without the knowledge of the political heads of the respective departments. A Treasury finance sub-committee is constantly reviewing rates of pay and allowances in the service departments, and almost e veryweek it brings forward proposals which may utimately reach the ministerial head of the department and may finally reach Cabinet. I am not able to say whether this particular matter had been considered by the Treasury sub-committee, but I am quite certain that it had not been brought to the notice of any Minister.

I wish to refer also to certain reductions of pay that have been brought into effect in relation to permanent members of the Royal Australian Air Force. I refer, of course, to the men who have chosen the air arm of the fighting services as their life profession. The rates of pay and emoluments of these men are provided in scales laid down in the statutes applicable to them, and as is the case with other branches of the public service, the rates do not include any allowance for dependants although they carry certain superannuation benefits. The rates of pay of permanent members of the Air Force are higher than those prescribed for personnel who join the Air Force only for the duration of the war, but the pay of such individuals is supplemented by an allowance for dependants and also certain pension rights.


Mr Drakeford - On what date did this reduction come into force?


Mr McEWEN - I am unable to give the date to the Minister.


Mr Drakeford - I think it will be found that the reduction became operative during the term of office of the previous Government. It is for that reason that I am asking the honorable gentleman to give me the date of the alteration.


Mr McEWEN - I am unable, at the moment, to state the date but I challenge the Minister to show that the reduction did not become effective during the regime of this Government. I am now referring to what I believe to be an anomaly, under which, by means of a change from the permanent rates to the duration or special force rates of pay, service personnel who are married and have dependants enjoy an advantage, because they receive an allowance for a. dependent wife, and for other dependants such as children ; whereas a single permanent man without dependants finds himself suffering a reduction of his rate of pay, according to his rank. In order that he may not receive a lower amount, the Government makes up. the differencebetween the permanent and the duration rates of pay, as an ex gratia allowance. When this permanent mau secures promotion during the war, however, the pay for his higher rank is at the duration or special force rate; consequently, under this system, a permanent Air Force officer may secure promotion and still not obtain an addition to his rate of pay. In the final analysis it means that a man who joined the Air Force as a permanent life profession, at certain rates of pay which then obtained, now finds that, while serving in war-time, he will receive a less rate of pay than he did in the days of peace. That is an anomaly which cannot be supported, and I shall be glad if the Minister will investigate it. I am quite sure that it has been introduced during the term of office of the present Government. I believe that it was done for the general advantage of these men, who are mostly married and have dependants; but that is the effect upon the single man without dependants.


Mr Rosevear - Is the honorable gentleman sure that that happened under this Government?


Mr McEWEN - I am quite sure. 1 believe that the honorable- member will find that I am correct in saying that some of these reductions occurred during the first week in January, and the others at a later date.

I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) whether he will give consideration to the provision of a uniform for the lads between sixteen and eighteen years of age who, with the consent of their parents, are joining or have joined the Air Training Corps - for which service they do not receive any pay - on the understanding that, when they reach the age of eighteen years, they will join the Royal Australian Air Force as volunteers. No attempt is made to impose upon a boy of from sixteen to eighteen years of age a binding obligation to join the Air Force when he reaches the age of eighteen years. It is an honorable understanding, to which his parents are a party, and which, in the last analysis, could be broken either by the parents or by the boy himself. In practice, the Air Training Corps is proving to be a very valuable adjunct to the Air Force. The lads give up their time in order to be trained in all the preliminaries that will ultimately enable them to become members of air crews, and some of them are engaging in the specialized duties that are now playing such an important part in the Air Force.

They, and the officers - most of whom, in an honorary capacity, are giving up their time in order to train the boys - consider that they are entitled to have a uniform to wear. I whole-heartedly support the proposal. I had intended, when Minister for Air, that these uniforms should be provided. The additional cost to the Government would be very little if any, because it was proposed that the uniforms to be provided should be identical with, those of the Royal Australian Air Force. Consequently, most of the boys would be able to pass from the Air Training Corps to the Air Force proper, carrying the 3ame uniform. I ask the Minister to give consideration to this matter.

I wish to refer to the impressment of rifles from civilian owners, for use by the Army and the Volunteer Defence Corps. Almost, without exception the owners, who have willingly surrendered the rifles for military purposes, consider that they are being given a raw deal by the Army authorities. I do not believe this is a matter of government policy; but it becomes ultimately a matter of governmeent responsibility. I have received many complaints in my district, that the rifles have been valued at as low as 7s. 6d. each. Some of them have been valued at 25s. and 30s. The owner of one service rifle, who alleged that it had fired only 20 shots, said that it was valued at £2 5s. Several of those, who complained to me were, members of a rifle club in my locality, which, at the outbreak of wai, had rifles on loan from the Defence Department. The club lost one of the borrowed rifles, and promptly received a bill for £9 from the Defence Department. It was obliged to pay that amount for a rifle which had been mislaid. Now that rifles have been impressed, a rifle of that type is paid for at the rates of 25s., 30s. and 45s., whilst rifles that are inferior in quality are paid for at as low a rate as 7s. 6d. I have had the instance related to me of one family which owned two rifles. These were impressed. The owners were notified that it was necessary to attend at a police station, not in the nearest town, but in a town 12 or 13 miles distant, for the purpose of signing the papers that would enable them to secure payment for their rifles. They were not told how much they were to receive. In these days of petrol rationing, farmers do not drive 25 miles for fun. These two persons drove to the police station to which they had been directed. In petrol alone, the cost to them must have been 4s. Upon arrival, they were asked to sign a document agreeing to accept 7s. 6d. each for their rifles. [ ask the appropriate Minister to bring the matter before the Minister for the Army, in order to learn whether fairer offers cannot be made for rifles that have been impressed, and also, whether it is beyond the wit of the Army authorities io intimate to owners what they are to be paid for their rifles, instead of dragging them 25 or 30 miles, merely to be told the price by a policeman.







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