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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator CAMERON (Victoria) (Minister for Aircraft Production) . - This is another instance in which a motion to disallow a statutory rule has been submitted by the Opposition without any attempt being made to produce one atom of evidence to prove that the rule is working to the detriment of the nation. The board about which complaint is made has sat, and no exception has been taken to any of it3 actions. What does that indicate? It indicates that the opposition to the board arises not from sound political reasons, but from personal bias against its members. The evidence to that effect is overwhelming, because not one unfair action can rightly be attributed to any member of the board. No attempt has been made by the Opposition to give the board a trial, as one would reasonably expect. If a trial had proved that the board was not acting in the interests of the nation, the Opposition would have a sound basis for its objection; but, up to date, its arguments are based on mere supposition. We are told that the board will do this, that, or something else detrimental to the nation. If honorable senators on this side of the chamber were equally as biased as the Opposition, they would probably behave in a similar fashion, and promise that the board would do all sorts of things which it has not the slightest intention of doing. Honorable senators opposite have accused the board of having ulterior motives, and of having a tendency to do something harmful to the nation. However, they have not adduced one fact in support of their accusations. If they were appearing before a court of law, their case would be ruled out, they would be compelled to pay costs, and they would be warned against bringing vexatious cases before the court. It is fortunate for them that they are not legal practitioners, and that they have more latitude in this chamber than they would be allowed in a court of law. It has been said that the constitution of this board is likely to lead to all kinds of industrial trouble. That statement also is based on mere supposition.

Senator Keane - And there is no industrial trouble.

Senator CAMERON - None at all. If we find in times of war, as we have done, that our fighting forces should be directly responsible to the Government, through the medium of their appointed officers, then it is reasonable to suppose that, if our working forces were organized on a similar basis, we should not have anything like the industrial trouble which we have had recently. We cannot have divided control in war-time, and, at the same time, expect to organize a maximum war effort. To-day, our working forces are responsible to all sorts of people exercising all sorts of powers. These people may be sincere and wellintentioned in many instances, but they are lacking in that unity, co-operation and efficiency which is necessary to produce the best results. The appointment of the board to which exception has been taken will not remov.e all difficulties immediately, but it will modify them with a view to eliminating them eventually. The Opposition should be the first to welcome such an arrangement, particularly as it has emphasized so frequently its desire for industrial peace. I say emphatically that there cannot be industrial peace while managements are working at cross purposes, and while we have duplicated and multiplied services where one service would be sufficient. The Government was faced with that position, and it appointed the board with the object of overcoming the difficulties arising from that state of affairs.

Senator McLeay -- The Government has duplication here. It has Federal and State Arbitration Courts, and now it has put another tribunal on top of all that.

Senator CAMERON - I am grateful for the interjection, because it gives me an opportunity to point out to the honorable senator that, although we have Federal and State courts, they have not worked as efficiently as is necessary. The delays which were mentioned by Senator Arthur could have been avoided. When the court has been put on its defence and asked to give reasons for such delays, it has said, and probably rightly so, that it is overworked. It has asked, in effect, for the appointment of either additional judges or additional tribunals. The judges have not said precisely what they want, but they have pointed out, time after time, that they have more work than they can reasonably be expected to perform. This board was set up with the object of overcoming that position. It has been said by the Leader of the Opposition that the action of the Government amounts to political interference with the courts, but the honorable gentleman is merely playing with words. The Arbitration Court itself is a political creation and acts under political instructions. All such tribunals are interfered with from time to time by governments, [f the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act were amended as I should like to see it amended, for the purpose of securing industrial peace, it could be said by honorable gentlemen opposite: "Here is another example of political interference with the Arbitration Court ". The court is not a law unto itself; it is a tribunal subordinate to the government that created it and to succeeding governments. Therefore, an observation of the kind made by the Leader of the Opposition is of little assistance to us.

It has been said that the Minister for Labour and National Service has no regard for the interests of the people other than his own personal following. That is an obvious exaggeration, because the Minister is a member of the Government, and the policy of the Government is decided after consultation and in agreement with the various members of the Cabinet. Therefore, the statement reflecting on the

Minister for Labour and National Service personally is obviously incorrect. If the Minister were determined to act in the interests of his personal following, he would be prepared to go a good deal farther than he has gone. He would be prepared to lay down that there should be equal pay for the sexes. That would be fully in accordance with the policy of the Labour party, but he has not attempted to go so far as that. I personally have not attempted to go that far, because I realize, as does the Minister for Labour and National Service, that I am in duty bound at least to confer with my colleagues before taking action to give effect to Labour's policy. The Labour movement is not a one-man movement, and cannot possibly be so.

Senator Collett - Nor is there one voice.

Senator CAMERON - In the Labour party, as in all other parties, the members hold varying views. Constant intellectual conflict makes possible such institutions as parliaments. We lay down the principle that the will of the majority shall prevail until determined otherwise, and that is the only policy that is workable in the circumstances, having regard to human society as we find it. It should be clear to every person with an impartial judgment that, to say the least, it is incorrect to contend that the Minister for Labour and National Service has no regard for the interests of the people apart from his own personal following. Senator McBride remarked that the regulations under consideration are designed to give effect to a portion of the policy of the Labour party under the guise of a wartime emergency. Here, again, we have an exaggeration. As I have previously pointed out, the Labour party has been departing from its policy all along the line, because it regards the war as of major importance and all other matters as of comparatively minor importance. There are numerous precedents to justify the claim for equal payment for men and women. I could give many instances, in connexion with the manufacture of aircraft and munitions, of women having given results equal to those obtained from men. Precedents were established for equal payment for the sexes before the last war, when musicians, hotel employees and others received equal pay regardless of their sex.

Senator McBride - Why does not the Government submit the matter now under discussion to the Arbitration Court?

Senator CAMERON - Because the proposed board will operate more expeditiously than the court. Honorable senators opposite have not attempted to justify the statement that the board is " weighted ". On the other hand, if we desired to be unkind, we could give instances where employers' representatives have been appointed as judges of the Arbitration Court. We could also point to decisions which were weighted against the employees, and were subsequently repudiated. Many precedents exist for the payment of male rates of wages to females engaged on the same class of work. In this respect I mention women who are now employed as conductors in the tramways service in Melbourne. In that capacity, women give the same measure of service as male employees. The same observation would apply in respect of women who might be employed as drivers in the same service. The Tramways Board agreed to the payment of male rates to women engaged in these duties. It did so on its own responsibility. That board is not the creation of n Labour government; and no exception has been taken to its application of the policy of equal pay for the sexes in respect of similar work. At present, women are also employed in Melbourne as drivers of bakers' carts, and also as lift attendants. Male rates were granted to the attendants by a wages tribunal. There wa= no necessity to refer such matters to the Arbitration Court. I repeat that no exception whatever has been taken to these decisions. I might also mention female doctors and lawyers, who give similar results and receive the same rates of fees as males. Women are also em p1 oyer! as managers of commercial firms, and, in many cases, they receive higher salaries than are paid to males occupying similar positions. There might be some substance in the contention advanced by honorable senators opposite in their attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service if the Minister had acted in this matter entirely on his own responsibility, and said, "I am a member of the Labour party, pledged to its policy of equal pay for the sexes. I have power under this regulation to award equal pay to the sexes, and I shall proceed to do so without consulting my colleagues in the Government." But the so-called evidence submitted by honorable senators opposite in their attack upon the Minister, does not contain one fact to support their statements. Senator McBride had much to say about political bias. As the honorable senator himself has not advanced one actual instance where the board has acted contrary to the procedure generally laid down, he himself must be actuated by political bias in this matter. He declared that justice cannot be done by the board. 1 invite him to take an early opportunity to explain exactly what he means by justice in respect of the relationship which exists between employers and employees. So long as we retain our present basis for the fixation of wages, justice will not be done to the employees in industry. To-day, the wages paid to either men, or women, are not based upon the actual value they create by their labour. It does not matter how efficient they may be, or how hard they may work. Wages are based generally on the cost of living. Thus, all value created by the workers in an industry in excess of their total cost of living is appropriated directly and indirectly by others who are not actually engaged in production. There can be no equity so long as that state of affairs exists. To use a term which Senator McBride has used frequently during this debate, I should say that every act on our statute-book, dealing with the fixation of wages, is weighted against the employees. We have what can be termed a relative wage which is not being increased, but is actually being reduced. Consequently, when the honorable senator speaks about justice to the employees he uses the word merely as a figure of speech. He has not attempted to support his submission by telling us exactly what he means by justice. This statutory rule has been gazetted, and it is being given effect to. Most important of all, nothing has been done by the Government or by the board under these regulations, to which exception can be taken. Thus, the whole of the case submitted by honorable senators opposite is based purely upon personal bias against individuals who in the past have spoken and voted against the political party to which those honorable senators belong.

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