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Tuesday, 2 April 1968


Mr WEBB (Stirling) - I support the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who initiated this debate, and other Opposition speakers, who have advocated the Government's adoption of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. For many centuries woman suffered social, economic and political inferiority. She now has equality of civil rights, political rights and educational opportunities. She has equality of entry into most occupations, yet in most of them she is paid at a rate lower than is applicable to men doing the same work. In fact, woman has social and political equality but not economic equality.

In the interests of social justice women should be paid the same rate for a job as is paid to men. Many women workers have dependants to support or assist. Single women often help aged parents. Divorced, widowed or deserted wives may have children to rear. Why should a woman school teacher or public servant receive less than her male counterpart? A government that allows this situation to continue is guilty of treating women as socially inferior to men. The receipt of unequal pay creates a feeling of inferiority and a rankling sense of injustice. The payment of equal pay to women would remove these feelings.

Last October the Western Australian Government decided to give to its female employees equal pay for work of equal value. The decision was put into effect from 1st January this year and will be implemented fully by January 1972. The Western Australian Government employs about 12,000 women. It is not known exactly how many of these will qualify for male rates but if is estimated that this year the payment of equal pay will cost the State Government $300,000 and, in 1972, $1.7m. The State Government has also said that it will clarify the powers of the Industrial Commission to write the principle into State awards. The Government of Western Australia is giving a lead in the matter of equal pay for work of equal value. Unfortunately the Commonwealth Government is not giving a lead in this matter. The decision of the Western Australian Government means that five of the six States have granted equal pay to women. Only Victoria and the Commonwealth have yet to come into line.

It is necessary to have national uniformity on the issue of equal pay for work of equal value. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) always argues, as his predecessors did, that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has power to grant equal pay to women. Equal pay for women is a social reform. The Commonwealth should give a lead to its own industrial tribunal, as has been done in five of the six States. When equal pay was awarded to women by a Conciliation Commissioner in the Commonwealth hostels case, the Commonwealth appealed against the decision. Under trie headline 'Lastminute Appeal Delays Equal Pay' the 'Australian', on 2nd February this year, reported:

But the decision to appeal was made by the Department of Labour and National Service which is responsible for hostel policy issues.

That is the Department for which the Minister for Labour and National Service is responsible. Now be says that that matter should be taken to arbitration. A few minutes ago the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) said that the Labor Party was trying to usurp what is accepted in Australia as the function of the Arbitration Commission. Does he suggest that the Western Australian Government usurped that function or that five of the six State Governments have usurped that function? They have already made preparations or are in the process of making preparations to pay their female public servants the same rates as are paid to male public servants. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is at the table, wants a source of cheap female labour.

Government supporters often pay lip service to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. They adopt a two-faced attitude. In a section of its platform the Liberal Party states as one of its objectives:

Acceptance of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value.

But that is as far as it goes. Government supporters talk about this principle but when it comes to voting on the implementation of their policy they do nothing. I watched Government supporters with interest when Mr Speaker called upon honourable members to support the request of the honourable member for Oxley that this matter he debated. Not one gentleman opposite rose to support the honourable member. Even the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill) did not support the debate on an issue which affects her sex, although she herself receives equal pay. We have heard today that lady senators, with the exception of Senator Tangney, who is a member of the Labor Party, are opposed to the payment of equal pay. Senator Tangney has always supported the principle of equal pay for women. I am afraid that the women of today do not have the fight of the women of more than 50 years ago. The ladies of those days showed great courage when they were fighting for another form of equality - the right to vote. The suffragettes chained themselves to the railings of the House of Commons. Any politician not in favour of a franchise for women was fair game for a lashing - not just a tongue lashing but in fact a horsewhipping. Sir Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, was lashed by a suffragette at Bristol railway station for his opposition to the principle of the right to vote. 1 do not believe in corporal punishment, but I think that the women of today lack some of the sting that was possessed toy women of days gone by. Some honourable members opposite are fortunate that Sir William Yeo. New South Wales President of the Returned Services League, is not a member of the opposite sex.

Regulations made under the Public Service Act discriminate against female officers in the Public Service. Regulations 104, 105 and 106 made under section 30 of the Public Service Act pinpoint the inequality that exists between rates paid to male and female workers, notwithstanding that many female workers do the same type of work as is done by their male counterparts and have the same qualifications as are possessed by male officers. Regulation 104 (1) sets out the salaries payable to officers in the Second and Third Divisions but paragraphs (2) and (3) of regulation 104 provide that where a female officer occupies an office in the Second or Third Division the rate of salary per annum payable to her shall be $308 less than the male rate applicable to that office. Regulations 105 and 106 also reveal how women are regarded as being of inferior status to men doing the same work. This discrimination should be removed. The Government has power to remove it. The Government rejects all claims by white collar unions for the granting of equal pay to women employees in the Public Service. A headline in the 'Australian' of 19th May 1967 is pertinent. It reads: 'Bury Rejects Claim for Equal Pay'.

The Government has failed to honour its obligations under the 1951 International Labour Organisation conventions and recommendations concerning equal remuneration for the sexes for work of equal value. It has failed to ratify Convention 1 1 1 and Recommendation 111 which relate to discrimination between the sexes. The

Government has failed to implement the provisions of the vocational training recommendation of 1962 with respect to girls and women. The Government has not ratified Convention 100, which provides for equal pay for men and women doing work of equal value. The Convention states:

Each member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and, in so far as is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.

Neither has the Government seriously tried to implement Recommendation 90, which provides:

Appropriate action should be taken, after consultation with the workers' organisations concerned or, where such organisations do not exist, with the workers concerned -

a.   to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value to all employees of central Government departments or agencies;

This is where the Government has fallen down on the job. When the Government has been challenged on its attitude towards the decisions of the International Labour Organisation it has made the excuse that some States will not agree to the ratification of Convention 100 or the implementation of Recommendation 90, but that excuse is not now valid because five of the six States have already adopted the principle of equal pay for women and, as far as their government employees are concerned, they are giving effect to the principle. I say emphatically that this Government is not seriously supporting the ILO decisions. It is the responsibility of the Government to apply to its own employees the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, but it does not do so. For this it stands condemned.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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