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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Marek, Paul, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Baldwin, Bob, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Goods and Sales Tax
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Slipper, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Redundancy and Termination Entitlements
(Andren, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Evans, Richard, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Hollis, Colin, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Skase, Mr C.
(Wakelin, Barry, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
(O'Connor, Gavan, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Lloyd, Jim, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Hardgrave, Gary, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
- Small Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL RESPONSES
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE BILL 1997 [No. 2]
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (PLANNING AND LAND MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- LAW OFFICERS AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 3) 1997
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Social Security Payments
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Jones, Barry, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Sirway Asia Pacific Contract
(Bevis, Arch, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Industry, Science and Tourism: Consultants
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Moore, John, MP)
- Japanese Economy
Tuesday, 10 March 1998
Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (8:14 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank those who have contributed to the debate on the Law Officers Amendment Bill 1997 , but I add the rider that I think the member for Banks (Mr Melham) delivered probably the most awful speech I have heard delivered in this House. The Solicitor-General occupies a unique position as second law officer of the Commonwealth and he or she is the leader of the bar while holding office. The office of Solicitor-General is, therefore, one of the more important statutory offices created by the parliament. It is appropriate, therefore, that the terms and conditions of service applying to the Commonwealth's second law officer be a matter of interest to members.
In the government's view, the office of Solicitor-General should generally be filled from among the outstanding performers at the private bar. In order to recruit a new Solicitor-General of the necessary calibre, it is necessary that the person be remunerated at a level appropriate to the skills and experience he or she brings to the job, taking into account the other things that go with the job. It is important that the remuneration package not act as a disincentive to appointment nor to the resumption of private practice.
The terms and conditions applying to the Solicitor-General currently—and the member for Banks has taken us back to the 1964 bill—are similar to those applying to a judge of the Federal Court. They include an entitlement to a judge's pension in certain circumstances and long leave of six months for every five years of service. In addition, there is an entitlement to nine weeks annual recreation leave.
I am concerned that these indirect benefits may act to discourage return to private practice and I will explain why. It is the government's view that the field of candidates would be wider and that it would be more appropriate for the indirect benefits applying to the Solicitor-General to be more in line with the superannuation and leave entitlements enjoyed by senior officers of the Australian Public Service. It should be noted that these proposed changes are being put forward in the context of a wider review of the officer's total remuneration package, including consideration by the Remuneration Tribunal of whether there should be an increase in the salary payable to the Solicitor- General having regard to the amount that he or she might earn at the private bar.
This is not an attack on any independence. If the opposition carefully examine the bill, they will see that it relates only to remuneration, nothing else. It is not a bean counter's bill. There is no attempt to make any savings. What is intended is that the remuneration package be restructured without any diminution in its content.
Mr Melham —That is not what you said in your second reading speech.
Mr WILLIAMS —Let me focus on the—
Mr Melham —You said it.
Mr WILLIAMS —Yes, and I will explain what that means in a minute, too. Let me focus on the terms that apply to a judge's pension. Under the act, the Solicitor-General is appointed for a term of a maximum of seven years. A judge's pension, to which the Solicitor-General is entitled, is not obtained until there has been a minimum of 10 years service. In other words, you have a situation built in where there is a necessity for a reappointment before a major component of the remuneration package can be earned. The second factor that affects it is that a judge's pension is not payable, except in the extraordinary circumstance of a person being totally invalided, until the age of 60. So you have the situation where the pension entitlements positively discourage the appointment of younger people.
Let me take the four most recent appointees as Solicitor-General as examples. Mr A.F. Mason QC—later Sir Anthony Mason—was appointed from 1964 to 1969. He was aged approximately 39 to 44 while holding the office. Mr R.J. Ellicott QC was appointed from 1969 to 1973, a period of about four years. His age at that time was 42 to 46. Sir Maurice Byers was appointed from 1973 to 1983: he had a term and a reappointment. His age at appointment, on my calculation, was 56 and his age at retirement was 66. Dr Gavan Griffith QC was appointed in 1984. His term expired at the end of 1997. He had two seven-year terms from the ages of 43 to 56.
If one is earning points towards a judge's pension, that is of benefit particularly if one goes on to a bench. Of the four, only one went from the position of Solicitor-General to the bench. That was Sir Anthony Mason. At the age of 44, Sir Anthony Mason had served for four years as the Solicitor-General. In order to qualify for a pension or part pension, he would have had to have waited 16 years, but he did not do 10 years. So a major component of the entitlement was missed out, except that I presume there were judge's pension arrangements that enabled that work to be a credit.
Mr Ellicott, at the age of 46, went into parliament as the member for Wentworth. He was 14 years short of an entitlement to a pension, again a major component of the remuneration package to which he was entitled. So, of the first two that I mentioned, 14 years and 16 years is the distance from their entitlement to a pension for work that they did in their 30s and their 40s. Sir Maurice Byers had only four years to serve before the age of 60. In order to acquire a pension, he had to go until the age of 66, a period of 10 years. He then went to the bar. He did not go to the bench. By that time, because of his appointment at the age of 56, he had served six years beyond the normal pensionable age without having a pension.
Dr Griffith, his term of office coming to an end at the age of 56, had four years to run. He will not get a full pension because he retired prior to the age of 60. He did not go to the bench; he went to the bar. Of the four, only Sir Anthony Mason went to the bench. He did not go to a federal bench. He went initially to the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
What this is saying is that to give a pension payable at the age of 60 to a person who is likely to have the job for a five-, six- or seven-year term in their 30s or 40s is very odd indeed. It is an aberration that is inappropriate. That is the principal reason why this bill is being brought before this House.
What we want is a package that will encourage people of appropriate ability to take the job but will not encourage those people to stay in the job simply to get a pension, which is what the current situation does.
Mr Melham —That hasn't been true of any of the recent incumbents.
Mr WILLIAMS —It has not necessarily been true of the recent incumbents, except perhaps Sir Maurice Byers. I do not know his personal circumstances, but he served 10 years and then retired.
What we want is a package which is appropriate. We have asked the Remuneration Tribunal to fix a salary, taking into account the sorts of superannuation arrangements that are appropriate for a person working at a senior level in the Public Service, not something that is appropriate for an appointment to a lifetime job. This is not a lifetime job. The Solicitor-General is not appointed to the age of 70; the Solicitor-General is appointed for a term which can be anything up to seven years. The appointment can be renewed, but need not necessarily be.
We believe that it will encourage people at all levels. It will encourage people at a younger age, facing the prospect of being at the height of their powers at the bar, to take the job because of the importance of the work and the attractiveness of the conditions. It will not encourage people to take the job purely to get a pension, knowing that they will have to get a re-appointment and not being certain that that will eventuate.
The allegations made by the opposition in opposing this bill are completely groundless. This is a bill which is based on commonsense. I commend it to the House.
That the bill be now read a second time.