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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17102

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (10:51 AM) —The Remuneration Tribunal has just granted members of the judiciary a further salary increase of four per cent, effectively meaning that, in a short period of eight months, members of the judiciary will have been granted salary increases of 21 per cent by the Remuneration Tribunal. I also note a recent High Court decision by which members of the state judiciaries around the country challenged the government's right to charge them the superannuation tax surcharge, something applicable to every other salary earner in the Australian community.

Firstly, can the minister give the House an ironclad guarantee that, especially in the light of what I regard as excessive increases in judicial salaries granted by the Remuneration Tribunal in recent times, there is no way that members of the federal judiciary will be able to escape or challenge existing law with respect to the payment of the superannuation tax surcharge? Secondly, I note a recent meeting by the Treasurer with state governments at which the Treasurer raised an issue to do with the High Court. Judges were sitting in judgment on challenges by fellow judges about whether or not they should pay taxes. In those discussions between the Treasurer and state governments, has the Treasurer made enough progress to guarantee that, by agreement with the states, in relation to what I regard as an outrageous decision by the High Court to effectively exempt state judges from the payment of this tax surcharge, the states will now take appropriate action to guarantee that, by whatever action is required, the High Court decision is reversed at a state level and that judges, just like anyone else in the community, pay taxes? It is about time they realised they are not exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of Australia.