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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1189


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(11.38) —I move:

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:

Page 6, after clause 6, insert the following new clause:

Allowance payable to Solicitor-General

''6A. (1) On and after 1 January 1985, there is payable to a person-

(a) who holds the office of Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth;

(b) whose principal place of residence was, at the time when the person's appointment, or first appointment, as the case may be, to that office took effect, at a place outside, but not in a part of New South Wales that is adjacent to or in the vicinity of, the Australian Capital Territory; and

(c) whose headquarters for the purposes of payment of travelling allowance are in the Australian Capital Territory and who, in accordance with a requirement made upon the appointment of the person to that office, has established the person's principal place of residence in the Australian Capital Territory or in a part of New South Wales that is adjacent to or in the vicinity of the Australian Capital Territory,

an allowance at such rate as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal for the period in which the person maintains the principal place of residence established as mentioned in paragraph (c).

''(2) An allowance payable by virtue of sub-section (1) shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.''.

What I have circulated in my name is technically a request rather than an amendment. It involves the insertion of a new clause 6A which makes provision for an allowance to be paid to the Solicitor-General. This matter was briefly canvassed in the second reading debate. The purpose of the request is to authorise the payment to the Solicitor-General of what might be informally called-notwithstanding Senator Reid's reaction to it-the Canberra allowance to assist him in making his working headquarters in Canberra. At present this type of allowance is given only to justices of the High Court of Australia.


Senator Durack —It is a non-Canberra allowance.


Senator GARETH EVANS —The honourable senator is entitled to so describe it, I guess. The essential justification for advancing this proposal is as follows: The arrangement with the previous Solicitor-General was that he should retain his principal place of residence in Sydney and commute to Canberra three days a week. That arrangement involved, conservatively, expenditure to the order of $20 ,000 per annum and was the subject of parliamentary criticism, as I recall, from the Opposition in general and Senator Durack in particular. The proposed Canberra allowance for the present Solicitor-General will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal but we anticipate that the rate will be of the order of $9 ,900 per annum, which is the rate currently payable to justices of the High Court. Given that the present Solicitor-General lives in Melbourne and would, were he not to shift to Canberra, have to be paid travel expenses for approximately 40 trips per annum that is 40 days worth of travelling allowance, this proposal means a saving of more than $20,000 a year. The proposal is to be treated as a one-off one involving the degree of flexibility to which Senator Macklin so sensibly referred in his contribution on the second reading.

There are particular reasons for regarding it as appropriate that an allowance of this kind be paid to the Solicitor-General. Those reasons essentially flow from the fact that the Solicitor-General is in various other ways, in terms of his position, assimilated to that of a High Court justice. A number of movements in the Solicitor-General's entitlements that have been approved by Parliament indicate a clear intention to equate the Solicitor-General with judges of Federal courts generally, and the High Court in particular. The most recent was the amendment to the Law Officers Act last year, giving the Solicitor-General the same entitlement to pay in lieu of long leave as High Court and other Federal judges have. Pension entitlements are also the same. Against that background the analogy of the allowance paid to High Court justices is valid.

The essential purpose in both cases is to encourage the incumbents to regard Canberra as their working headquarters. It is on that basis and against that background that I warmly endorse this proposal and hope, as has been indicated by the Australian Democrats, that it will not only maintain their support but also win the support of the Opposition.