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Friday, 19 November 1965


Mr HANSEN (Wide Bay) .- The two measures before the House are restricted in their nature, and I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to trespass upon your goodwill on such a gracious occasion. The two measures before the House are the Judiciary Bill and the Judges' Remuneration Bill. The Judiciary Bill provides for an increase of £2,000 a year in the salaries paid to Her Majesty's Justices of the High Court of Australia. The second measure, the Judges' Remuneration Bill 1965, is to increase the salaries of judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Federal Court of Bankruptcy, the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. It will also increase the basic salaries of the Presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by £1,500.

I am perhaps not so well qualified to speak on this matter as are some honorable members who have already taken part in this debate. Possibly I would not fall within the category of those whom the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) would call his honorable and learned friends. For my criticism of the Bills I draw upon the knowledge and judgment of more learned men than myself, namely the President and other members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is quite possible that those gentlemen could earn far greater salaries if they engaged in their profession outside the Commission than those they earn in their present positions. Of course, a certain amount of standing goes with their positions. I am not going to argue on this principle, nor will I disagree with the statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) that there is no justification for members of the High Court Bench to be remunerated at a standard below that of the judges of courts whose judgments they review. But how far should this principle be applied? The honorable member for Parkes said that one principle should be applied to the workers, another to top public servants and another to those in the middle brackets of the Public Service. I cannot see that there should be one principle of justice for one section of the community and another principle for another section. The same principle must apply throughout if there is to be justice.

The Attorney-General in presenting the Bill made a comparison between the salary paid to the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and that paid to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He also compared the salaries of judges of the High Court of Australia and judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It is presumption on my part to say this, but I take it that the highest salaries are being paid in New South Wales. I point out that the principle of wage equality between workers or employees of the Commonwealth and persons employed in the States does not apply in any other sphere. The principle of equality of wages - particularly the basic wage - has never applied. Federal awards, in fact, have been notorious for providing lower salaries than State awards provide. Neither does the principle apply in many sections of the Commonwealth Public Service. Departmental officers in the Commonwealth Public Service from time to time have drawn comparisons between salaries paid by the Commonwealth and those paid by the States. They have pointed out that higher salaries are paid to employees of State public services than are paid to Commonwealth officers in comparable positions.

The Attorney-General has based his submission that the judges of the High Court should receive more than judges of State Supreme Courts by saying that the High Court judges have to review the judgments of the judges of the Supreme Courts. I point out however that this principle of Commonwealth superiority has not been applied by members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission themselves when dealing with wages and salaries. Neither have members of the Commission accepted in recent years the principle of retrospectivity. Honorable members would have to go back many years to find a case of retrospectivity, in a basic wage decision. The longer the delay by the Commission in arriving at a decision the longer employees have to wait to receive the increase to which they are entitled. The Government does not apply, the principle of retrospectivity in the payment of social service benefits and in other matters.

I.   oppose this measure on these particular issues. I oppose it on the principle that was applied by the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in taking notice of the Commonwealth's advocate, Mr. Kerr Q.C., during the national wage case when he advised that any increase at that stage would be fraught with great danger to the economy. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of members of the Commission took that into consideration when giving their decision of 29th June last The Commission did not adopt the principle of retrospectivity when giving its decision. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) took up most of his time in reading what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said in 1955. But times have changed and opinions have changed. It seems that these learned gentlemen have changed their opinion also. I think that the rules and principles they applied in the wage case should also be applied to this Bill. For those reasons I join my colleagues of the Opposition in opposing the measure.

Question put -

That the Bill be now read a second time.







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