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Wednesday, 23 June 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - The principle proposed by the Government to be embodied in the bill marks a distinct departure from precedent, so as far the judiciary is concerned. Federation has been in existence for a quarter of a century, and although Avhen the Judiciary Bill Avas before the other branch of the legislature many years ago an effort was made to provide for pensions, the principle was not accepted. Party lines were not draAvn then as they are to-day; but a division was taken and the question was decided on its merits, there being a substantial majority against the proposal.

Senator Pearce - We had to give Chief Justice Griffith a pension by special act.

Senator FINDLEY - The salaries provided under the bill cannot be said to below. The chief judge is to receive a minimum wage of £60 a week, and there is a somewhat smaller sum for the other judges. But it is seriously proposed, at this period of the history of the Commonwealth, not only to appoint the judges for life and pay them substantial salaries and adequate travelling allowances, but also to give them large pensions. The chief judge will receive, on retirement, £30 a week, and the other two judges will be paid pensions of £25 a week.

Senator Abbott - After fifteen years' service.

Senator FINDLEY - But during the whole period of their appointment they will be in receipt of substantial salaries; and they should be able to do what opponents of Labour tell people on the bread line to do, that is, to make provision for a rainy day. Those who battled along in industry and did much to make Australia what it is to-day are receiving only a little more than they did a few years ago. It is indeed problematical whether the pension now paid to them is equal to the smaller pension which they received before the war.

Senator Needham - It is not worth so much.

Senator FINDLEY - The Labour party has never opposed the payment of good salaries to men qualified to hold important positions in any sphere. But members of that party hold that, instead of granting pensions to judges on retirement, the Government should pay them a salary sufficient to enable them to make provision for the winter of their lives. If the salary provided in the bill be insufficient for that purpose, it should be increased; but there should be no pensions. If we agree to the payment of pensions in this instance, it will not be long before the Government will ask Parliament to approve of pensions being paid to members of the High Court.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !

Senator FINDLEY - I am opposed to the granting of pensions, and I hope that the committee will hesitate before it agrees to them in this case. The Government has advanced no reasons for paying pensions to the judges of the Arbitration Court. The only justification for their payment would be that the men would be unable from their . salaries to make sufficient provision for their future. The Government does not take that point into consideration in the case of men on the bread-line with big families to keep. It pays no heed to their future. Awards are made to meet their present needs, without regard to their requirements 10 or 15 years hence. The principle underlying the payment of pensions is wrong. I thought that we had seen the last of the payment of substantial pensions in Australia, but apparently this Government is making a fresh start in that direction. In Victoria, some men have been in receipt of pensions for many years, and the taxpayers have had to find the money. Speaking in another place in connexion with old-age pensions, one honorable member said that such doles sap the moral fibre of the community. Since that time the gentleman referred to has been elevated to a high position. Should he later receive an even higher appointment he would probably not think that the payment of a pension of £1,500 a year to him would sap his moral fibre. I rose to .offer my objection to the principle of paying pensions - a principle with which I hope the committee will not agree.

SenatorABBOTT (New South Wales) f8.50]. - From the remarks of Senator Findley one would imagine that it was proposed to appoint as judges of the Arbitration Court junior' barristers and inexperienced members of the legal profession. The offer of the salaries provided in this bill should induce some of the more experienced members of the profession to seek the appointments; otherwise the outlook is certainly not one for optimism. If we are to induce the right type of men to accept these important offices, they must be made sufficiently attractive. If at the end of a few years the judges of the court have to retire without a pension the right type of men will not now be induced to accept appointment.

Senator Findley - We have good men on the High Court, and they receive no pension.

Senator ABBOTT - The personnel of this court is of the greatest importance. With a court consisting of a judge and two laymen, representing employers and employees respectively, the final decision is left with the judge. The best results are not obtained in that way. The salaries proposed in the bill are not excessive. A judge who has rendered fifteen years' loyal and efficient service should be entitled to a pension for the rest of his life.

Senator Reid - Few judges retire after fifteen years' service.

Senator ABBOTT - No ; most of them remain in office until they are about 70 years of age. We have never yet had to remove a judge from the bench. The only time that the question of a pension to a judge arose was in connexion with the late Chief Justice Griffith ; and in his case the granting of a pension was agreed to almost unanimously. I think that the committee will agree that it is only right to pay to a judge after fifteen yeaTS of service on the bench a pension equal to one-half of his salary.

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