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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,the second-reading speech made by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) was amazing and fantastic, for he said things which I believe are not sustained by the ordinary people of Australia. This bill will raise the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from £8,000 to £10,000 a year and the salaries of puisne justices from £6,500 to £8,500 a year. It is quite apparent that in the last few years salaries at the top levels have got completely out of hand. No one can convince me that an income of £10,000 a year is necessary for the maintenance of the standards expected of a judge of the High Court or that a salary of £8,500 a year is needed by a puisne justice in order to maintain the standards expected of him.

In his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral said -

The problem of setting appropriate salaries for the judiciary is never easily resolved. Many factors must be weighed, such as the need to attract the most able men when still at the height of their careers in the legal profession, the need to secure to the Bench financial independence and freedom from pecuniary anxiety, the need to reflect the prestige of the court and a sense of justice in the remuneration for the work required to be done.

Surely a salary of £10,000 a year is more than any person would require in order to free him from pecuniary anxiety. The men who are appointed to the High Court can in no way be regarded as high-livers. They have not indulged in wine, women and song, and they are men who generally would be regarded as persons of dignity. When they are appointed to the High Court, not only do they receive a salary much higher than is the income of most people, but also they are accorded the prestige and honour of the positions to which they are appointed.

After reading the Attorney-General's second-reading speech, 1 can only draw the conclusion that the Government considers that we must buy the honesty of our judges - that we must see that their salaries are kept at a level which will prevent them from doing anything dishonest. If we have to raise the salaries of the judges in order to ensure that the Bench remains independent and the courts above reproach, we are apparently appointing to these positions the wrong men. Our judges should be prepared to be honest and above reproach because of the dignity and prestige which they are accorded. They are not expected to work for a mere pittance. Even on their present salaries, all of them would show a remarkable profit. Generally, the family responsibilities of judges are behind them and their homes are well and truly paid for. Indeed, most of them probably have a country home as well as a city residence. Judges are not people who indulge in motor racing or any other activity that might cost them a great deal of money. They are men of dignity and standing in the community. They are balanced in their ideas and moderate in their habits. They are men of substance in the community. It should not be necessary to buy any of the high officers of our courts or the Commonwealth Public Service, or even, for that matter, important men in industry itself.

Until the people who run Australia, whether they be administrators in the Commonwealth Public Service, administrators in Parliament, judges or industrialists, get to the stage where they say, " I do not wish to die a millionaire, I have no intention of amassing an amount of money that I cannot possibly use ", many of the economic problems confronting us now will continue to confront us. Judges are men of dignity and prestige. They do not require such a large amount of money to make them free from pecuniary anxiety. Irrespective of whether they make a great deal of profit out of their present salaries, the point is that they should be able to live very highly and very well on their present remuneration. It is significant that at a time when this Parliament is prepared to recommend salary increases of £2,000 to the Chief Justice and the puisne justices it is not prepared to recommend substantial increases in pensions, or in child endow ment, or to introduce a free medical benefits scheme so that those who now have nothing may enjoy the things they need in life. I admit that judges have a right to live at a certain standard, but so has every other person. I have no desire to pull down the standard of the justices of the High Court, but on the other hand I have a strong desire to lift up the man on the bottom rung of the ladder. Until such time as the whole of the community realizes that it is not necessary for one to amass a fortune during one's lifetime, that it is not necessary to be extravagant in one's home, that it is not necessary to live at a standard well above that which should normally be expected in the community, our problems will remain with us.

This bill seeks to put the justices of the High Court on far too high a pedestal. 1 believe that they are well satisfied with what they are receiving now. In my opinion, the argument adduced by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) that the justices in New South Wales and Victoria are receiving more than the justices of the High Court of Australia is fallacious. Surely those men, who have been appointed to the High Court, are men of standing in the community, men who can be relied upon to do a job for Australia and for the people in general. Surely, if they feel that, in being honoured by appointment to the High Court they are given the opportunity of doing something for Australia, they should accept the posi-tion even though it might mean financial sacrifice to them. The present AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) undoubtedly made a great financial sacrifice when he entered this Parliament, but, in return for that, he was given prestige and honour. He was also given an opportunity to do something for Australia, an opportunity that he did not have when he was practising as a barrister. In the same way, when men leave the practice of the law to go on the Bench they have honour and prestige bestowed upon them. They also are given the opportunity to demonstrate through the judgments they bring down, and by their approach to the problems with which they are confronted, that they are big men, sincere men and real Australians. The Government has made a grave mistake in bringing down this legislation at a time when we are faced with an economic crisis, and when we are unable to do anything for those who have problems in buying homes or for those who are required to exist on pensions.

Mr Anthony - What about Dr. Evatt?

Mr STEWART - I make no apology for my criticism, and I know that the gentleman referred to by the honorable member would be the first to say that he was satisfied with what he is receiving. He would be the first to say, " I do not wish a higher salary than I am getting now ". I am surprised that the Attorney-General should utter the platitudes he did in his secondreading speech, for they do not do justice to the members of the High Court of Australia. I oppose the bill.

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