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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- I suppose that no one could broadly object to the sentiments expressed in the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) when introducing this measure. He set out fairly clearly the reasons why the Government considered that the increases should be granted. I suppose that it is the proud boast in this country, as it is in other countries, that we desire to have an impartial judiciary, members of which are not influenced in their decisions in any way by monetary considerations nor by matters associated with their general welfare and mode of living. It is true, as the AttorneyGeneral has said, that the High Court of Australia performs as itself an organ of the national government, the supreme judicial task of the interpretation and the safeguarding of the federal Constitution. He went on to say -

Not merely does this function call for con.sumate knowledge of the Constitution, its history and its past construction, but also for great judgment of a practical kind.

The honorable gentleman described the position of High Court judges and the problems that face them. He compared their tasks with those of supreme court judges and, generally speaking, I suppose that no one could object to the principles that he set out nor to the basis upon which the Government has made its assessment. Whilst we all agree that it is essential to have on the High Court bench qualified men of integrity, who are capable of understanding and applying the broad principles of justice as we know them, I think that the Attorney-General has not given any substantial reason for the great increases in salary provided in the bill. The Chief Justice, for instance, is to have his salary increased from £8,000 to £10,000 a year. The puisne judges are to have their salaries increased from £6,500 to £8,500 a year. This means that the judges will receive an additional £2,000 per annum, which is the equivalent of £40 a week or £5 15s. a day. That is a substantial amount of money.

An honorable member interjects that these increases will be subject to tax. The effect of the tax will be more than offset by the facilities available to judges which are not available to other persons. These include the use of cars, travelling facilities and allowances, and they are very substantial. In any case, there is no reason on earth why judges should not pay taxes just as every section of the community pays them. Let me say that the Government has stated, in effect, that it believes the tasks of the judiciary to be so great that, although wage increases for the rest of the community are now being opposed, judges should receive an increase of £40 per week. In anybody's language, that is a tremendous increase. It is very difficult to justify at this time.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) stated that there were three very important factors in our opposition to this bill. He said that the Government must have reservations .about this measure because it was introduced at 2.30 a.m., in the dying hours of the Parliament. It was introduced by stealth in the course of the Government's programme of legislation by exhaustion. That, in itself, shows that the Government knew that it was going too far on this issue and that it did not want the bill to be seen in the light of day when a full discussion could ensue.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr DALY - Before the sitting was suspended, I was discussing the proposal in the bill to increase the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia by £2,000 a year and the salaries of other judges by a similar amount. As I pointed out, this is an increase of £40 a week, or roughly £6 a day on virtually a seven-day basis. Members of the Opposition believe that at this time the Government cannot justify such increases in salaries. We agree with the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) that the judges of the High Court should have the highest qualifications, and we realize the need to preserve the integrity and the prestige of the judiciary, but we cannot agree that an increase of salaries by £40 a week is justified at this time.

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has said, the Opposition opposes this measure on three main grounds. One is that this measure has been brought down in the dying days of the sessional period. It was introduced about 2.30 a.m. - one could say it was brought in at an early hour by stealth - and it is to be put through the Parliament by a process of exhaustion. If this proposal can be justified, it could very well have been introduced in time for proper debate. The only substance in support of the increase is that it preserves the margins of the High Court judges in relation to the salaries of the Supreme Court judges and the salaries of the Chief Justices in the States. Evidently the Government is effectively maintaining those margins by increasing salaries by £40 a week, but we cannot agree that the preservation of margins in this case is sufficient ground for the increase. We oppose this measure because the time is clearly inopportune for such salary increases.

Recently, the Government introduced measures which have had far-reaching economic effects on the community, and without trespassing on your views of the appropriate time to discuss these matters, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me say that under the Government's economic policy, all other sections of the community are being denied increases in wages and salaries. Moreover, they are being called upon to make sacrifices. Yet the Government has introduced a measure at this time giving persons in exalted and privileged positions increases of salaries equal to £40 a week. What is the position? The Chief Justice will receive £10,000 a year, or approximately £200 a week. Even allowing for taxation, is there anybody here who would deny that if he were in the position of a High Court judge he could save at least half his income? Is it not possible for a judge receiving £160 a week to save a considerable sum even after paying taxes? Apart from that, I shall show why it is not necessary for judges to save money. Naturally, they have privileges that go with their positions. They have free transport, secretarial assistance and travelling expenses. I do not quibble at those things because they are part and parcel of the machinery of government and the judges are probably entitled to them; but they represent an average of at least £10 to £20 a week above the ordinary income of the judges.

Let us take these considerations a step further. When a judge of the High Court retires after ten years on the bench, if he is over 60 years of age he retires on a pension equal to 50 per cent, of his salary, and I understand that the pension is on a non-contributory basis. The Chief Justice who retires in the circumstances that I have outlined will receive a pension of £5,000 a year or roughly £100 a week. Some honorable members on the Government side seem to be disturbed because the judges will pay income tax. But who would object to paying taxes on a pension of £5,000? The fact of the matter is that at an age when their needs will not be as great as those of a younger generation, the judges will be receiving £100 a week, which is a substantial income. Since the Chief Justice is to receive £10,000 a year, nobody can say that the position does not give the judges every bit of security that they require. Certainly their integrity is being preserved at extremely high cost. The other judges, apart from the Chief Justice, will retire on not less than £4,000 or £4,250 if they have been on the bench for ten years.

How can the Government justify this measure at a time like this? With the background of the High Court of Australia, this is difficult to understand. I think it must be said that the Government is leaving itself open to the charge that there is a certain amount of patronage accorded to High Court judges. In other words, the Government is looking after the judges pretty well. Would it be to get favours from the judges on a governmental level? Because, when all is said and done, that has been very effectively achieved through the Arbitration Court in recent times when workers' wages were pegged.

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