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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr PETERS (Scullin) .- I believe, of course, in very high salaries and, like the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is at the table, I believe that the question of relativity arises for consideration. How does one determine the salaries of judges? In introducing the bill the Attorney-General said that the problem of setting appropriate salaries for the judiciary is never easily resolved. He continued -

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.

In those circumstances, the sky is the limit. Do you fix the salary of a judge at a figure that is higher than any remuneration thai a member of the legal profession receives, or do you fix it at something similar to what he was receiving previously? If you fix the salary on the latter basis, the salary of a member of Parliament must be the determining factor because the main avenue to the judiciary is through the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. Very recently there sat in this chamber Mr. Joske, the then honorable member for Balaclava, and Dr. Evatt, the then right honorable member for Barton and Leader of the Opposition, and in another chamber there sat Senator Spicer. Those men, no doubt, have certain qualifications - one of them perhaps has outstanding qualifications - but no one can tell me that the qualifications possessed by any of those individuals was the determining factor in securing his appointment to the judiciary. Of course, it was not, as every one in this chamber knows. Likewise, every honorable member knows that irrespective of the remuneration that these men received as members of Parliament, their salary as members of the judiciary represented an increase. The same position applies in relation to State legislatures. The measure that might be used in deciding judges' salaries is the capacity of the country to pay and that is what the judges of the Arbitration Court are entitled to use in determining what shall be paid to other members of the community. It is the capacity of the country to pay, and that is determined by the question of relativity and what the country pays to other sections of the community. It is determined by what the country pays to age pensioners and people on the basic wage, and what it gives through social services, such as child endowment and other benefits. If those payments are not adequate this country cannot afford to pay exceptionally high wages to other sections of the community. 1 remember suggesting in this House that an increase of 5s. a week for age pensioners was inadequate under the existing circumstances, but that, inadequate as it was, it should at least be made retrospective for a couple of months to the commencement of the financial year. On that occasion the Government said, "We cannot possibly do that. We cannot increase the amount or make it retrospective for any period." Yet the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said in his statement -

The only other matter I need to mention is that the Government decided that the new salaries should take effect from 1st October, 1960.

The increases on higher salaries can be made retrospective, but the payments to age pensioners cannot. And in order to prevent the worst features of inflation this Government went before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to prevent a rise in the basic wage although, in Victoria, in six months the cost of living had risen by 28s. a week. In spite of rising prices the Government had to go into court, in the interests of preventing inflation, to see that not one additional penny piece was given to the people as an increase in the basic wage. Yet a few months later the Government comes into this chamber - its supporters remind me of so many Uriah Heeps - and says, "The judges must have their salaries increased ". One honorable member interjected and asked what kind of people are members of the Government. I know that if I endeavour to tell him what kind of people comprise the Government you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order. There is not the slightest doubt that if honorable members on the Government side of the House divested themselves of humbug they would say that no Government is entitled to increase by £40 or £50 a week the salary of a person who is already in receipt of £150 a week. If the Government, in the interests of the economy of this country and in order to save Australia from disaster, must go into the Arbitration Court and plead with the judges of that court not to increase the basic wage, how can it justify the present proposals?

Mr Stokes - What is the relative cost?

Mr PETERS - It is not a question of relative cost, but of relative justice. If it were a question of the cost of a rise in the wages of an individual, the AttorneyGeneral could, under that argument, raise that person's salary by £25, £30 or £100 a week, and, because only one individual was concerned, it would not matter. The Government keeps the masses in subjection in order that the few shall have these immensely increased salaries. The Government serves the interests of the few to the disadvantage of the many. Much as I like to look at the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), I hope he will not be here after the next election. It is obvious that those sitting behind the Attorney-General know that they have not a scintilla of evidence to support giving to one section of the community - whether judges, public servants, parliamentarians or any one else - immense increases in salary while the vast majority of the people do not get small increases and, in fact, get no increase at all.

The Government has brought down this present proposal although it contends that the economy of the country is balanced on a razor's edge, and that it cannot agree to a couple of shillings a week rise in the basic wage when the cost of living is increasing month by month by exorbitant amounts, as in Victoria, where the cost of living rose in six months by 28s. a week. In spite of that rise, there has been no increase in the basic wage. The deprivation of purchasing power due to that increase in the cost of living denies to a vast section of the community some of the necessaries of life. It does not deprive them of a few luxuries, or money to invest, but essentials. If the judges were not granted this increase of £40 or £50 a week, would that deprive them of any of the necessaries of life? Certainly not. They would still live opulently and would still have a considerable amount to invest. They generally invest quite a lot of their remuneration, as it is.

Members of the judiciary generally invest to such an extent that when they retire they do not need the £5,000 pension that is given to them free of contribution and free of the means test. They do not need it, because while they are working they receive a much greater emolument than they require to provide for .themselves. When they retire and their needs are very small, they get a greater pension than is received by other sections of the community. I see no reason why judges retiring from the Arbitration Court, the High Court Bench or from any other section of the judiciary, should not be in receipt of exactly the same pension as is received by age pensioners, free of the means test. I know that people will say, "That is going a bit too far, because, after all, even though he will not spent it, it is desirable to give to a judge who has done something in the service of his country a pension which enables him to accumulate property or money to an extent that he can pass some of it on to a son or daughter who has done nothing in the interests of the country ".

We all know how judges reach their position of high eminence. We also know that generally they carry out their duties, in spite of the methods by which they achieve their positions, in a most desirable manner, whether they be appointed from the Labour side of the House or from the Government side. But to create a fiction that they are appointed because of their vast knowledge of the law - a knowledge which outshines that possessed by the legal man who has been in practice outside Parliament and who has never been inside it - is, of course, another absurdity. Of the people who desire promotion to judgeship, those with foresight come into the Parliament of this country with their eyes on the wool sack and put up with the inconvenience, as some of them consider it to be, of being members of this Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), for instance, has a judge's wig in his locker, or that the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and other honorable members on the other side of the chamber, and perhaps some members on this side, have judges' horsehair wigs in their lockers. The reason why there are so many legal men in the parliaments of Australia is largely that they realize that a parliamentary career is the quick way to a judgeship in this country.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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