Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- Mr. Temporary Chairman,in considering this clause, which makes provision for an increase in the salaries payable to the justices of the High Court of Australia, the committee is at least entitled to consider, first, whether a differentiation between the salary payable to the Chief Justice and the salaries payable to the other justices is justified. I think there is every justification for the difference. The general practiceis that the chairman of a tribunal or committee, or the presiding officer in this place, is paid a margin above what is paid to thosewho serve with him on the body over which he presides. I have noticed before, and the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has emphasized it this evening, that when any attempt is made to discuss the people to- whom salary increases are to be paid, some sort of an inferiority complex becomes apparent and there appears a tendency on the part of the Government to think that anybody who mentions the people concerned, what they do in their vocations, their weaknesses, their failures or the fact that they are interested in their-

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss those matters.

Mr POLLARD - I am just making passing reference to them, Sir. I am sure you recognize that the Attorney-General did the same sort of thing. In effect, I am doing what you have allowed other speakers to do this evening. I am answering remarks made earlier.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - I hope that the honorable member will confine himself to a passing reference.

Mr POLLARD - I shall keep my remarks within that narrow field, if I can. I think that the attitude which I have mentioned is regrettable. In discussing the salaries of judges I have made no reference to their characters. I am as proud as is anybody else in this country of the great skill, ability and work of the judiciary in all the courts. But I think that it is regrettable that when we are considering a clause such as the one now before us we are not at liberty to express ourselves as freely about the people to whom the salaries are to be paid as we are to express ourselves about wage-earners, public servants or others when we are dealing with their remuneration. Whenever the salaries of members of the judiciary are involved, hands are thrown up in horror if there is a suggestion that members of the judiciary as a whole have human frailties and are interested in money, and that they may even by some manner or means approach the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister or somebody else with the suggestion that they are entitled to more money. Members of the judiciary do these things.

Sir Garfield Barwick - They do nothing of the kind.

Mr POLLARD - I know that they do.

Sir Garfield Barwick - That is outside my knowledge.

Mr POLLARD - What is wrong with my mentioning it?

Sir Garfield Barwick - The honorable member reflects on the judiciary if he does.

Mr POLLARD - Surely I have a right to say these things. I can cite the case of a justice in Victoria who used his own court to state his case on a salary matter. I do not blame him for that. He is only human, and he may have been legally entitled to do that. I know that representations have been made by judges to governments in the past, and I think I am justified in suggesting that in this instance there may have been some personal conversations of an informal nature between the Attorney-General, some other members of the Cabinet and the justices concerned. What is wrong with that? It is perfectly human and perfectly justified. It is the practice of everybody in the community to do that sort of thing by some manner or means - sometimes quietly, sometimes more blatantly, and sometimes in writing. What is wrong with it? Are not judges entitled to do it? Why is there all this hullabaloo? Anything associated with a court seems to be surrounded with some aura of reverence which people who discuss these matters are not supposed to penetrate.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! I think the honorable member should come back to the clause.

Mr POLLARD - Why does this aura of reverence surround judges when we are discussing their salaries? Let us examine the qualifications required of the men to whom these salaries are to be paid. I say their qualifications are marvellous. It has been my privilege over many years to have intimate association with all sorts of people with legal knowledge, and they excite my admiration. But it has also been my priviledge throughout life to have very close association with the artisan class, with the wage-earning class and with every other section of the community. They, too, excite my admiration for the skill, knowledge and so on which they utilize according to the talents which a divine providence has bestowed upon them. Why should not they avail themselves of those talents? They have every right to do so, but, in his second-reading speech, the AttorneyGeneral said that judges are required to have consummate knowledge of the Constitution, its history and its past construction. He said, too, that their duties call for great judgment of a practical kind, ls not the man swinging a heavy wheel worth £1,000 in a great machine tool required to have great judgment, great skill, great learning and great experience in order to avoid ruining a great piece of work worth perhaps £5,000 or £10,000? We have heard much about the prestige that these judges should enjoy. Every human being is entitled to prestige and dignity. Prestige is not the prerogative or preserve of any particular section of the community. Surely the fact that we criticize - T hope justly - the people occupying these positions is of benefit to the people and the people should have the opportunity of listening to these discussions. I. for one, refuse to accept the dictum that the member of the legal profession who becomes His Honour, who becomes a judge, is in any different position from the humble Australian citizen when it comes to discussing qualifications, activities, salary and so on. No doubt those who occupy these high positions have graduated from the school to the university and on to the court, then finally to the judiciary as a result of their own great industry and in many instances at great sacrifice on the part of their parents, but it must not be forgotten that through the last century or two, right up to the present day in Australia - as was demonstrated during our discussion of the bill relating to universities - the prestige which is theirs, and which should be the right of every individual in the community is not unrelated to the fact that the humble taxpayer has met 50 per cent, of the cost of providing the opportunities for them to graduate through the universities, and that cost is increasing every day. The community reaps the benefit of that, and rightly so, and we all want to see these facilities extended still more.

We are told also that we need to attract the most able men to these careers. Of course we do. It is only fitting that we should provide opportunities for those upon whom divine providence has bestowed great talents to serve mankind, but this Government adopts the attitude that special protection should be accorded in this Parliament to those who occupy these high places when the remuneration which the people should pay them is being discussed. Why should there be any distinction between them and the ordinary man engaged in the more menial tasks? Surely any reference to the comparative positions of the two classes should not be taken as a reflection upon the judges. After all, society is not. or should not, be divided according to capacity to extract a certain amount of remuneration from the community, whether it be as a professional man, an artisan or a labourer.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections