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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr COPE (Watson) .- I support the Opposition in protesting at this allround increase of £2,000 a year for the Chief Justice and puisne judges of the High Court. In my opinion, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) made one of the most degrading remarks I have heard in this Parliament when he referred to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), as a fibber. I think, too, that the timing of this increase is very bad. I also feel that an increase of £2,000 is excessive. As an indication of what is thought about this proposed increase in judges' salaries, I quote the following editorial from to-day's " Mirror "-

The Commonwealth Government proposes to increase Commonwealth judges' salaries by £2,000 a year.

No sensible person objects to judges being highly remunerated, and in normal times these increases would call for no adverse comment.

But it is, to say the least, bad timing for the Government to make the increases at the very time it is opposing general wage rises and exhorting the rest of the community to cut its spending.

The only thing in its favor is that the rises might induce some Cabinet Ministers to get out of Parliament and sit on the Bench.

For five and a half years now I have heard honorable members on the Government side advocating steep increases in the remuneration of the tall poppies. Ne-er once have I heard them advocate that people in the lower income group should receive wage rises. It was not very long ago that we had a very respected Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner who brought in an award for the Public Service - the Castieau award. This Government appealed against that award, but did one honorable member on the Government side protest? No. There was not one word. Nor did we hear one member from the Government side protest about the Government's intervention in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to oppose the basic wage increase. When any rise is proposed for the tall poppies Government members are on their feet to support it.

One statement that was made by the Attorney-General, in my opinion, was quite fallacious. He said that the total net cost of the increases would be only £4,000. People do not look at it in that way. They ok at the gross income. You cannot have it both ways. On numerous occasions the Government has made statements about the average income of the people of Australia, referring to the gross income. If Government supporters wish to consider the increases proposed in this bill on the basis of net income they should consider wages in general on the basis of net income. They cannot have it both ways. The important question is not what these increases proposed in the bill will acually cost. There is a principle at stake. Is it the right time for this increase?

It has been stated that we should try to attract people to these positions. Nobody denies that. Let us look at the importance of a puisne judge of the High Court who will receive a salary of £8,500. It is not a puny salary even though it may be received by a puisne judge. Let ais compare the importance of such a judge with the importance of the Chief Justice of New South Wales, who, despite a tax-free allowance of £350, will still receive £1,000 less than a puisne judge of the High Court. Would any honorable member try to say that a puisne judge of the High Court is more important than the Chief Justice of New South Wales? When the Chief Justice of New South Wales left this Parliament he accepted a salary lower than that which he is getting at the present time.

Some honorable members have pointed out that both the Chief Justice of the High Court who is to receive £10,000 a year and the puisne judge who is to receive £8,000 have to pay tax. There was a wail about this from the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). What does he want? Does he expect them to get their salaries tax free? Is not everybody else except the Governor-General supposed to pay tax? Why should anybody in Australia have any sort of tax-free allowance unless that allowance is paid in respect of expenses? What a ridiculous argument these people put up! As I have said before, not once in my memory since 1 have been in this Parliament have I ever seen any Government supporter making a fight on behalf of the workers of Australia when they want a few bob. Let us look at the timing of the pension increase.


Order! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to the timing of the increase. This clause deals with the amount of the remuneration. He must confine his remarks to that subject.

Mr COPE - I believe that the proposed increase of £40 a week for puisne judges of the High Court is absolutely scandalous compared to the 5s. a week increase given to the age pensioners a few weeks ago. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said, the judges' increase amounts to about £6 a day, compared with 9d. a day for the pensioners. I believe that the editorial in to-day's " Mirror " explains and elucidates the position and reflects the thinking of the people of Australia about these increases.

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