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Tuesday, 18 April 1961


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) .- The statements of the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in relation to the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) for co-ordination express my own views. I do not see that any purpose could be served, by coordination in a matter such as this. It is true that the present Opposition, when in office as the Government, dealt with judges' pensions; but it made no attempt whatever to seek the co-ordination that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now requesting. Indeed, I think it was in 1948, pensions of judges in the Commonwealth sphere were 50 per cent, of the salary on retirement but there was no provision at all for the widows of judges. The Labour Government of the day led by Mr. Chifley set up a committee of members of the Australian Labour Party to consider this matter. The members of the committee expressed the view that no steps should be taken. On the other hand, the Government of that day, which represented the same party as did the committee, was ot the opinion that something should be done tor the widows of judges. As a compromise, the amount of the pension for a judge was reduced from 50 per cent, of the salary to 40 per cent. In the words of the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chifley, the proportion was reduced from 50 per cent, to 40 per cent, so that the 10 per cent, would help to offset the cost of pensions for widows.

At that time, there was no consideration of co-ordination. From the outset, there has been no such consideration because on an earlier occasion a Labour government had done something about pensions for judges in the federal jurisdiction. Co-ordination, even if it were to be achieved, or were capable of being achieved, bears no relation to the issue in this bill. The issue in this connexion is whether the judge of the Northern Territory who will be appointed under the bill that has just been passed by this House, is to receive the same pension rights as do the judges of other federal courts. So, any question of co-ordination must be put aside completely in considering this bill. As the Deptuy Leader of the Opposition has rightly pointed out, it would be wrong to single out the judge of the Northern Territory Supreme Court and not give him the pension rights of other judges of federal courts. What surprises me about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that having made that statement at the outset of his speech he then proceeded to move an amendment in the form that he has done.

I do not know how the honorable gentleman could even conceive of any possibility of co-ordination within six months. After all, there has been a difference for a great number of years. The first pensions for judges in the Commonwealth sphere were provided in 1926, so any assumption that there could be any co-ordination in six months is to overlook the fundamentals - the first fundamental being that coordination in itself is not desirable from the Commonwealth point of view or from the point of view of the States. If any arguments In favour of co-ordination could be put forward, why should co-ordination be agreed to by the States? That is the test of the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He said, " Let us have coordination ". He then pointed out the differences, but he has not given a single reason why there should be co-ordination on these matters. For myself, I do not see any necessity for co-ordination.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the absence from the bill of any provision for pensions for children of deceased judges when the mother was also deceased. There is no provision in this legislation for these orphans, and I adverted to this matter in 1958 during the debate on the Judges Pensions Bill of that year. On that occasion, I said in this chamber -

There is only one point about this bill which I regret. I wish that it included provision for a proportionate part of the pension of a deceased retired judge to be paid to his children under the age of sixteen years, or some other stipulated age.

In retrospect, after three years have passed, I feel that sixteen years was too low an. age to fix. I think it should be higher because the education of the son of a judge would not be nearly completed at sixteen years. I went on to say in 1958 -

The position now is that, upon the death of a retired, married judge, his widow receives half of the judge's pension entitlement. In addition, I think that his children under the age of sixteen receive fi a week. But, as 1 understand the position as it will apply when this bill becomes law, in the event of the widow dying before the children attain the age of sixteen years, there will be no payment at all to the children. In my opinion, further amendment of the act is desirable to provide for such a contingency.

While, possibly, the contingency is a remote and improbable one, nevertheless there may be _ an occasion when, subsequent to the death of a retired judge, his wife also dies leaving young children without income.

Of course, this is not as remote a possibility as one may think. Judges are generally thought of as being middle-aged or in advancing years, and one normally does not associate young children with them, but I can think of at least two judges of Commonwealth courts who to my knowledge have young children. While we all hope that the lack of provision in this bill will never affect them, the possibility always exists. Therefore, after the passage of three years I ask again that the Government consider, when the act is being amended again, or preferably at the present time, making provision for the children of deceased judges in the event of the death of the mother.

The matter of reciprocity between the States and the Commonwealth was also raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. My understanding is that there now is reciprocity. I thought I heard the AttorneyGeneral, by way of interjection, assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of this fact.

Subject to what I have said in relation to the children of deceased judges, I think that this bill should be passed immediately. I take the opportunity to mention this matter only because J think that it needs attention, but simply because I have that attitude does not mean that I will vote against this bill, which is designed to correct what otherwise would be a most anomalous situation, that is, to single out the judges of the Northern Territory Supreme Court and to treat them differently from the way in which other Commonwealth judges are treated.

I support the bill as it stands, but I ask the Government to consider the matter that

I have raised relating to the children of deceased judges.







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