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Tuesday, 23 June 1903

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - It would be a great mistake to pass this clause as it stands. We must remember that the times were very different when the high salaries were fixed for the States Judges: The best talent was then very scarce, as it was possible to earn large sums at the Bar. Those were the golden days when we in Victoria fixed the salary of the Governor at £15,000 per annum; and we know that now his salary has been reduced to £5,000, though the salaries of the Judges remain at the original figures. A law has, however, been passed fixing the salary of future Chief Justices at £3,000 per annum, and the salaries of the puisne Judges at £2,500.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - But the States Judges receive pensions.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Pensions are also provided in this Bill, and will be dealt with later on ; at any rate, the question of pensions is not mixed up with the question we are now discussing.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - If the honorable member is comparing the proposed salaries with the salaries of the States Judges, it must be remembered that the latter receive pensions, and that the clause providing pensions under this Bill may hereafter be struck out.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - But for one consideration I should regard the salaries I have just mentioned as much too high. They are much higher than are paid in other parts of the world. In the United States, with a population of S7,000,000, the Chief Justice receives £2,100 per annum, and the puisne Judges £2,000, and surely the duties they perform must be as important as those to be performed in Australia, with a population of less than 4,000,000? I do not think it would be wise to fix the salary of the Federal Chief

Justice at a lower sum than it is intended to give future Chief Justices in Victoria, and for that reason alone I am prepared to go to the length of fixing the salaries at £3",000 and £2,500 for the Chief Justice and the puisne Judges respectively under this Bill. "We can get the services of the best men available for the position of Prime Minister at a lower salary than that proposed for the Federal Chief Justice.

Mr Mauger - And the position of Prime Minister is uncertain in tenure.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - A man may run the risk of losing his practice at the Bar for the sake of a year or two of office, and yet we have no difficulty in getting the best men as Premiers and as Prime Minister.

Mr Conroy - Surely the honorable member does not pretend that a Prime Minister or Premier is paid an adequate sum in return for his work, seeing that a bank manager may receive £3,000 per annum ?

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I consider that£3,000 per annum is an excellent salary for any Judge. In these days, when the professions are largely overstocked, and a great many legal practitioners are unable to obtain briefs, there will be very little difficulty in getting the best talent available for the Federal Judiciary. When commencing our career as a nation it would be a fatal mistake to fix the standard unreasonably high. In fixing the salaries we must have regard to the maximum, and go down on a graduated scale through the other salaries ; and if we fix the remuneration of the Judges - who occupy the highest-paid offices - at an unreasonably high figure, we shall not be able to fix other salaries at an amount proportionate to the services rendered.

Mr Sawers - Why should there be such a large difference between the salary of the Chief J ustice and the salaries of the puisne Judges ?

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I am merely taking the salaries as they are proposed ; otherwise I might be disposed to think the difference rather too great. However, I shall not in any case vote for a higher salary than £3,000 for the Chief Justice, because to go beyond that would be to take a mistaken step which we might not be able to retrace. These appointments are practically for life ; and after we have induced men to give up the practice of their profession, we cannot break faith with them by reducing their salaries.

Mr Isaacs - The Constitution forbids it.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - And therefore we shall be making a fatal mistake if we fix the salaries unreasonably high. I shall support a reduction of the salaries to at least the limits I have mentioned.

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