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Tuesday, 23 June 1903

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I cannot understand the remark of the honorable member for Bland, that we should not offer lower salaries than are being offered in any of the States. The whole argument in the Prime Minister's replies to certain questions I put this afternoon was that we were able to get the best men at 25 per cent, less than is being paid in the several States. I have no doubt that in connexion with the High Court we shall be able to get men of very wide experience both in law and politics who will serve us admirably for the salaries which we are prepared to offer, and without the extra inducement of a pension. I am opposed to the payment of pensions. We did the right thing in the provision we embodied in the Public Service Act for life assurance. In this case, where we are likely to offer a handsome salary, and where the men will enter the service of the Commonwealth later in life, after they have probably had for years a lucrative practice, out of which they ought to have made some savings, it is hardly right to ask the Commonwealth to grant them pensions. That is not done for ordinary business men. It is not done for the managers of bank's, of trustee companies, or of other great financial or trading institutions.

Mr Fowler - Frequently bank managers get pensions when they retire from active work.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I believe it is so in connexion with some banking institutions, but in the generality of cases men have to make provision for themselves out of their salaries. For the most part the men who will be appointed to the High Court Bench will have had excellent practices at the bar, or if they are taken from the Benches of the States they will carry with them their rights to pensions, and consequently we shall not be under an obligation to create a pension list on their account. We are under no obligation to follow the example of the States and tq offer salaries beyond what it is fair to give.

Mr Watson - It is not a question of what it is fair to give, but of what we must give in order to get the class of men we require.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I believe that we shall get the best of men for the salaries which tire likely to be voted here without the additional inducement of a pension.

Mr Watson - The fact that we got civil servants is no criterion, because there was quite a large number of civil servants to select from.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I admit that the circumstances are entirely different. But it is my opinion that we shall get excellent men of proved legal capacity aswell as perhaps ripe political experience to offer their services to the Commonwealth. The peculiarity of the present proposal is that a Judge will be induced to remain at his post as long as possible in order to get the higher pension. If a Judge meets with a paralytic stroke after he has served for three or four years he will endeavour to remain on the Bench for seven or eight years, because at the end of that time he will get a larger pension than if he had retired at the end of five years, and so on right through the piece. I think it is a mistake to differentiate in this way. In any case, if there is to be a pension granted I think it ought to be paid, not so much as a reward for services rendered, as a compensation for some infirmity which has suddenly rendered a Judge incapable of performing his duty. What ought to be done, I submit, is to create a fund out of which the compensation, gratuity, or retiring allowance should be paid in a case of proved incapacity, occasioned by a sudden paralytic stroke or some misfortune.

Mr Thomson - Up to what amount 1

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I should say that up to one half of the salary would be a fair thing ; but that is a matter for further discussion. Judges unlike most other persons are not called upon to take a very large part in social functions, and therefore are not under any great obligation to spend money in the way in which other persons are. On the other hand, they are- subject to certain limitations in the way of business. They cannot take up directorships, or any positions of that kind; but the salaries which are likely to be voted will be more than proper compensation for the restrictions which they have to put upon themselves, and for the social pleasures which they have to forego. I think that the proposal in the Bill in respect to pensions ought not to be carried, and that some other proposal might be put forward to provide for a case of sudden misfortune occurring to a Judge whereby he could make provision for his own needs. With respect to the salaries, I consider that it would' be sufficient to give £3,000 to the Chief Justice, and £2,500 each to the other Judges.

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