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Wednesday, 24 June 1903

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) - I should like to ask the Government, or the Minister in charge of the Bill, whether the reply given just now to the honorable and learned member for Corinella is final - whether the Government have abandoned this clause ? For my part, I paired in favour of pensions, but I voted against the Bill, and would do anything in a legitimate way to kill the measure. I will not, however, stab the Bill in the back. I shall vote against the third reading unless the measure pleases me better than it did in the form in which it stood on the second reading ; but I do not propose, as some honorable members propose, to vote against the pensions clause, not because they think pensions are good, bad, or indifferent, but because they prefer that way of killing the measure and effecting a party triumph. I do not see why all this heat should be introduced into the discussion, nor can I understand the attitude of the Government. It is claimed that it is necessary to give a good salary and a good pension in order to get the- best men in Australia, and yet the Government ┬░it meekly down when an equivalent of at least one-third of the proposed salary has gone. We must remember that the salary paid plus the pension equals the real salary; and yet the Government are prepared to accept the dictum of the Committee. If I were the Government, I should be prepared to accept the dictum of the Committee, but I should not be prepared to go on with the Bill under the circumstances. It is absurd to say that a salary which was insufficient to attract Sir Frederick Darley or to attract Judges to the Supreme Courts of New South Wales and Victoria is sufficient to attract the best men in Australia to a High Court. But the Government are dealing with the Bill in such a way that no man knows what salary is to be paid to these unfortunate Judges. The discussion of the question ' of salary was postponed because the pensions were in some mysterious way held to be a prelude to the fixing of the salar}7. But the pensions are gone, and there is no proposition on the part of the Government to consider the salaries to be paid. Presumably we are to go on to consider clause 54 and subsequent clauses.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member is quite in error. Clause 52 was postponed until after the consideration of clause 53 at the request of the Committee. The question of salaries will come on for discussion as soon as we are allowed to go on with the business.

Mr HUGHES - Then many honorable members are in error as to the intentions of the Government. The Minister in charge of the Bill allowed the honorable member for Wentworth to make a speech, and made no set declaration of the intentions of the Government.

Mr Deakin - I was not called upon to do so. The honorable member for Wentworth rose to make what was practically a personal explanation.

Mr HUGHES - In an important matter like this the Minister in charge of the Bill, directly the Order of the Day was called on, ought to have insisted upon stating the intentions of the Government. As a.matter of fact, three-quarters of an hour have now been wasted through the fault of the Government.

Mr Deakin - Honorable members opposite have wasted the time.

Mr HUGHES - But the Attorney; Genera, has charge of the Government business.

Mr Deakin - Apparently the honorable member wants to take charge of the business, and tell me what to do.

Mr HUGHES - The waste of time is' owing to the fault of the Government, who should have stated what they proposed to do.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must discuss the clause.

Mr HUGHES - I recognise that I am out of order, but the whole discussion is out of order. I venture to think that your decision on the point, Mr. Chairman, was simply an efflorescence of your own goodtempered easy-mindedness - it was certainly not according to the rules of procedure laid down in May. I do not wish' to say anything more, however, since I have learned that the Government are going to do something definite. We shall ultimately find out what they propose to pay the J Judges of the High Court, in order to get the best men in Australia, but I am sorry that so long a discussion should have been necessary at this stage to ascertain their intention.

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