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Wednesday, 24 June 1903

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have been actuated, in regard to many of the clauses of this Bill, by the same laudable motive which has moved the honorable member for Bland, the desire to save time. But it appears to me from the discussion this afternoon, that a great deal of misunderstanding exists as to the reasons which actuated honorable members in voting for or against the amendment carried last night. I hold the opinion that a mistake was made by the Attorney-General in allowing the Committee to deal with the question of pensions before the question of salaries was settled. The two questions had naturally to be considered together, but to my mind the question of salaries should have been settled first. In voting against the clause, I was in no way actuated by the desire to stab the Bill. I wish to see it carried, and aHigh Court created to which the best men available will be appointed. But I object - and this is the only reason which actuated me in voting for the amendment - to theprinciple of pensions. I am aware that there are good arguments for paying pensions toJudges, but I know that in certain cases in the history of the States the pension system has led to abuses, both in regard to appointments and in the retirement of Judges beforethey should have retired. There is now living in London a gentleman who for the last twenty year's has been receiving a pension from a neighbouring State, because of his retirement from the Bench, while there is. another case nearly as bad in connexion with the Bench of another State. I should not like to see that sort of thing happen in connexion with the Judicial Bench of the Commonwealth. I wish to get the best men available, but I do not think it necessary toprovide pensions in order to secure the services of such men. Furthermore, if' we provide for pensions, we shall notknow exactly what our liability will bein respect to the cost of the High Court. We might find ourselves a short time hencerequired to pay as many as a dozen pensions to Judges who had retired, because somefuture Administration may not be so careful in their appointments as the present Government will be, and may appoint gentlemen merely to secure for them pensions after a short term of service. In my opinion thebalance of the argument is against the institution of the pension system in the Commonwealth. If it is necessary to increase the salaries provided for the Judges of theHigh Court, in order to secure the servicesof the best qualified men, I would rather dothat, and leave it to the persons appointed to provide for their old age or infirmity, than agree to the payment of pensions. I believe, however, that it is possible to get the best men in Australia for the salariesfixed in the Bill, without giving pensions atall. The salaries paid in the United States- of America are notoriously low, and yet member after member has during the debates upon the Bill pointed out the signal and patriotic services rendered to that country by her great Judges. We have an equal right to expect that admirably-gifted men will, from patriotic motives, give up lucrative practices at the Bar here to accept the honorable positions provided by the Bill.

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