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Wednesday, 24 June 1903

Mr WINTER COOKE (Wannon) - I hope the salaries proposed will not be reduced. The Committee, in deciding against pensions, have, I believe, exposed us to the very great risk of not being able to secure the very best men, and I am in doubt whether the Bill should not be withdrawn now that pensions have been abolished. The Committee should, at any rate, recognise that salaries should be fixed upon as high a scale as possible. I do not understand the position of the honorable member for Robertson, because he is in favour of pensions and yet is now proposing to reduce the salaries of the Judges.

Mr Henry Willis - Hear, hear ; but I shall still vote in favour of granting them pensions, with a view to keeping our Bench at the highest state of efficiency.

Mr WINTER COOKE - Although I voted against the Bill in the first place I should like to see the High Court made as strong as possible. I am afraid that, in view of the amendments already made in the Bill, the court will not be of the high character which I should like to see ; and perhaps, from the point of view of some honorable members it might be better to kill the Bill at this stage. I think, however, that although I voted against the second reading my duty now lies in the direction of making the Bill as good a measure as possible.

Sir WILLIAMMcMILLAN (Wentworth). - I hope the clause will not be amended. We have heard a great deal about principle in this discussion ; but, to my mind, we should view the selection of the Judges for the High Court in exactly the same way that as we should regard the question of engaging a man to discharge the duties pertaining to any other occupation. Certainly if we put aside the question of principle - seeing that pensions are not to be paid to the High Court Justices - this matter becomes purely a practical one. We have further to recollect that these Justices will be selected from Australia, and is the Commonwealth to compete with the different States in regard to the salaries paid to their Judges?

Mr Ewing - If so, we should secure only the leavings.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - Of course. Some honorable members have said - " What about the honour attached to the positions? Surely the only consideration with the Justices is not that of pay." Certainly it is not; but at the same time everything must be in proportion. Whilst a man might be disposed to sacrifice a practice worth £6,000 or £7,000 a year for the honour of filling the office of Chief Justice at £3,500 or £3,000 a year, and whilst the other Justices from similar motives might be willing to relinquish practices worth £4,000 or £5,000 for less lucrative judicial positions, it should be recognised that there is a point at which considerations of sentimentand high position must be ignored, and at which men, in the interests of their families, would not feel justified in making further sacrifices. It would be better, for the sake of the few hundred pounds involved, for the Commonwealth to keep in line with the various States.

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