Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 24 June 1903

Mr SALMON (Laanecoorie) - The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has expressed the hope that men imbued with patriotic ideas will be appointed to the High Court Bench. But how, I ask, can patriotism depend upon monetary payment ? I believe that the truest patriotism springs from the breasts of those who desire to render their country some service. Are we to weigh a man's patriotism by the amount of gold that we give him for the exercise of it? I do not believe that patriotic service depends in any measure upon a monetary return. When we are discussing a simple matter of salaries it is not fair to express the wish that those who accept them will be imbued with patriotic ideas. I regard this matter from a standpoint different from that of any honorable member who has addressed the Committee this afternoon. I still hold that this Parliament should occupy the position of an elder brother to the States - that we should endeavour to set the States an example. I do not desire to forcibly take away from them functions which they most admirably fulfil at the present time. But I feel that, in the matter of expense, a salutary lesson is needed by them. When the people of Australia were being so strongly advised to adopt the Federal Constitution, one of the principal arguments used upon every platform was that under its operation great savings would be effected. In common with the honorable ' member for Gippsland, I regret that, so far, the efforts of this Parliament seem, to have been directed towards increasing the demands made upon the public purse, rather than in conserving the financial interests of the States. I should not like this Parliament to commit any overt act in the direction of forcing the States to exercise more economy. I feel, however, that we have constant opportunities of proving by example the very high regard which we have for economic government. If we were to show that by the expenditure of a less sum of money than that which is proposed we could get judicial services of the highest character, it would prove an object lesson to the States which they could not fail to copy. Then we should be discharging one of the highest functions that we can hope to fulfil. We should be lessening the burden that is already pressing too heavily upon the general taxpayer.

Sir John FORREST - Does the honorable member think that is so ?

Mr SALMON - I am using language that the Minister for Defence does not understand. He has not been compelled

Sir John Forrest - I have been more economical all my life than has the honorable member.

Mr SALMON - Not with other people's money.

Sir John Forrest - Yes.

Mr SALMON - I am sure that the records of Western Australia will not bear out the Minister's statement in that respect.

Sir J ohn Forrest - I take exception to the remark as not correct. .

Mr SALMON - If the right honorable gentleman takes exception to that remark I certainly withdraw it. We have an opportunity, of which we should not fail to take advantage, of setting an example to the States. I am not one who believes that the services which will be rendered by the occupants of the High Court Bench are to be commanded by any sum of money. We require on the Bench men of sufficient patriotism to altogether refuse to allow financial considerations to weigh with them in the exercise of their duty. If we were to pay men on the basis which some honorable members desire, what amount would some representatives in this Chamber receive ? Look at the sacrifices which honorable members make from day to day and from week to week in the endeavour to do their duty to the Commonwealth in Parliament. Yet there is not in the mind of any honorable member a feeling of regret for the sacrifices made ; they recognise that they are discharging the highest duties a man can. discharge - the duty he owes to the State which gives him protection.

Mr Mahon - But theVictorian Government make us pay income tax for the protection afforded us here.

Mr SALMON - That is a mere local affair about which we need not say anything at this juncture. I ask honorable members to attempt to realize what a salary of £3,000 really means. It means, as one honorable member said, a great deal more than most men who will be eligible for the position are receiving at the present time. A Judgeship means absolute security ; that so long as a man is capable of performing his duty he will receive his salary. Bad seasons will not affect him, nor will he be susceptible to differences in the rates of the money market ; he will receive his salary without deduction or diminution as regularly as the sun rises. A salary of £3,000 per annum means about £60 a week ; and when the case is stated in this way, honorable members more readily recognise what a large sum it is to expect from the Treasury for the services we are to receive in return. If there is not a single case before the court in the whole twelve months, this enormous sum will be still paid to the Judges ; and, further, the salaries of the court officials will be graded in accordance with those we pay to the occupants of the Bench.

Mr Deakin - The salaries of the court officials are not measured by the Judges' salaries.

Mr SALMON - But has not a similar grading been proved to have taken place in every Department we have created?

Mr Deakin - No.

Mr SALMON - Is it not a fact that in the Departments of the Commonwealth which have been taken over, there are officers to-day receiving salaries far in advance of those paid for similar services in the States?

Mr Deakin - The point of the honorable member is that there will be a proportion between the salaries paid to the Judges and the salaries paid to the officers associated with the courts. There is no such proportion. The duties are entirely different, and it would not affect the salaries of the officers of the court if the Judges were paid salaries of £5,000 or even £15,000.

Mr SALMON - My contention is that if we determine on economical administration in the higher branches, we shall have economical administration right throughout the service. If, however, we pay extravagant salaries in the higher positions, there would be reasonable justification for assuming that the same extravagance will permeate the whole of the service.

Mr Deakin - The Judges stand by themselves, apart from everyone else.

Mr SALMON - Why should the comparatively high rates of salary be limited to those who occupy the higher positions ? If we pay £3,500 to the Chief Justice, and pay the sums proposed for the other Judges, we shall be setting a very bad example to the States, and we shall deserve undoubtedly some of the opprobrium that in future will be levelled against the first Parliament for not better conserving the interests of the people, and of the various States - for not, indeed, keeping better faith with them. I have given some consideration to the question of union and the results that would follow it, and have devoted the best years of my life to an endeavour to place facts fairly and properly before the public ; and there is no doubt in my mind that the people of Australia at the present time believe that the Federal Parliament is not acting in consonance with the promises made before the Constitution was finally adopted.

Mr Mahon - Does the honorable member not think that the people expect too much from us ?

Mr SALMON - I think they do; but I also know that they believewe are rushing into great extravagance, and endeavouring to carry out during the life-time of the first Parliament work which it was never anticipated would be dealt with for the first ten years of federation at any rate.

Mr Knox - Are the States doing their share in the work of economy ?

Mr SALMON - I think not; but this Parliament, which occupies a higher position, should set an example, and show that, although we believe the Chief J ustice for the whole of Australia should be superior to the Chief Justices of any of the States, we will not allow that belief to weigh with us in fixing the salary to be attached to the office, and because the States pay their Chief Justices £3,000 per annum, pay the Federal Chief Justice £3,500 per annum. On the other hand, we should express theopinion that theoccupant of the position will beadequately remunerated with £3,000 per annum, and that we do not care if the States choose to pay their Chief J ustices £7,000 per annum. The spirit of emulation in paying away the people's money has done too much harm to Australia in the past. "We have had States bidding against each other for Governors and other high officials; and that is the sort of thing we hope under the Commonwealth to see relegated to oblivion. The only idea that animates me is that of making the Bill as little harmful as I possibly can to the interests of the people of Australia. Long before the present agitation for economy was commenced, I expressed my opinion publicly about the proposal to establish a High Court, and I have opposed that proposal from the time it was first mooted. I have been anxious to postpone, but not to repudiate, the establishment of that court; but since it is to be established, I hope to see it put on such a basis as will, while not interfering with efficiency, prove conclusively to the States that this Parliament is not wanting in its duty, and that we are prepared to set them an example which they can profitably follow. If we do that, instead of blame being fixed on us for the work we are doing, although it may be premature in the opinion of some, it will be admitted that by exercising due economy we have done our duty to the States and to Australia as a whole. I repudiate altogether the assertion - which has been implied rather than openly made - that the rectitude of the J udges will depend on the salaries ; the history of the past in Australia is altogether opposed to such an idea. We have been told to-day that the Judges must be kept above temptation ; but there never has been in Australia any temptation of a character which would cause a Judge to be false to the oath which he took on assuming his very high and responsible office.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - If there were a liability to temptation, a difference of a few hundred pounds a year would not keep a Judge straight.

Mr SALMON - We are told that we must secure the very best men, and that the only way to do so is to pay £3,500 per annum to the Chief Justice, and correspondingly large salaries to the puisne Judges.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - By paying salaries commensurate with the position ; it is not a question of £500 a year.

Mr SALMON - I say that we have not to consider the position, which carries its own compensation. The man who occupies the position of Chief Justice will, in that fact itself, have all the compensation he desires, or, at any rate, deserves ; what we have to do is to pay him for the work he does. The range of man's ambition is not bounded by the salary which he may receive ; the satisfaction of his ambition will depend on the true and faithful performance of his duty. The advantages of the position are held in very highesteem by those who will probably sit on the High -Court Bench ; and that fact must be recognised. There are no doubt men of undoubted ability and of standing in Australia who would be prepared to take the position without pay ; but I am not advocating the acceptance of their services. I do not think the Commonwealth should accept from an individual services which are not paid for, or which wearenot prepared to recognise in a proper fashion. I trust that these are the last words I shall have to say on this Bill, which I have opposed from the beginning, and which I do not now like any more than I did before. In the performance of my duty to those who have sent me here, and to the people of Australia, I must enter my protest against the large salary proposed for the Chief Justice, and announce my intention of supporting the amendment.

Mr. MAHON(Coolgardie).- The amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Hartnoll, provides that a reduction of £500 shall be made in the salary of the Chief J Justice of the High Court, and of £250 in the salaries of the other Judges \ so that if the court is constituted of three Judges, the total saving to the Commonwealth will be about £1,000 a year. I have taken the trouble to make a calculation as to what that saving amounts to per head of population, and I find that, assuming the population of the Commonwealth to be 4,000,000, it will be just 1-1 6th of Id.

Mr Salmon - It is not so much the amount that will be saved as the principle.

Mr MAHON - I heard that stated by the honorable member at some length quite recently.

Mr Salmon - I am sorry if my speech did not convert the honorable gentleman.

Mr MAHON - It neither converted nor convinced me. If we are to have economic reform, it should be genuine : we should not be content with a mere cheeseparing attempt to whittle down the cost of an institution when, in the end, it may result in the difference between getting really good men and getting second-rate men. That being so, I do not feel disposed to vote for the amendment. When a division was taken last" night upon the pension question, I did not feel at all comfortable in the company in which I found myself. I noticed that amongst the advocates of economy are gentlemen who have been referred to by the honorable member for Richmond as connected with the Kyabram movement. In my opinion, the proposals for economy which come from that quarter ave rather spurious and one-sided, and ' are being advocated in a very hysterical manner. The curious part of the whole agitation is that the very individuals who are now so loudly clamouring for what they call financial reform and economy in this State are the men who, a couple of years ago, were throwing up their hats in Collins-street over some alleged


victory in South Africa to which this unfortunate State had contributed at a verylarge expenditure of life and of money. The honorable member for Gippsland, who is now one of the foremost, and I might say the only realty imposing leader of the movement in this Chamber, is a gentleman who has continually boasted of having sent away from Victoria several contingents ; and, in fact, of having initiated the policy of interfering in foreign affairs. I find that either he or his Government was instrumental in spending no less than £138,327 of Victorian money on these expeditions. It hardly lies in the mouths of gentlemen who have played fast and loose with the funds of the peoplein that fashion to come here and quibbleover a proposed expenditure of £1,000 a year.

Mr Salmon - Where did the honorablemember get his figures relating to the- war expenditure of Victoria 1

Mr MAHON - From page 40 of a document distributed this morning, and entitled - " Papers relating to a Conference between the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the Prime Ministers of the selfgoverning colonies." Personally, I have always in this Chamber supported economy, and I believe that we should, so far as we can, see that the administration of the Government is carried on in an economical way. The honorable member for Gippsland said that this Parliament has done nothing since it first met in Melbourne but create billets and incur fresh expenditure. But the Commonwealth Constitution, like an)' other great machinery, must be set in motion, and the initial expense of starting machinery is always considerable. I hardly thought that a gentleman of sq acute a mind as his could have overlooked a fact sosalient as that. It was his duty to qualify his statement by mentioning that themachinery of government had to be built up, and offices created, as a matter of compulsion under the Constitution. It was. hardly fair to reserve that qualification.

Mr O'Malley - D - Does the honorable member know that it is the land bankbursters who are the Kyabramapootras now t

Mr MAHON - I know that some of the leaders in the movement have not the cleanest record ; but, as anything we say is privileged, I do not think we should take away the characters of those who have not fin opportunity to reply to us, or the means of taking us into court to make us prove the truth of what we say regarding them.

Mr O'Malley - H - How can we take away their characters if they have none ?

Mr MAHON - Of course, honorable members accept with a grain of salt a good many of the statements which appear about this reform movement. The other day we saw how a leading Melbourne newspaper juggled with figures with regard to the expenditure of the Commonwealth upon certain offices, and how facts were concealed by it in order to mislead public opinion. If any one wants a guide as to how to act, he ought always to ascertain what course the two great newspapers which claim to dominate public opinion in Melbourne favour, and then go in the opposite direction. If he does that, he is almost certain to be right.

Mr O'Malley - I - I am not sure of that, even.

Mr MAHON - I know that the honorable member has another press mentor, which he follows more than either of those to which I have referred.

Mr O'Malley - H - Hear, hear; the Bulletin, the only Christian paper.

Mr MAHON - I think that a fair proposal with regard to the Federal Judiciary would be to pay the Chief Justice and the other Judges the salaries fixed in the clause, but provide that the Chief J ustice shall set apart £500 a year, and the other Judges £450 a year, to create a fund to provide retiring allowances for them. If that were done the net salary of the Chief Justice would be £3,000 a year, and that of the other Judges £2,550. I think that such an arrangement would receive the approbation of the gentlemen who are qualified to fill the positions, and that a good many members of this Committee would be disposed to agree to it. The salaries would be paid as fixed in the Bill, a retiring allowance would be provided for, and we should know exactly how much the Commonwealth would be called upon to pay. But while I have always advocated economy, and believe in economical administration, I wish to mention that the cheap courts of America and Canada, to which reference has been made so often, are not satisfactory courts.

Mr Fowler - They are cheap and nasty.

Mr MAHON - We can learn a great deal from the history of the United States. In almost every newspaper one picks up in which there is the letter of an American correspondent, one reads that there is a rumour of this Judge and that Judge having been bought.

Mr McCay - Those rumours do not attach to the Judges of the Federal Court of Appeal.

Mr MAHON - Possibly not ; but they attach to the minor Judges. It was a notorious fact that Boss Tweed in his day practically owned the State Judiciary of New York.

Mr McCay - That was an elected Judiciary.

Mr MAHON - That is true, but it seems to me that if you pay a man too little, whether he be an elected Justipe or an appointed Judge, you tempt him, if not to do something corrupt, to engage in some enterprise or speculation which will occupy his time and take off his mind from the work which he is appointed to perform.

Mr McCay - The men of whom the honorable member speaks - Boss Tweed's Judges - were getting very big salaries.

Mr Deakin - From Tweed.

Mr MAHON - The honorable member forgets that, although nominally their salaries may have been large, considerable deductions were made from them for party purposes. It is misleading to refer to the salary of a Judge as 20,000 dollars or 30,000 dollars a year, if he has to pay 5,000 dollars or 10,000 dollars for the nomination of his party. The universal rule is that if you pay a good salary you get a competent man. We could not have more important work to be performed than the Judges of the High Court will have to do. It is false economy to whittle away at a provision like this to save an amount which is a mere bagatelle in relation to the total expenditure of the Commonwealth. If we have inferior Judges, more money may be lost in connexion with the preliminary stages of one single case than the saving of a year under the amendment. I am one of those who believe in having an exalted High Court - a court which no Australian need have any fear to enter ; a court not merely raised above the States Courts, but one to which the whole of Australia can look for absolute impartiality and justice. Unless we get the best men we shall not attain the desired end, and unless we offer good salaries we shall not secure the best men. Therefore, I intend to vote for the Government proposal, conditional upon some provision being made for a deduction from the Judges' salaries with the object of providing them with retiring allowances. It would be very dangerous for us to appoint a Judge permanently, and to allow him to remain on the Bench after he had become incapacitated. The only way in which we can get over the difficulty is by offering a substantial inducement for retirement, or by imposing an age limit of, say, 65 or 70 years. The objection to the latter course is that under such a condition we might force off the Bench a really good man, who would be able to serve the country for five or even ten years longer. We know that the intellectual ability of men is not diminished very much up to the ages I have mentioned, because we have the case of Mr. Gladstone and others who have made reputations and ruled the State even after they had arrived at an extreme age. I hope the Government will adopt this suggestion, and afford the Committee a way out of the difficulty with which they now find themselves face to face. No one cares for a mere infinitesimal saving, and if a proposal is made under which we shall be able to see exactly the extent of our liabilities, I am sure that the decision arrived at last night will be reconsidered by many honorable members.

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).I had hoped to avoid the necessity for speaking upon this occasion, but as I opposed the Bill upon several grounds, I fear that I shall be misunderstood in some quarters if I do not explain my position. I take up the stand that if we are to have a High Court we should not allow any parsimonious considerations to affect the standing of that tribunal.We should not, in fact, spoil our ship for the sake of a barrel of tar. If the amendment is adopted we shall be able to save £1,000 per annum in the event of only three Judges being appointed, whereas, if five Judges are appointed, we shall save £1,500 per annum. This will be a very small thing for the country, but it may mean a great deal in connexion with the choice of our Judges. I think that some speakers have displayed a want of perspective in their views of the relative importance of the questions which have been submitted for their consideration. There are far more vital considerations than the saving of £1,500 a year. I do not despise small economies, but if by giving an extra £1,500 a year we can secure the pick of the men eligible as Judges, and if without giving it we can not do so, I say we should by all means provide for the additional expense.

Mr Fowler - Will the suggested increase make all the difference ?

Suggest corrections