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Tuesday, 28 November 1905

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) - I wish to say a few words about the first Order ir* Council which has been referred to, in order that honorable senators may understand the circumstances under which it was passed. Section 47 of the Judiciary Act says -

(1)   There shall be paid to the Chief Justice a salary at the rate of ^3,500 a year, and to each other Justice a salary at the rate of ^3,000 a year.

(2)   There shall also be paid to each Justice of the High Court on account of. his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties of his office such sums as are considered reasonable by the. GovernorGeneral.

After the appointments were made, the question arose of the method by which' the Governor-General in Council might express his opinion as to what expenses were reasonable. It was urged that, starting with a new Court, under entirely new conditions, it was exceedingly difficult to know what the expenses would be. The plan adopted was one which I think had been followed by the Chief Justice in Queensland, and that was to pass an Order in Council declaring that the expenses to be paid should be the expenses certified to by the Chief Justice. An Order in Council was passed accordingly, and I believe it was estimated that the expense would be between £4 and £5 a day for a Justice, his Associate, and his tipstaff. In Queensland the expenses came to a little under £5 a day. Travelling is more expensive in some parts of the Commonwealth than in others, and I am inclined to think that the expenses to which the Justices will be put in travelling to some of the outside States will be even higher than those which they have to incur in Melbourne or Sydney. When the Justices are travelling, they have to pay the highest rates at the hotels; in fact, I think that sometimes they have to pay higher rates than are charged to the ordinary public.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon -Why should they ?

Senator DRAKE - Because, very often, the accommodation is limited. It is a necessity, I think, for a Justice to have a private room. He should have proper accommodation for himself and also for his Associate, and where the accommodation is limited, it is not surprising that in some cases the Justices are charged high and perhaps extravagant rates.

Senator Clemons - What capital city is there with such limited accommodation as the honorable senator suggests?

Senator Keating - In Melbourne the Justices had to pay pretty stiffly at Menzies', where the accommodation was limited on account of the races being held.

Senator DRAKE - I know of one instance where very high rates were charged to the Justices, in a State capital. I have not gone into any details, nor do I wish to do so. I only rose to explain the reason why the Order in Council was passed. Although it may be urged that it was not a proper way of settling the matter, still it was much better than to leave the expenses of the Justices to be decided by the AttorneyGeneral. The only difference now is that an Order in Council has been passed fixing the expenditure ' of the Judges at an average of £3 3s. I do not know whether that issufficient. I hope it is. Probably a little money has been saved, but we must remember that saving money is not always true economy. I do not think that it is much compensation for all the irritation that has been caused by these proceedings. So far as the Deakin Government is concerned, and my share of the responsibility for the way in which the High Court was started, I think that everything in connexion with the Court was working very smoothly at that time, and that the people of Australia had no cause to regret the expenditure that was being incurred. As to the Judges travelling round to the various States, it was the desire of the Government of the day that they should do so. It was thought desirable, at the commencement of the Federation, that the Judges should visit the various capitals. When the Estimates were brought down by Mr. Watson's Government, and were introduced in the Senate by Senator McGregor, some objection was taken to the amount of the travelling expenses. I then explained that, this heavy expenditure resulted from the Judges visiting the capitals, and that if Parliament was not prepared to vote this money they would not be able to continue to travel. Hardly anything was said to the Senate after that, and I took it that we were generally satisfied that it was a proper practice for the Judges to travel from State to State. With regard to the computation of expenses from the Judges' places of residence, we have to remember the circumstances that existed when the Judges were appointed. Two of them were residing in Sydney, whilst the Chief Justice resided' in Brisbane. There was an understanding with the Government of the day, though it was not embodied in a written agreement, that the Judges should for a period - no term was mentioned - be allowed to reside at the places where theywere then living, and that reasonable travelling allowances should be made. Afterwards, as is well known the Chief Justice, finding that there was a large amount of business in Sydney, and that it would be much more convenient, and more in the interests of the public that he should reside there, broke up his home in Brisbane and went to live in Sydney. It was understood at the time the Judges were appointed thatthey were to be at liberty to reside where they then lived.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Why was not that put in writing in a minute?

Senator DRAKE - We are not always so exact as. that. I have nothing to say as to the correspondence which has been laid before the Senate, and which took place between Senator Symon and the Judges, except to express regret, which, I think, is generally entertained, that that correspondence ever took place.

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