A guilty verdict

Greedy and grasping are descriptive terms most judges would think beneath their dignity. Indeed, they might even consider them defamatory. Recent evidence, however, suggests many of them are guilty of these flaws.

It stems from a submission by Judges of Australia’s Federal Court and Family Court for substantial pay rises. Their key argument appears to be that their colleagues still in private practice are earning much more than them. It may be true but boo hoo!

Just before you get ready to open your wallet or purse and prepare to sacrifice some of your own hard-earned to help them in their hour of need, you should get an accurate picture of their hardship. Quite a number of them earn more than the Prime Minister (closer to $400,000 a year than $300,000) and you can bet he works much longer hours and under infinitely more scrutiny.

Given these judicial pay packets are 6 or 7 times the average annual wage in this country it’s far from a bad deal. Sure, senior partners in the big private practice law firms are said to earn more than $1 million a year but our beloved judges do get compensations. They get first-class travel for free, a luxury vehicle provided, and world travel each year to attend conferences.

Not to mention an employment guarantee until they are 70 – a jobless rate soaring to 10% poses no problems for these guys. Then there’s a huge retirement pension for the rest of their days and remarkable status in the community. Hardly hard labour!

Even one of their own colleagues gave them a touch-up saying they have the chance to whinge about remuneration before they are appointed to the Bench but it’s poor form once they have been elevated. As this former High Court justice said: “If you don’t like it, you don’t take it”. Hear, hear.

The point that seems to have been overlooked in this is that Judges take on the role as a form of recognition. It is seen as a reward not just another step in one’s legal career (though advancement options are still plentiful). It is also a role that is heavily oriented to public service. That is, they become judges in order to give something back to the community. They are supposed to be benevolent not avaricious

How sad that these supposed pillars of our community offer so little to admire. Judges are supposed to be living exemplars of values. As dispensers of justice they sit at the very top of the totem pole, looking down on all the rest of us, even our elected representatives. Yet if judicial values are so debased by greed, where do we turn for enlightenment and example?

Frankly, where the responsibility always rests – inside each one of us personally. We can’t rely on others to set the tone, we have to do it ourselves. Our reward won’t be the big bucks – just the satisfaction of knowing we are decent human beings.