Gordon J and Hayne J (retired) will take home $821,078 in combined remuneration in their first High Court year. Does the taxpayer get value for money?
I found the nepotic cronyism of the appointment to the High Court of Australia of Honourable Justice Michelle Gordon galling. I wrote about it directly here and somewhat indirectly here.
Gordon J condoned the theft of my wife's superannuation in VID 1478/2011. Twenty years of superannuation savings from secondary school teaching vanquished by an inept judge. Gordon J dismissed a claim that a company did not have the right to transfer shares back to themselves from this independent third party, my wife's super, without even a signature. An outrageous theft which Gordon J saw as reasonable for reasons best known to herself and completely unexplained. If you think Gordon J's appointment is a step forward for women, think about the ramifications of such a superannuation theft for a woman who has toiled in classrooms to improve the lives of others for a couple of decades.
It seemed Gordon J thought twenty years of my wife's superannuation was no big deal. That view makes more sense once you realise how well Gordon J is to be remunerated and superannuated as a High Court justice.
Let me meander though.
Gordon J and other High Court judges are rewarded pretty well when benchmarked against US standards. Let's work through the sums as per the current remuneration tribunal document.
For the High Court of Australia my calculations show this:
Which is not too different to the $507,338 reported for the prime minister. For what it's worth, the US President's take home pay is $400,000.
A whilst the rest of the population has been forced to contribute and save for their retirement, High Court jurists get the fat cat package of a defined benefit scheme of up to 60% of their salary once they have their time done.
The Hon Justice Hayne, Gordon J's husband, has just retired and will be eligible for his 60%, so, by my back of the envelope calculations, the legal power couple will take home $821,078 combined for their first full year as a High Court powered couple. Not bad for a public service mandated 36 hour week, where Christmas to February is a holiday, and a retiree.
Gordon J was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia on 20 April 2007. The full 60% of salary for life is appropriate after ten years of service (6 years for 50% FWIW). On dual retirement they'll have to scrape by on just $583,776 per annum for the rest of the lives if they have no other sources of income. Relax, you wont have to worry that inflation may eat into their retirement income as it is benchmarked to current salaries, not what they retired on.
There also may be an anomaly that the spouse of a superannuant under the scheme gets the benefit if the superannuant passes away. Macabre as it is, Hayne J is about 20 years older than Gordon J, so Gordon J may be eligible for $583,776 per year on her own after Hayne J shuffles off the mortal coil which seems a little unfair to the taxpayer.
These gross and somewhat offensive defined benefit schemes are from an era gone by and seem unjustified in the modern world. Such schemes should be consigned to the annals of extravagant history to which they belong.
It is worth comparing to the state of play in the United States of America. The ultimate court in the US which holds the fate of some 321 million people in their grasp, is the US Supreme Court. Here is the remuneration comparison between the US judges and the Aussies:
|High Court||Supreme Court|
No wonder Gordon J saw the theft of twenty years of my wife's super as inconsequential. Twenty years of superannuation for a school teacher is a trifling matter when you live in an ivory tower as tall as Her Honour's own.
Legal costs for corporates are out of control. The salaries of our High Court judges are exemplars from a data set representing how the costs of the justice system are unambiguously high. Just compare the remuneration to the USA. We are missing reasonable market mechanisms to reign in such expenses. Decisions from the court often take years. There is nothing reasonable or modern about a system that takes years to prosecute basic outcomes. Perhaps in the years to come a shadow tribunal system maybe the only alternative for companies to avoid the ridiculousness of the modern anachronistic legal system of perverse precedent and little common sense.
Reform is needed.
PS: If you want to see a real hard working judge, spend a day in the family court with a friend like I did a few months ago. An extraordinary circus. I don't know how those judges survive. That is true selfless service.