LCA president calls for investigation into lack of judicial pensions
The Law Council of Australia (LCA) president Stuart Clark has urged the Federal Government to examine whether the lack of judicial pensions is making it hard to recruit for vacant positions.
During a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday, Attorney-General George Brandis said the lack of pensions makes recruitment and retention of judges difficult.
"I wish I had more judges,” he said. “I wish I could offer judges a pension like intermediary state and territory judges receive, so as to regularise the arrangements of this court."
According to Attorney-General Brandis, judges without pensions are less likely to be in a position to retire when they fall ill, meaning that positions are often left temporarily vacant.
More than 12 per cent of the Federal Circuit Court's judges are on sick leave, according to Attorney-General Brandis.
Moreover, some judges appointed to the Federal Circuit Court have moved to state courts so as to receive a pension, he said.
In response to these comments, Mr Clark said: “The Federal Government should investigate whether judicial pensions for federal appointees who do not currently have access to them would make the retention and recruitment of federal judges easier.”
Federal Circuit Court judges are the only judges under the Judges' Pension Act who do not receive a pension upon retirement, which is set at the age of 70.
While Federal Court judges retiring after sitting on the bench for 10 years receive a pension of about $252,486 a year after the age of 60, Federal Circuit Court judges do not get a pension at all.
The shortage of judges is causing major trial delays in the Federal Circuit Court.
Attorney-General Brandis told the Senate estimates hearing that he had filled two positions in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne and Sydney this week.
However, the Family Court bench still has one vacancy and six Federal Circuit Court judges and five Family Court judges will hit the retirement age in the next two years.
“It is vital that federal court appointments are made so as to avoid a lack of continuity in the courts,” said Mr Clark.
“Given the current delays in the replacement of federal judges the Law Council suggests that the Attorney-General should urgently make an open call for expressions of interest.”