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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 May 2018) . . Page.. 1626 ..


nationally. As I have already indicated, other states have moved to 70 years some time ago.

In fact, in New South Wales there has been a push to raise the retirement age even higher. In other cases, such as here, the issue seems mired in a range of unrelated matters. I am stating that this does not need to wait for other changes. It can be done simply as a singular issue. It does not need a holistic approach. The time has come for it to be changed.

I turn to the bill itself. The first three clauses relate to the name, date and amendment details. The fourth clause merely omits the current words “65 years old” and substitutes “70 years old”. It really is that simple.

With regard to the human rights implications, the bill does not have any human rights implications because even though it addresses age, the bill does not actually limit the age at which magistrates must retire. It actually extends the age that they can continue to work. It does not force a person to work beyond their desire. It means they are not forced to retire against their wishes.

The extension of retirement age does raise the issue of whether there should be a retirement age at all. On this point, I remind members that a retirement age for magistrates was subject to a national referendum at the time when judges were appointed for life. This is something that I must say I was unaware of, but the referendum was conducted in the 1970s. I will quote from former High Court Justice Michael Kirby on the result:

The Members of Parliament, who rarely saw the justices of the High Court in those itinerant days—

before the court got its permanent home by Lake Burley Griffin—

were uniformly shocked at McTiernan’s great age and apparent feebleness. It was the sight of the octogenarian which encouraged the bipartisan support for the amendment of the Constitution providing for the compulsory retirement of federal judges … Henceforth there would be no more life appointments.

While there may be possibly a broader discussion about retirement ages, and I would welcome further discussion, this is beyond the scope or purpose of this bill. The current retirement age was set many years ago. It does not recognise the valuable contributions these people could still provide to the Canberra community, and it is out of step with modern standards.

It takes many years of legal practice and professional development to attain the skills to be a magistrate. When those magistrates are at the peak of their ability and experience, we are now forcing them to retire. This bill not only recognises the value of allowing experienced and capable people to keep working; it also addresses an anomaly where the retirement age in the Magistrates Court is 65, but in the Supreme Court it is 70.


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