Extra leave boost for magistrates

26 Sep 2018 • Herald Sun, Melbourne (General News)
by Matt Johnston

VICTORIA’S magistrates should get an extra two weeks of annual leave and its judges’ perks should be extended, a review of judicial entitlements has recommended.

The proposed changes, sent to Attorney-General Martin Pakula last month, would cost almost $5 million – and would require the hiring of another six magistrates.

The review panel says a larger workload and the complexity of cases meant annual leave for magistrates and long service leave for associate judges should be boosted to prevent “burnout”.

But Opposition spokesman John Pesutto said these recommendations would infuriate most Victorians.

ANNUAL and long-service leave for magistrates and associate judges should be boosted so they avoid burnout and “maintain enthusiasm”, a judicial entitlements review says.

Recommendations sent to Attorney-General Martin Pakula include for a range of perks to be extended and would cost taxpayers almost $5 million.

Mr Pakula will not have to make a decision on recommendations until after the November election, but said he would consider them “in due course”.

One of the most expensive changes would be to increase magistrates’ annual leave from four to six weeks, which Department of Treasury and Finance secretary David Martine said would require six additional magistrates to be hired.

Supreme Court Associate Judges would also get more generous long service leave, allowing them to take six months off after seven years of service.

Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto slammed the recommendations, saying entitlements were already generous for such highly paid roles.

Associate judges earn about $380,000 a year, while magistrates earn at least $311,000.

“The justice system is in crisis under the Andrews Labor Government, yet judges and magistrates want whopping increases in entitlements that will infuriate many Victorians struggling to meet higher energy costs, food bills and state taxes,” Mr Pesutto said.

Mr Pesutto said Victoria had the highest number of judges and magistrates in the country.

In 2016, the Herald Sun revealed magistrates wanted their taxpayer-funded cars upgraded to “premium vehicles”, and to get Cabcharge cards. Those requests were dropped from the Magistrates’ Court’s most recent submission.

But the court did call for annual leave to be boosted from four to eight weeks.

The panel said it recommended six weeks of leave instead, based on the “serious and negative effects” the role can cause and that over 10 years there has been a 49 per cent increase in matters finalised by the court “while the number of magistrates had largely remained static”.

“Submissions highlight the shifts in the nature of the work . in terms of the demands on their time, the complexity of the matters they deal with in their work and the personal toll this can have,” it says.

Boosting long service leave for associate judges would cost about $1.5 million but would have positive impacts, the report says.

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