The passing of the judges pay referendum is likely to have negative consequences for our courts system that will not be immediately obvious but will be damaging just the same.
It's probably inevitable that a future government will use this measure to punish judges for opposing it but that will be an overt act. Of more concern is the effect the amendment will have on the calibre of those taking up judgeships.
Judges are drawn from the legal profession where earnings can be huge. For all that we rail against the level of judges pay it's the case that some lawyers would earn more if they didn't become judges.
Taking a pay cut to do the job is one thing but the fact that judges will no longer enjoy security of income is quite another.
Top rank legal people looking at a judges job will now have to consider the following -
- If they become judges their income will be dependent on the whim of a politician.
- They will be unable to take other employment to make up a shortfall if their salary is cut.
- If they resign they will be severely restricted in where they can practice their profession.
That must surely mean that some will refuse to serve which will impact on the standard of judges in the future.