Travel bills soar as judges jet in to Irish pub tour
JET-setting Queensland judges spent $1.4 million on overseas trips to attend legal conferences in holiday hot spots - including an Irish "pub tour''.
Queensland Land Court member Paul Anthony Smith, who lists travel as a hobby, spent $50,794 for a trip to Italy, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Malta and the Ukraine between May and July last year and $7874 to visit Singapore and Hong Kong in February 2017.
His biography on the Queensland Courts websites states that "one of Member Smith's 'hobbies' is travelling to remote parts of the former Soviet Union''.
The State Government's latest judicial overseas travel report reveals that 54 judges spent $1.4 million during 2016-17.
Mr Smith, who is paid a $374,613 annual salary, toured the Supreme Court in Kiev where he held "meetings and discussions with various juridical officers and academics''.
He convened a session at a legal symposium in Salzburg and held "meetings and discussions with various judicial officers'' in Malta.
Mr Smith gave a presentation at a conference in Positano, on Italy's Amalfi coast, in July last year before joining fellow judges at the Australian Bar Association conference in London and Dublin.
The conference program included "an exciting schedule of social and networking events'' - including a day at the races and a "Dublin pub tour".
A fellow attendee was former District Court judge Brian Harrison, who spent $54,936 on overseas travel during 2016-17 before retiring in March this year.
Supreme Court Judge Duncan McMeekin, who also retired in March, spent $34,261 on a trip to the Galápagos Islands for a legal conference.
Former Chief Justice Tim Carmody, who resigned from the bench last month, spent $29,529 on a trip to Japan, where he met judicial and court officials and toured the Supreme Court, and to Paris, where he attended a conference. He spent another $10,813 to attend a New Zealand conference and visit the Queenstown courts in 2016.
There is no suggestion any of the judges spent money on travel they were not entitled to.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine Holmes said judges' overseas travel is generally funded through their jurisprudential allowance.
"As the allowance is in the nature of a salary sacrifice, it is not correct to view it as 'taxpayers' money','' she said in a statement attached to the travel report.
"It is entirely within the discretion of judges to decide whether and how they spend it for the purpose of conference travel as it is their own income.''
A spokeswoman for the courts said the allowance accrues from one year to the next, so "judges are never paid more than they are owed''.
"Judges can travel to overseas conferences during the court vacation or, with prior approval, can use their long service leave for the purpose,'' she said.
"There is no loss of court time.''
Jurisprudential allowances range from $30,243 to $39,516 a year, paid on top of taxpayer-funded salaries ranging from $374,573 for District Court judges to $416,192 for Supreme Court judges and $469,703 for the Chief Justice.