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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1383


Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (13:45): These are budget bills, and if I could I would block the budget. I know the opposition won't be joining me, given what happened to Gough Whitlam in 1975 and having just heard Senator Farrell say as much. But this budget should be blocked. It gives rise to high tax, deficit and debt, and it's causing great damage to our country. If the budget were blocked, the government would be forced to go back to the drawing board to prepare a budget with reduced government spending. While this occurred, government spending would be interrupted. This would cause short-term pain. But the benefit from a new budget with reduced government spending would be significant and enduring.

As this budget will pass, despite my opposition, I also propose an amendment. In presenting these two budget bills before the Senate today, the government is violating the Constitution and usurping the rights of the Senate. The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills alerted the Senate to this in its second digest of 2018. In this digest the committee noted that the government's policy to spend $7 million on the Menzies Institute and Library is a new policy announced in December's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook—and Senator Farrell's not here, so I don't have to pronounce that more appropriately than he did! The committee noted that as it is a new policy the Senate should be able to amend the appropriation for this policy. The constitutional bar on the Senate amending appropriation applies only to appropriations for ongoing policy. Yet the committee noted that the government has decided not to insert the appropriation for this new policy into Appropriation Bill (No. 4), which contains other appropriations for new policy. Instead, the government has inserted the appropriation for this new policy into Appropriation Bill (No. 3), which contains appropriations for ongoing policy. Section 54 of the Constitution makes it clear that bills containing appropriations for ongoing policy should contain only such appropriations. Only then are such bills immune from amendment by the Senate.

My second reading amendment, which I now move, simply points this out:

Omit all words after "That", substitute:

(a) the Senate notes that, contrary to section 54 of the Constitution, the bill includes funds which are not 'ordinary annual services' as they relate to new policies not previously authorised by legislation, including $7 million for the Menzies Institute and Library;

(b) the Senate reaffirms its constitutional right to amend proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for expenditure on all matters not involving the ordinary annual services of the government; and

(c) the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to comply with the constitutional requirement that proposed laws which appropriate revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriations.

The amendment that I will move in committee simply removes the appropriation for the Menzies Institute and Library from Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and inserts it into Appropriation Bill (No. 4). If you believe the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, which is chaired by Labor Senator Polley, co-chaired by Nationals Senator Williams and includes members such as the Greens' Senator Rice, then you must consider the spending on the Menzies Institute and Library to be a new policy. If you believe that the Constitution should be upheld, then you must support removing the appropriation for this new policy from the No. 3 bill, which contains appropriations for ongoing policy. It should instead be placed in the No. 4 bill, which does not contain appropriations for ongoing policy.

When my amendment is debated in committee, I would appreciate contributions from Senators Polley, Williams and Rice, given their membership of the committee that has raised this serious issue. I commend my second reading amendment to the Senate.