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Legislation to be introduced following Williams High Court decision



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THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP Attorney-General Minister for Emergency Management

SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG MP Minister for Finance and Deregulation

THE HON PETER GARRETT MP AM Minister for School Education Minister for Early Childhood and Youth

MEDIA RELEASE

25 June 2012

LEGISLATION TO BE INTRODUCED FOLLOWING WILLIAMS HIGH COURT DECISION

The Gillard Government will introduce legislation into the Parliament tomorrow following the decision of the High Court of Australia in Williams v the Commonwealth of Australia last Wednesday.

The Government is committed to maintaining funding for community programs, including the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.

In preparing for all potential decisions, the Government undertook extensive contingency planning and has already taken swift action to waive any debts under the Chaplaincy program following last week’s decision.

The Government is introducing this legislation after taking legal advice from Robert Orr QC, the Acting Solicitor General, and carefully considering the appropriate response.

Governments on both sides have long relied on a broad view of the Commonwealth’s executive authority to spend Commonwealth funds.

However, a majority of Justices decided that Commonwealth expenditure must be authorised by legislation, and not solely through the Appropriations Acts. This requirement does not apply to some areas of expenditure such as grants to the States, most payments to individuals and payments for the ordinary services and running of Government.

The Government will introduce legislation to amend the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, and regulations under that act, to provide legislative authorisation for existing programs that have already been approved by the Parliament through the Appropriation Acts.

The legislation will also include a regulation-making power for additional programs that might be identified in the future. Such future regulations would be disallowable by the Parliament.

Swift passage of this legislation through the Parliament this week will ensure payments under the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program can

continue. This Program provides support to more than 3500 schools across Australia.

The Government expects, if the legislation is passed by the Parliament this week and receives Royal Assent, that payments can be made to Chaplain providers very shortly afterwards. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has already put arrangements in place to allow payments to start within 24

hours of Royal Assent.

The Government has spoken with the Opposition, the Greens and the Independents today to outline the legislation and seek their support for this legislation in the national interest.

The Government trusts that all sides of politics will see the value in prioritising the passage of this legislation through both houses of Parliament this week.  

For all media enquiries, please contact: Attorney-General’s office on 02 6277 7300 Minister Wong’s office on 02 6277 7400 Minister Garrett’s office on 02 6277 7350