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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2062

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (21:46): Today we debate the government's appropriation bills. These bills are routinely waved through parliament, but I would consider blocking them if I could, because the government urgently needs to reconsider the path it is on. This year, the government is once again proposing to increase the size of government. Last year, Commonwealth government spending per person, allowing for inflation, was around $18,090. This year, it is expected to be around $18,340. That is a $250 increase in government spending per person, in real terms.

How many members of the public would agree that government is better this year compared to last year? And who would voluntarily fork out $250 for this supposed improvement? Not many, I suspect. It cannot continue. We have a debt of close to $300 billion, we are paying over a billion dollars a month in interest, and we are in danger of losing our AAA credit rating. Unless we stop this runaway spending train, it will crash. And, tragically, those worst affected, those who will lose their livelihoods and their homes, will not be the ones who caused the problem.

Today, in this debate, I seek to defend the Senate's right to amend spending plans for new policies. The rights of the Senate arise from the Constitution, but unfortunately the details of those rights are a matter of interpretation. According to the Senate's interpretation under a current Senate resolution, the Senate can amend appropriations for new policies, but not for existing policies. According to the government's interpretation, the Senate can amend appropriations for new outcomes, but not for existing outcomes. The problem with the government's interpretation is that its outcome statements are so vague and all-encompassing that every imaginable new policy could sit under an existing outcome. All kinds of new policies could be shielded from Senate amendment. This was not the intention when our Constitution was written.

I prefer the Senate's interpretation. Thus, I move my second reading amendment:

Omit all words after "That", substitute: "noting the resolution of the Senate of 22 June 2010 relating to the ordinary annual services of Government, and the inclusion in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017 of funding for new initiatives (as described in the Budget Papers) relating to Australian international education, the investment approach to welfare and the National Carp Control Plan rather than in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2016-17, further consideration of these bills be deferred until the Government provides a commitment to the Senate to cast future appropriation bills in the terms of the 22 June 2010 resolution.".

This amendment notes that the government has placed new policies into the appropriation bill that the Senate cannot amend, and it calls on the government to commit to placing new policies into the appropriation bills that the Senate can amend in the future. I ask each Senator who respects the constitution to support my second reading amendment.