Joe Hockey’s move to sideline the Parliament’s opposition to his proposed asset recycling fund by wrapping the plan into an appropriation bill will fail, according to advice from the Parliamentary Library.
Last month Mr Hockey rejected Senate amendments to legislation that would have transferred funding from the existing Building Australia Fund and the Education Infrastructure Fund to his new fund, which he wants to use to pay bonuses to states that privatise public assets.
Mr Hockey has since boasted he will avoid parliamentary scrutiny by reintroducing his plan in a so-called new appropriations bill.
However, the Parliamentary Library has advised the Opposition that while such a Bill would be legal, it would not fit within Section 53 and 54 of the Constitution, which deal with Budget appropriations bills which cannot be amended by the Senate.
Instead, it would fall into a different category of appropriations in a Bill which the Senate would have the power to amend to reduce the amount of money being appropriated to zero.
It is often incorrectly assumed that the Senate has no power over appropriation Bills, and in this case the Treasurer appears to be making that erroneous assumption too. The consequences of reducing one item to nil would be substantially less than ‘blocking supply,’ which entails blocking all monies to the government (and effectively shutting down the government).
Advice to the Opposition from the Parliamentary Library July 31, 2014
Mr Hockey’s contempt for proper process knows no bounds.
He wants to sideline the Parliament because he does not accept Labor amendments that would require that any project to receive a payment from his fund would have to be subject to a proper cost-benefit analysis to ensure it provides value for public money.
This accountability amendment might offend Mr Hockey, but it simply reflects the policy he took to the 2013 election.
Mr Hockey is trying to avoid proper processes over the infrastructure spending so he can return to the political pork-barreling that plagued the Howard era.
Not content with breaking election promises, he has succumbed to hubris and also wants to prevent the Parliament from holding to him account.
But before announcing his plan to deal the Parliament out of this issue, he appears to have not even checked the legal issues.
This is yet another demonstration of the Coalition’s chaotic approach to governing this nation and its contempt for checks and balances that would prevent it from wasting public money.