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JOBFAKERS: PARLIAMENT MUST NOT SQUIB ITS CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

6 November 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today announced his intention to amend the Coalition Government’s Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill 2020 to ensure that decisions about spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars are properly authorised by the Australian Parliament, not completely delegated to the Executive Government. 

Senator Patrick has lodged a dissenting report to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee inquiry regarding this Bill. 

“This is an extraordinary piece of legislation through which the Australian Parliament would abrogate its constitutional responsibility to decide legislation to an executive government that is already notoriously secret and very adverse to parliamentary and media scrutiny”, Senator Patrick said.

"The JobMaker Hiring Credit Bill in its current form – with a head of power granting largely unconstrained control and discretion to the Executive - should not be passed by the Parliament without the rules governing the JobMaker scheme being included in the legislation.”

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed many novel challenges to the conduct of business, the Parliament cannot abandon its constitutional responsibility as a legislature, one that makes laws in public, with open debate and voting for which its members are ultimately accountable back to their constituents.”

As Professor of Constitutional Law Anne Twomey told the Senate's Scrutiny of Bills Committee:

From a constitutional point of view, legislative power is conferred on Parliament by s 1 of the Constitution. It is not conferred upon the executive. It has long been recognised by the courts, however, that Parliament may delegate its legislative powers to the executive to deal with the vast amount of administrative detail that needs to be the subject of legislative provision, and it would be impractical for Parliament to have to enact all such provisions itself. Nonetheless, Parliament may only delegate this power – it may not abdicate it.

Senator Patrick said: “This Bill represents an absolute abdication of legislative responsibility. There is simply no credible justification for delegating authorisation of an estimated $4 billion in expenditure, including deciding which businesses will benefit from the scheme as a result of some selective characteristics of new employees.”

“This is unquestionably a massive Executive overreach which should not be supported by the Senate. If the Bill is passed in its current form, Senators and MPs will have abrogated their constitutional responsibilities. They will be nothing more than JobFakers.” 

“I will be moving an amendment to bring the entirety of the rules governing the JobMaker scheme into the body of the legislation to ensure proper authorisation and accountability for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money”, Senator Patrick said. 

A copy of Senator Patrick’s dissenting report can be found here.