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Federal

Sep 29, 2017

High Court allows the government to spend its slush fund on just about any old bullshit

The court’s breezy willingness to let this bullshit exercise through the gate sets a dangerous, destructive precedent.

As you might have vaguely noticed, there’s this marriage equality postal survey thing going on currently and for the next, oh joy, six weeks. It’s happening because (a) Malcolm Turnbull has all the moral courage of a wet biscuit, and (b) the High Court says it’s legally fine. The latter part was pronounced by the court a while back without giving its reasons, due to the urgency of the need for the respectful debate to begin.

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25 thoughts on “High Court allows the government to spend its slush fund on just about any old bullshit

  1. James O'Neill

    “Within only the constraint of the size of its slush fund, the executive government can spend that money however it wants so long as the Finance Minister says it’s urgent (for which, read expedient), and Parliament has no way of placing a check or balance on the exercise.
    The High Court has signalled a liberal attitude to how elastically it will allow the government to interpret the limitations on what it and its agencies can do. This promises to have untold consequences.”
    Read that and weep for the last vestiges of our democracy disappearing down the constitutional plughole.

    1. graybul

      Agree with your conclusion James “. . . . the last vestiges of our democracy disappearing down the constitutional plughole.”

      So now we know how the bastion of legal power thinks and ultimately, those who truly hold the whip hand . . . and it is neither parliament, law or we the people. By all means let us weep . . . for we have in a few short decades witnessed the passing of our nation and society from a fair, equitable and strong democracy; into an unjust and increasingly divided, directionless and angry peoples.

      If weeping is where we stop; who then could say to forefathers, or future generations truly, I am an Australian? The parliamentary opposition must review the onus placed upon them to deliver best leadership available; without recourse or concern for future careers, commit to clean out The House . . . and current leadership(s) imposed.

  2. Desmond Graham

    Prediction confirmed – previous comments month ago I said it would easily be approved. This is despite the knowledgeable Constitutional experts [that doesn’t include the High Court] – There is no requirement for decision makers to be experts in their field.
    The High Court if one does a statistical analysis has invariably sided with the centralised Government thus decreasing the influence of democracy. Courts generally prop up regimes through out history.

    There is not a separation of powers- only separation of decision making venues, the High Court has generally been an arm of Government of the time – so it should be viewed as the third arm of Government which is attached to the executive who appoints them.

    1. Decorum

      So what’s your pick for the Offshore Seven, Des? Presumably Brandis’ view that only a Green and a PHON should be excluded will be upheld?

  3. leon knight

    Thanks Michael, great expose – but the dangerous precedents are only likely to be used conservative governments with aspirations to totalitarianism (eg PM Dutton, dog forbid)….I am reasonably confident that a Labor government would not only not use the precedents, but actually take steps to roll them back….

    1. Desmond Graham

      I wouldn’t be that confident – Look at the history of the evolution of the High Court – First it consolidated the Constitution – then it excluded and stuffed the States [which now don’t matter in the Court’s eyes] now that is completed – it now has commenced to exclude Parliament [look at the freedom given to Rudd/Gillard and now to Turnbull]. Finally it will reduce Parliament to an advisory role.

      Unfortunately Unlike the USA Supreme Court which has binding Principles [which originate in European enlightenment] as well as the Constitution [which is the product of that enlightenment ] ours does not combine any philosophy of thought only ad hoc interpretation.

  4. drsmithy

    There is, of course, a third outcome, which I’d rather not mention. Conducting the business of government by holding wastefully expensive, voluntary and therefore meaningless, and carelessly socially destructive, opinion polls, is now totes legit.

    I think this should be point #0, as it is the one from which everything else flows.

    While I am in full support of marriage equality, I have a serious conflict with whether or not to participate in the plebiscite, simply because of the staggeringly bad procedural and governance precedents it has set.

    1. Robynski

      it’s not that hard a decision … not participating will do absolutely nothing about the staggeringly bad precedents (even a mass boycott wouldn’t help, much less your ‘keep my hands clean’ gesture), voting yes is one step closer to equality.

  5. Nudiefish

    Now that it has been officially settled, expect Labor to slush-fund the shit out of the ruling once it get’s back behind the government benches. These things always come home to roost as the LNP should have learnt by now.

  6. CML

    Thank you, Michael…very well explained.
    Just NOT very satisfactory outcome, as you say. However, I do take issue with those who say the HC ‘sided’ with Labor when they were in government…Malaysian solution anyone!!!

  7. Interrobanging On

    I thought that as soon as I heard. Open slather on the ’emergency’ fund. Unless the political opprobrium is too bad, but with the overtly biased or compliant (hello ABC!) mass media out there, who will ever find out about it?
    Cormann is a banker (why did my finger try to hit the ‘w’ not the ‘b’ on that word until corrected!). Smart, but only in a shyster spiv manner.
    And, yes, as usual the LNP degrade the standard, but expect Labor to follow them down.

    PS does the ‘breezy willingness to let this bullshit’ run mean it will let the bullshit on citizenship from Brandis run? Attacking Larissa Waters and muttering darkly about hitting her up for the money paid – until 3 of his colleagues (all of whom we are much better off without in the Human Beetroot, Fiona Gnash and the wild-eyed zealot ‘Coalboy’ Canavan) all got caught up. Now suddenly she is fine.

  8. David Blaazer

    They who live by the bullshit postal survey shall die etc etc. Now we should demand a postal survey on every topic under the sun: e.g. Corporate tax cuts.

    1. Dion Giles

      e.g. retaining any regressive tax which is designed so that the many pay more so the few can pay less. Like the GST Theft Tax.

  9. Barbara Haan

    It’s beyond depressing that the High Court has seen fit to rule in this way. As you point out Michael, the Constitution was devised with the understanding that it is critical to keep the “executive arm” of government under control. That the High Court has chosen to sweep that aside with spurious reasoning leaves me speechless.

    1. Dion Giles

      The High Court is an embedded arm of the rule of the few over the many.

  10. David

    The article boils down to these two points, both of which are wrong.

    “1. Within only the constraint of the size of its slush fund, the executive government can spend that money however it wants so long as the Finance Minister says it’s urgent (for which, read expedient), and Parliament has no way of placing a check or balance on the exercise.”

    This is wrong. The so-called “slush fund” only exists because Parliament created it. It was Parliament which created the urgency condition. If Parliament wants to “place a check or balance on the exercise” of that power, it can put in stronger conditions in the 2018-19 Appropriation Act (the Act in this case only operates for 2017-18).

    This is not about the separation of powers at all. If you have a problem with this so-called “slush fund”, the problem isn’t that the High Court has rendered the Parliament powerless at the hands of the executive government. The problem is that Parliament has *chosen* not to flex its muscle in the way that it easily could have.

    “2. The High Court has signalled a liberal attitude to how elastically it will allow the government to interpret the limitations on what it and its agencies can do. This promises to have untold consequences.”

    If Parliament wants to put stronger limitations on what the executive government can do, it has the power to do so. If Parliament doesn’t want to exercise its undoubted power to place stronger conditions on spending, then take it up with Parliament, not the High Court.

    1. Thumbnail in Tar

      In principle, David, you are right, but if this is the way the High Court is to work, it would appear to describable by an algorithm. Loaded into an appropriate AI program, this would seem to allow the High Court to be replaced by a computer. The point is, surely, that the Parliament making rules for its own operation presents a major conflict of interest. I would rather hope that the High Court would be part of the Checks and Balances, which the Constitution writers saw to be needed. This needs humans on the bench.