HIGH COURT DECISION IN WILLIAMS V COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA [2014]

In light of the High Court decision in Williams v Commonwealth of Australia [2014] Labor is calling on the Government to make the necessary steps to ensure no funding is cut from important Government programs.

The Commonwealth provides funding to a range of essential support services to ensure fairness and equality in Australia. The Australian Government must work to make sure these services continue. Possible Commonwealth initiatives impacted by this decision include rural and regional programs, industry development programs, environmental programs, education programs, health programs and some veterans payments.

Shadow Finance Minister Tony Burke said in light of the High Court’s decision, Tony Abbott must commit to supporting existing Commonwealth programs.

“Australians are still reeling from the Government’s unfair budget and Tony Abbott should not use today’s decision as an excuse to cut deeper,” Mr Burke said.

“Tony Abbott needs to make clear to the Australian people that he will continue to support funding for important Commonwealth programs that may be affected by the High Court’s decision.

“Given the potential far-reaching effect of this judgment, Labor is prepared to offer bipartisan support on this issue to ensure the continuity of Commonwealth Government programs.”

Labor notes today’s High Court decision which has ruled in favour of a constitutional challenge to the National Schools Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. 

This was the second challenge to the constitutionality of payments made under this program. Legislative amendments were made following the first Williams case in 2012.

Mr Burke said legislative amendments were made in response to the successful challenge to the validity of the program, which was established under former Prime Minister John Howard.

“The legislative amendments were an interim measure designed to ensure the validity of funding for a large number of Commonwealth programs, while further work was done to strengthen the legislative framework for these programs,” Mr Burke said.

“These legislative amendments received bipartisan support in the Parliament in 2012.”