The Government will introduce legislation into Parliament after the High Court ruled the national school chaplaincy program is constitutionally invalid because it exceeds the Government’s funding powers.
The Government is following the advice of the acting solicitor general Robert Orr QC.
After the High Court ruling, Attorney General Nicola Roxon said the government would continue to fund the program, despite the landmark ruling.
In its decision, the High Court cast doubts on other areas of Commonwealth funding when it upheld a challenge to the chaplaincy program by Queensland father Ron Williams.
The Government this week said it is committed to maintaining funding for community programs, including the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.
In preparing for all potential decisions, the Government says it undertook extensive contingency planning and has already taken action to waive any debts under the Chaplaincy program following the High Court decision.
The Government said governments on both sides have long relied on a broad view of the Commonwealth’s executive authority to spend Commonwealth funds.
But in the ruling, a majority of Justices decided that Commonwealth expenditure must be authorised by legislation, and not solely through the Appropriations Acts. This requirement does not apply to some areas of expenditure such as grants to the States, most payments to individuals and payments for the ordinary services and running of Government.
The new legislation is set to amend the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, and regulations under that act, to provide legislative authorisation for existing programs that have already been approved by the Parliament through the Appropriation Acts.
The legislation will also include a regulation-making power for additional programs that might be identified in the future. Such future regulations would be disallowable by the Parliament.