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Government acts on Williams High Court decision

26 June 2012

Partner Pat Mullins reports that the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to introduce legislation into the Parliament today following the decision of the High Court of Australia in Williams v the Commonwealth of Australia. The High Court, by majority, held that a funding agreement between the Commonwealth and Scripture Union Queensland (SUQ) for the provision of chaplaincy services at a State school in Queensland is invalid. A majority of the Court also held that payments made by the Commonwealth to SUQ under the Funding Agreement were not supported by s 61 of the Constitution.

In a joint media release, the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management , Nicola Roxon, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator The Hon Penny Wong and Minister for School Education and Minister for Early Childhood and Youth, Pete Garrett  announced the decision to act 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 proposed 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.

The National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program provides support to more than 3500 schools across Australia. The Government has indicated that, if the legislation is passed by the Parliament this week and receives Royal Assent, payments to Chaplain providers will follow shortly afterwards. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has already put arrangements in place to allow payments to start within 24 hours of Royal Assent.

For further information, please contact:

Pat Mullins | Partner
Mullins Lawyers
t +61 7 3224 0350
f +61 7 3224 0333

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