Breaking news from the House: Pension Bill unconstitutional

In an update to last night’s news post here, not long ago, Speaker of the House Harry Jenkins has ruled the Coaltion’s Pension Bill unconstitutional, a move that means the members of the House of Representatives will not have to vote on it. The move has enraged various groups – from the Liberals (to be expected) to the Greens. Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian Greens, had this to say:

This is a contrivance by the Rudd Government to divert from their responsibility to give pensioners in this country a fair go. And to use the constitution wrongly is remarkably irresponsible politics.

The day’s Question Time in the House was full of rhetoric about the plight of pensioners, with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard (standing in for Kevin Rudd),  Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin, Treasuer Wayne Swan, and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Alan Griffin all getting a grilling over the issue from, primarily, Opposition Leader Malcom Turnbull, who it seems was using the Bill as a way to get some grounding in the House.

Manager of Government Business Anthony Albanese has said, in light of ths development, that the Bill was a ‘sloppy, badly, hastily put together’ – all true. If the Coalition had put together a Bill that was more accurate in detail, well thought out, and had no gaps in it for being ruled unconsitiutional, they wouldn’t have egg on their face right now. The Senate is not allowed to to originate laws appropriating revenue or monies. That’s the Constitution – whether Turnbull knew this and went ahead, did not know this, or thought that the Bill might get by is left open for us to guess at.

At the end of the day, the $30 rise in some pensions is dead now. The Coalition could be silly and try it all over again, but I think that the only real chance pensioners have now is to wait until next February when the government’s tax review is released, and rises in the pension are on the table for real.



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