The government has tabled bombshell legal advice on the medical evacuation laws before Parliament, suggesting the Labor-backed bill could be in breach of the constitution.
Ahead of an expected vote on the legislation in the House of Representatives this afternoon, the government has tabled advice from the Solicitor General suggesting the legislation would require the approval of government spending, and is therefore invalid.
If the vote goes ahead and the legislation is passed, the new advice suggests the government could challenge the laws in the High Court.
The correspondence from the Attorney General Christian Porter says that the proposal for an Independent Health Advice Panel, staffed by doctors nominated by the Australian Medical Association or other medical professional bodies would require payment.
“This is no mere technicality. Were the House to ignore the requirements of sections 53 and 56 of the Constitution, the Senate would be given the power to dictate the expenditure of public revenue, with potentially crippling effects on public finances,” he says.
“This would be all the more perverse given that the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion, rarely enjoys majority support in the Senate. To ignore sections 53 and 56 of the Constitution would therefore be to make a mockery of the Australian people’s will as expressed in their election of a Government in the House of Representatives. Control over public finances is an essential feature of Government; under our Constitution, that control cannot be surrendered to the Senate.”
Section 53 of the Constitution requires money Bills to originate in the House of Representatives, whereas Section 56 such amendments can only be sent to the House of Representatives with a request from the Governor General for expenditure.
The letter calls for the House of Representatives to reject the amendments on these grounds.