||Issue No. 274||29 July 2005|
The Heart of the Matter
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
Poetry in motion
Losing the faith
Billion Dollar Blow Hards
They placed their demand for accountability on political advertising before the court, after Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, snubbed lawyers' letters seeking authorisation for his $20 million spend on behalf of Canberra's beleaguered workplace agenda.
Shadow Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, said the Howard Government has spent almost a billion dollars on "information to citizens" since it was elected in 1996.
The taxpayer-funded IR campaign, however, she argued, was fundamentally different because there had been no parliamentary authorisation.
"The Constitution makes clear that the Government can only spend money that Parliament has given it," Roxon said.
"This is not some constitutional technicality, it goes to the very heart of our parliamentary democracy."
The action, which opened in Melbourne last Wednesday, asks the High Court to block further public spending in support of workplace changes that will green-light unfair dismissals, drastically reduce basic entitlements, and allow employers to force workers onto secret, individual contracts.
It has been filed on behalf of Roxon and ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, and names Andrews and Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, as defendants.
It seeks a ruling that the spend is illegal under sections 81 and 83 of the Australian Constitution.
The case breaks new ground because it will see the court examine what boundaries should be placed around party political spending of taxpayers' money.
Roxon argues government's move to rush forward the defence of its workplace agenda is different from previous advertising splurges because, rightly or wrongly, they had been ticked off by Parliament.
"The details of Mr Howard's extreme industrial relations changes have not even been announced, let alone put before the Parliament, but that hasn't stopped the Liberal Party putting its hands in our pockets," she said.
"Even though he now controls both houses of parliament, Mr Howard is not above the law."
The Prime Minister over-rode his Workplace Relations Minister to rush his defence onto television, radio and print after polls revealed community campaigning, led by unions, was inflicting serious political damage.
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