Thursday 19 June 2014

Breaking News - Commonwealth finding of school chaplaincy program struck down in High Court

The High Court has upheld a challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program, ruling the law used to maintain Commonwealth funding for chaplains is unconstitutional.

Ron Williams (ABC News)
Despite the court challenge, the program was allocated nearly $250 million in this year's federal budget, to be spent over four years.

As Ann Twomey noted after the first constitutional challenge, "This Bill, in a bald-faced manner, rejects the fundamental propositions put by the High Court in the Williams case. The Commonwealth is clearly asking for another clobbering by the Court."

The High Court summed up their decision in a statement reading
Today the High Court unanimously decided that legislation enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament which purported to provide legislative authority to make agreements for the outlay of public money, and to make payments under those agreements, is invalid in its operation with respect to a funding agreement between the Commonwealth and Scripture Union Queensland ("SUQ"). By that agreement, the Commonwealth was to pay SUQ to provide chaplaincy services at schools in Queensland...
 The Court held that, in their operation with respect to the challenged funding agreement and the challenged payments made under that agreement, none of the challenged provisions is a valid law of the Commonwealth. The provisions are not, in their relevant operation, supported by a head of legislative power under the Constitution. Providing at a school the services of a chaplain or welfare worker for the objective described in the FMA Regulations is not a provision of "benefits to students" within the meaning of s 51(xxiiiA) of the Constitution. The Court further held that the Commonwealth's entry into, and expenditure of money under, the funding agreement was not supported by the executive power of the Commonwealth. The making of the payments was therefore held to be unlawful. 
The High Court decision found that the "expenditure of monies under, the SUQ Funding Agreement" was not supported by the executive power of the Commonwealth.

It's time to tell your MPs and Senators to end the National School Chplaincy Program for good, and to give funding to the states to run their own counselling programs though their education budgets.

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