Anne Twomey writes in The Conversation (12.2.19) about the passage of the so-called asylum seeker ‘medevac’ bill through the House of Representatives, suggesting that the federal government’s lost vote in parliament won’t necessarily lead to the Coalition’s immediate demise.
‘The Morrison government has been defeated in the House of Representatives by the passage of a government bill containing amendments made against its wishes that allow for the medical evacuation of asylum-seekers from Manus Island and Nauru.
‘At the last minute, the Speaker tabled, against the wishes of the government, advice from the Solicitor-General raising a constitutional problem with the Senate amendments. In short, those amendments provided for an “independent health advice panel”, of which six members would have to be paid. Their remuneration would come automatically under an existing appropriation in the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 for the payment of persons who hold public offices. The effect of the amendments in the bill would therefore have increased the amount payable under that existing appropriation.
‘This is important, because section 53 of the Constitution says that the “Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people”. The argument was that even though the Senate amendments to the bill did not contain an appropriation, they would increase a burden on the people by increasing the amount automatically appropriated under the Remuneration Tribunal Act.
‘… Can the Morrison government continue to govern after its defeat on this bill? Yes. As the bill is no longer a money bill and is not one that the government has declared to be a matter of confidence, the government can continue to govern.
‘If the House of Representatives has truly lost confidence in the government, it can always move a vote of no confidence to make this clear. Unless that happens, the Morrison government can continue governing until the election is held.’