Media release 10 July 2020.

Individual Ministers are bypassing Parliament and making major policy decisions, according to a new submission from the Centre for Public Integrity published today.

The submission finds:

  • The response to COVID-19 has concentrated executive power
  • Major decisions of policy and spending are being determined by individual Ministers, bypassing Parliament via delegated legislation
  • Issues include $40 billion discretionary fund of the Finance Minister, which is 400 times any appropriation made in the past since 2010, and laws about which employees and employers are entitled to social security payments and JobKeeper
  • Nearly 20% of these not able to be blocked by Parliament or scrutinised by Senate committee
  • Ministerial decision-making should be held to account by a National Integrity Commission and Parliament, via strict criteria for exempting delegated legislation from disallowance

Former judge and Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity Anthony Whealy QC said that unchecked executive power is on the rise.

“Ministers are making laws that affect millions of Australians without passing legislation through Parliament,” said Mr Whealy.

“The response to COVID-19 has been the power to allocate $40 billion of taxpayers money concreted in the hands of the Finance Minister. This is 400 times any previous appropriation made in the last 10 years.”

“Parliament has been bypassed and cannot use its disallowance power to block 20% of these laws, including this Finance fund. This means that there is very little scrutiny of executive power.”

“Unchecked executive power needs to be reined in by increasing Parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation, and establishing a National Integrity Commission.”