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Questions on Notice: Budget, interrupted

Thursday, 19 September 2019 in Procedural, General interest

If you have a question about the House of Representatives, you can ask us! Our research team will stop at nothing to find you an answer, no matter how obscure the topic.

This week’s question comes from reader ‘Chris’, who asks:

What happened to the Budget bills? I saw they were introduced on Budget night, but then introduced again in August? Are we going to run out of money?

When the budget cycle is interrupted by an election, the process for the passage of the budget bills can become a little more complex.

The Federal Budget was introduced to the House this year on 2 April 2019, marked by the Treasurer’s televised address to the House. In procedural and legislative terms, the significance of Budget night is that it marks the formal introduction to parliament of the appropriation bills (in this case, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020; and the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020).

The Budget bills introduced on 2 April sought to provide funding for approximately 7/12ths of the next financial year. In anticipation that the bills were not likely to pass the parliament before the election, supply bills which proposed appropriations for the remaining 5/12ths were introduced and passed by the House just prior to the Budget being handed down. Supply bills are a well-established mechanism for ensuring the continuity of the normal business of government in the event that appropriation bills are not passed into law prior to the start of a new financial year.

The supply bills were passed by the Senate the following day and assented to on 4 April 2019. When the House dissolved on 11 April 2019, all bills on the Notice Paper lapsed—including the appropriation bills, which had not yet passed the House.

The 46th Parliament commenced on 2 July and on 25 July, an Assistant Minister introduced Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020. These bills are in substantially the same terms, and have essentially the same effect, as those bills with the same titles which lapsed at dissolution. Minor changes were incorporated to reflect recent decisions and machinery of government changes.

The second reading debate commenced in the House during the sitting fortnight and consideration of the bills is, at the time of writing, ongoing.