Chapter 2 - Concluded matters
This chapter list matters previously raised by the committee
and considered at its meeting on 23 June 2014. The committee has concluded its
examination of these matters on the basis of responses received by the
proponents of the bill or relevant instrument makers.
Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014
Appropriation Bill (No.3) 2013-2014
Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2013-2014
Introduced: House of
Representatives, 13 February 2014
The Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014
appropriates additional money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for
expenditure in relation to the parliamentary departments.
The Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2013-2014 proposes appropriations from
the CRF for the ordinary annual services of the government.
The Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2013-2014 proposes appropriations from
the CRF for services that are not considered to be the ordinary annual services
of the government.
The amounts proposed for appropriation are in addition to the amounts
appropriated through the appropriation Acts that implemented the 2013-14
Budget. Together, the three bills are termed the bills.
The committee reported on the bills in its Third Report of the 44th
The bills were subsequently passed by the Parliament and received Royal
Assent on 9 April 2014.
Committee view on compatibility
Consideration of human rights
The committee sought clarification from the Minister for Finance as to
whether the current budgetary processes expressly take account of human rights
Thank you for your letter of 4 March 2014 about the
statements of compatibility with human rights in the Explanatory Memoranda that
accompanied the Additional Estimates Appropriation Bills.
Given that the legal effect of Appropriation Bills is
extremely limited, I can confirm to the committee that I do not consider that
these Bills engage, or otherwise affect, the rights, obligations or freedoms
relevant to the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
I note that a similar question along these lines was raised
by your predecessor committee last year.
My predecessor, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, replied on 10 May
2013 advising that it is neither practicable nor appropriate for the Explanatory
Memoranda to Appropriation Bills to set out a concise assessment of how human
rights are affected by all of the Government's Budget decisions. This remains
The approach of requiring human rights impact assessments to
be incorporated in portfolio budget statements, suggested in your committee's
report, is also neither practicable nor appropriate.
This is also true in relation to whether complex budgetary
processes can expressly take account of human rights factors. Taking that
approach would entrench an extensive drafting exercise and the need to obtain
detailed assessments from all agencies across the Australian Government.
That said, however, the budgetary processes do, by their
nature, require an assessment of all factors that might relate to the relevant
policies, including environmental, legal, economic, social and moral factors.
Human rights factors are also part of these many factors taken into account.
If it would assist your committee further, I would be pleased
for officials from the Department of Finance to brief the committee on aspects
of the Appropriation Bills and their Explanatory Memoranda.
The committee thanks the Minister for Finance for his response
and has concluded its examination of these bills.
However, in the committee's view, the fact that appropriation Acts
viewed in isolation may not directly affect rights or obligations under
domestic law is not determinative of whether they engage human rights for the
purposes of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny Act) 2011.
As the committee has noted previously, both the promotion and limitation
of human rights may result from the adoption of legislative frameworks and the
allocation of funds necessary to give effect to policy. This is because, in such
cases, the appropriation of funds or additional funds to support the implementation
of policies ultimately facilitates actions which may give rise to human rights
compatibility concerns and, indeed, involve the failure by Australia to fulfil
its obligations under the treaties listed in the Human Rights (Parliamentary
Scrutiny) Act 2011.
Notwithstanding the committee's view that appropriations bills may
engage and potentially limit human rights, the committee acknowledges the
minister's view that such bills present particular difficulties given their
technical nature and the fact that they frequently include appropriations for a
wide range of programs and activities across many portfolios.
The committee notes the minister's advice that human rights factors are
among many factors taken into account in budgetary processes. As the committee
has noted, the assessment of such factors might be provided for in portfolio
budget statements. However, in the committee's view, further consultation is
required as to how such consideration of human rights factors in budgetary
processes may be subjected to human rights assessments to support the
committee's examination of appropriations bills for compatibility with human
In light of the above, the committee thanks the Minister for
Finance for his offer of a meeting with departmental officials, and welcomes the
opportunity to continue to progress towards practical and substantive human
rights assessments of appropriations bills.
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