From 6-8 May, Ron Williams will return to the High Court of Australia to contest the funding of a program which, to date, has cost Australian tax-payers around half a billion dollars. At a time, when ordinary battlers – including old-age pensioners – are being told they must ‘tighten their belts’ for a country that is facing crippling debt, the government sees fit to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a program for which no need has ever been identified, no means of measuring outcomes or accountability applied, and no credible academic research has justified; a scheme which the High Court has already ruled ‘unconstitutional’.
The National School Chaplaincy program is one of hundreds of ‘pork-barrel’ programs which successive governments have funded as ‘executive schemes’ without the benefit of legislation. This means they circumvent the democratic process and clause-by-clause scrutiny afforded to the passage of a Bill through the House of Representatives and the Senate. Such programs are also exempted, post implementation, from investigation by various administrative tribunals.
Today, Ron has released a short, 15 minute film which gives an overview of the National School Chaplaincy Program, his successful challenge to its funding and the reason why he has been forced to mount a second challenge.
In the movie, Ron describes the National School Chaplaincy Program as:
“… possibly the most outrageous political stunt ever foisted upon the taxpayers of Australia.”
Please take the time to watch the film and share it widely with your networks. We need as many people as possible to see it!
In June, 2012, the Justices of the High Court of Australia ruled that Commonwealth funding of the National School Chaplaincy Program is unconstitutional. Effectively thumbing their collective noses at the High Court, the Commonwealth defied that ruling by rushing through ’emergency’ legislation in the form of the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2012.
At the time, the current Attorney-General, George Brandis spoke against the Bill (even though his party ultimately voted in favour of it):
“What is most extraordinary above all is the fact that the Commonwealth Government seems so determined not to listen to the High Court. It ignored the High Court’s judgment in the Pape case, merrily going on with funding of bodies and programs without sufficient legislative power. In response to the Williams case it simply enacts a law that attempts to restore what it wrongly believed to be its former powers, without actually listening to or taking to heart the High Court’s concerns about a democratic deficit, the important role of parliamentary scrutiny and the importance of federal considerations. 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.”
Yet, his government is still determined to waste more taxpayers’ money to go back to the court to defend the indefensible!
The cost of mounting (and defending) a High Court Challenge is astronomical. It’s expensive for Australian taxpayers but the cost of two cases has now had to be borne by an ordinary suburban Dad who is very, very far from wealthy. Yes, Williams was awarded costs from the last case but nearly two years on, he has still not been reimbursed by the Commonwealth.
Ron Williams is an everyday battler who thinks our government should respect the High Court, the Constitution, our secular society, and the principle of the separation of church and state. Like any Australian citizen, he expects that the processes of representative democracy will be followed – particularly in respect to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.
With the support of his wife, Andrea, Ron has put his family’s financial well-being on the line to stand up for these principles and a secular public education for his kids. He’s an ordinary bloke, standing up for what he believes in, at enormous personal expense – both financial and emotional.
If you can help Ron out financially, I know it would be greatly appreciated. Donations – large or small – can be made through Ron’s High Court Challenge website. It’s not often that we ordinary folk have a chance to participate in making Australian constitutional history! Please donate and be a part of it.
I will be travelling to Canberra with Ron and Hugh Wilson (Australian Secular Lobby) in May and reporting each day’s events from the High Court.
Direct link to Williams’ National School Chaplaincy movie – http://highcourtchallenge.com/nscp-movie.html