NSW Government doesn’t understand why they lost the High Court case

When the Full Bench of the High Court smashed the NSW Government in a unanimous judgment of the seven members on 29 January, they found that the steps the government had taken to slash the amount of money third-party campaigners could spend in elections were unconstitutional. That means, it was not legally available to the Government because of provisions in the Australian Constitution.

But, that stinging rebuke, that it was fundamentally unlawful, didn’t penetrate the members of the Government, who still blissfully continue refusing to use the word “unlawful” when they described their disappointment. This is extraordinary because this is the second time this has happened to this government. Pay attention you lot, it’s unlawful and unconstitutional, and now you’ve done it twice! So much for the learning curve.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet in the Sydney Morning Herald on 30 January said the government was “disappointed” and “unions will now have the ability to exercise free rein on spending the members’ dues - without giving them a say - on wall-to wall advertising during the NSW election campaign.

The purpose of our legislation was to clean up politics. The government believes elections should be free and fair, not bought with out-of-control spending by unions and other third parties”.

Given that they can spend $11 million themselves, that really is arrant nonsense but I’m sorry Dominic, it was unlawful. You can be as disappointed as you like, but it was against the law.

Similarly, John Barilaro, leader of the National Party in an approach to members and supporters lamented “The Unions have won”.

I’ve just received word that the High Court has blocked our efforts to rein in the vast amount of money Labor’s unions and third-party campaigners like GetUp can spend on election campaigns. It’s terrible news.

I am worried we won’t be able to keep up with a negative impact of this new spending that will be coming into our election. We are mere weeks away from the State Election and unions have just scored a major victory.”

Hey John, it was unlawful. It was illegal. It was thrown out because it was unconstitutional. That’s a level of denial comparable to the Nats’ denial of the evidence of climate change.

And finally, by regulation, the Government has now re-introduced the cap that existed prior to their unlawful legislation of $1.228 million, with no restrictions on the amount of money a number of third-party campaigners can pull together to participate in the democratic process. Now that complies of the Constitution.

And, four weeks out, has anyone seen the wall-to wall union campaigning?

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