Education Minister Christopher Pyne today announced that he will be splitting his higher education reform proposals into 64 separate pieces of legislation in order to allow the Senate to deal with the proposed changes regularly. It follows his latest unsuccessful attempt to pass the reforms by decoupling university funding changes from university fee deregulation.
The new approach could hail a watershed moment in the Abbott government’s approach to negotiating with the Senate. If successful, Health Minister Susan Ley is set to split the government’s proposed Medicare co-payment into 128 separate pieces of legislation while Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion will enact Indigenous Recognition in the Australian constitution by creating three different constitutions.
In an exclusive interview with The (un)Australian, Pyne was repeatedly asked what kind of administrative delays would be created from initiating hundreds of new pieces of tiny legislation, to which the education minister replied, “I fixed it”.
Doctor of Political Science at the University of North Sydney Boris Davis has accused the government of using high quantities of legislation to try and confuse fledgling Senators.
“Many of these Senators are very inexperienced and don’t come from hugely political backgrounds and they’re going to find it very difficult to grapple with the detail of all these new bills,” said Davis.
“I mean take Ricky Muir for example, he’s finding it very stressful already and now instead of deciding how to vote on two education bills, he has to vote on 64 of them.”
But conservative commentator and Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Public Affairs, Carmel Pearson hit back at the claims by Doctor Davis, saying: “The idea that the Liberal Party would be unfairly advantaged by high quantities of very similar looking legislation is just fanciful. The government now needs to make sure that all the National Party Senators understand the legislation, not to mention Cory Bernardi and Bill Heffernan.”
When asked about the National Party’s support for splitting the legislation into 64 pieces, Christopher Pyne answered, “I’m a fixer”.