Numbers of Ministerial Staff in Australia – As at April 2018

Numbers of Ministerial staff drawn from the most recent, most authoritative source publicly available

Numbers reflect what is reported as ministerial staff in each jurisdiction: so if personal support staff, such as administrative assistants or drivers, have been reported, these are included in the figures).

  • Number of Ministers and Office Holders are those numbers reported against staff numbers, where available.
  • Victoria does not have a regular reporting regime for ministerial staff numbers, so I’m still reliant on the numbers in a 2015 FOI return
  • NSW last reported its figures in June 2017, failing to report the figures at 30 December 2017.
  • Northern Territory has a global budget for Executive Support, with 295 employees, but does not have a breakdown to the numbers of personal staff provided to support Ministers.
  • Shout out to Tasmania, which provides staffing numbers regularly and in the clearest format.

Continue reading “Numbers of Ministerial Staff in Australia – As at April 2018”

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Philip Ruddock on $1440 a day to inquire into freedom of religion

[Updated on 27 February 2018 to incorporate material canvassed at Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee Estimates on the evening of 26 February]

Philip Ruddock, Chair of the Federal Government’s Panel on Religious Freedom, is being paid $1440 a day for the role, according to documents tabled this week on behalf of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).

The rate is equal to the highest daily fee paid to holders of part time office, and is well in excess of the daily fee paid to such office holders as the chairs of the Administrative Law Council, Family Law Council and National Mental Health Commission.

Ruddock, entitled to a Parliamentary pension estimated to be worth $215,000 a year, also attracts a mayoral allowance of $65,230 in his capacity as Mayor of Hornsby, after his election to that position in September 2017.

On being appointed to the religious freedom role, Ruddock reportedly told Sky News that “he did not know if he was getting paid for the role and he was not interested in the money.” Continue reading “Philip Ruddock on $1440 a day to inquire into freedom of religion”

Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers

The choice for New South Wales’ Ombudsman in 1987 came down to a senior Departmental head and a solicitor with a familiar name in Labor circles; the latter promising a less contested relationship between the government and the Ombudsman’s Office after years of strife between the two.

Cabinet papers for the NSW Government, recently released under the “30 year rule” still applicable in NSW, offer an insight into the appointment of David Landa as NSW’s third Ombudsman.

While the selection panel narrowed the eventual choice to Landa, a prominent solicitor with strong Labor connections, and Trevor Haines, the then Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, an impressive shortlist was interviewed, with gender and (relative) youth no bar to inclusion.

However, reducing the eventual choice to Landa and Haines seemingly reflected a desire to create a more harmonious relationship between government and watchdog than existed during the term of George Masterman, QC, who held the post between 1981 and 1987. Continue reading “Choosing an Ombudsman: Revelations from the 1987 NSW Cabinet Papers”

Section 44: Is elected local government office an “office of profit under the Crown”?

The section 44 juggernaut just keeps rolling. The next substantive question likely to come before the court, as a consequence of Jacqui Lambie’s disqualification on dual citizenship grounds, is whether her likely replacement, Devonport mayor, Steve Martin, is himself disqualified, for holding an “office of profit under the Crown”, with respect to his office in local government. Martin maintains that he is on solid ground, citing advice given by the then Clerk of the Senate ahead of the 2016 election.

Indeed, history suggests he has a strong case. Continue reading “Section 44: Is elected local government office an “office of profit under the Crown”?”

How the WA Greens conducted a pre-selection for the wrong Senator

A question barely considered in the ongoing section 44 crisis is what would be the outcome of the filling of places for which Senators were disqualified where they held a six year term, rather than a three year term, following last year’s Double Dissolution election. Would any of the new Senators, elected after a special recount, be entitled to a seat that would not see them go to re-election until 2021-22?

It seems this question has not even considered by the WA Greens, who put their newest Senator, Jordon Steele-John, through a fresh pre-selection at the weekend, even though the highly likely outcome of the High Court’s ruling on him replacing Scott Ludlam is that he now doesn’t have to face voters for up to five years. Continue reading “How the WA Greens conducted a pre-selection for the wrong Senator”

Cut and Paste: One Nation Senator’s “Ethanol” Speech on Marriage Equality Bill

Observers of the Senate debate on the marriage equality were left puzzled and bemused in equal measure yesterday when Pauline Hanson One Nation Senator for NSW, Brian Burston, made a comparison between water and ethanol to argue against marriage equality.

Burston, now the second most senior PHON Senator after the departure of Malcolm Roberts, has a relatively low profile, but his party biography touts his background in trades and higher education, culminating in a four year stint at Newcastle University.

Having gone over Burston’s speech – with, if not a fine-tooth comb, then a hair brush with big bristles – I’d say he’d find himself in some difficulty if his contribution was measured against any academic integrity policy.

Just about every segment of his speech – including the notorious water/ethanol comparison – was lifted word for word or cribbed without attribution from a handful of sources. Continue reading “Cut and Paste: One Nation Senator’s “Ethanol” Speech on Marriage Equality Bill”

Membership of Political Parties in NSW: 2014 – 2017

As part of the electoral disclosure regime in NSW, registered political parties are required to disclose funds raised from membership fees and subscriptions.

The following sets out the membership numbers for the years 2014-17 reported to the NSW Electoral Commission by each party represented in the NSW Parliament since 2015. Continue reading “Membership of Political Parties in NSW: 2014 – 2017”

Section 44: Would a student loan from the Commonwealth prove grounds for disqualification?

Could the Commonwealth HELP loan scheme, that assists the vast majority of students to undertake tertiary or further education, give rise to yet another ground for disqualification under section 44 of the Constitution, which has seen 10 MPs and Senators depart the Parliament since the 2016 election, another candidate miss out on taking up a Senate seat, and a growing cloud over many more?

If it does, this might adversely affect the position of the newly elected Greens Senator for Western Australia, Jordon Steele-John, who, before taking up his seat this week, was undertaking a degree in politics by distance education at Macquarie University?

If this were found to be an issue, it would also affect the future nomination and election of students and recent graduates with student loans owing to the Commonwealth. While few students are in the box seat for winning an election, some run as minor party candidates, for the experience or to “fly” a party’s “banner” in seats where their prospects are slim. Continue reading “Section 44: Would a student loan from the Commonwealth prove grounds for disqualification?”

Can Hollie Hughes Get Past the High Court’s “Brutal Literalism”?

“[the vacancy caused by Robert Wood’s disqualification] can be filled by completing the election after a recount of the ballot papers” (Re Wood, 1988)

“… s 44(i) applies until the completion of the electoral process” (Re Canavan & Ors, 2017)

With those words delivered separately across nearly thirty years, the High Court has possibly put paid to Hollie Hughes’ hopes of becoming a Senator for NSW. Continue reading “Can Hollie Hughes Get Past the High Court’s “Brutal Literalism”?”

When a Royal Commission Was the Answer to Section 44 Cloud Over MPs

In 1975, faced with an uncertain legal position, and mounting claims and counter-claims of breaches, the Government, acting on an Opposition proposal, made moves to establish a Royal Commission to audit MPs’ compliance with the Constitutional provisions governing disqualification from contesting elections and sitting in Parliament.

Had it proceeded, the Royal Commission would have effectively been tasked with auditing the pecuniary interests of Members of Parliament to enable references of doubtful matters to the Court of Disputed Returns. It would have been further tasked with inquiring into the “present day” appropriateness of all of the disqualifications in sections 44 and 45.

The Royal Commission was ultimately frustrated initially by the unwillingness of suitable judges to take part and then rendered unnecessary by the decision of the High Court in Re Webster in June 1975, which narrowly defined the scope of the ban on having a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth. Continue reading “When a Royal Commission Was the Answer to Section 44 Cloud Over MPs”