What 15 Days Of Mourning After The Queen’s Death Means For Canberra’s Urgent Legislation
The federal ICAC bill was set to be introduced next week.
Australian politicians will take a two-week break from parliamentary sitting to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away at age 96 last week. But apart from the fact that politicians get two weeks while we get one day, what does this mean for Australian politics, and the laundry list of things we need to get signed off before the end of the year?
How Long Is Parliament Suspended?
Parliament — which was due to sit next week — will now take a 15-day break to mourn the Queen, with the adjournment taking us through until the final week of September. To put that into perspective for you, the UK parliament will only adjourn for 10 days following her death.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed that politicians will return for a day of condolence motions next week, following the national memorial service on September 22.
Additionally, three extra sitting days will be added the following week (week commencing September 26) to start to make up for the days that we lost during the mourning suspension.
Why Is This Happening?
While the Albanese government has been slammed for the two-week suspension, it’s worth noting that the mourning period is part of a procedure that far outdates the current government.
“I, as Prime Minister, have followed the procedures that have been in place a lot longer than I have been in place,” said Albanese, responding to critics. “I think there is something to be said about a prime minister who follows traditions, who follows protocol, who follows order.
“If the parliament was sitting this week… the idea that we could be debating Question Time as usual, the idea that we could be having the engagement as if it were business as usual, I believe is not correct.”
What Does This Mean For The Federal ICAC Bill?
After the former government failed to deliver on a federal anti-corruption body, all eyes are on the Albanese government to get a federal ICAC up and running in the early days of its term. It was a key election promise from Labor, and is something many of the independents are particularly passionate about.
Albanese and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus were set to introduce the bill to parliament on Wednesday, where it was due to be sent for a joint committee review and was hopefully set to be passed by the end of the year and operating by mid-2023.
However, the bill has now been shelved for the foreseeable future.
Although Albanese has remained adamant that the government will make up for all of the lost sitting days — which Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is also onboard with — with the October 25 budget still left to be squeezed in the remaining sitting days for the year, it’s going to be a tight fit to get it all done.
Albanese had previously promised to “legislate” and “deliver” the federal ICAC by the end of 2022, but has since changed his wording to simply commit to “introducing” the bill before the year is out.
Labor Remains Confident That The Bill Will Pass On Target
Despite the tight schedule, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles remains “confident” that the bill will pass before the end of the year, even with the break.
“I think the decision to not have parliamentary debate — the kind of partisan contest which goes with parliament happening at a time when really there is a sense of mourning around the nation is an appropriate decision to make and we’ll be able to make up those days and make sure that we get the legislative agenda back on track,” he told ABC’s RN Breakfast.
“All the commitments that we’ve made about the timing that we have been respectful of our policies, including that, we’re confident that we will be able to make up. But part of that is obviously needed to ensure that we do find the four days and both senate and the house that we are losing as a result of the decision that’s been made about this week, but we will find those days.”
What’s The Cut Off Date?
The final sitting day of 2022 is set for December 1, so unless the calendar gets shifted around to make up for lost time, that’s the absolute latest the ICAC bill could be passed this year.
If it isn’t passed before December 1, it will be shelved until February when parliamentary sitting resumes, which would push back the whole process and mean we probably wouldn’t see a functioning ICAC until late 2023 at the earliest.
In addition to delaying the establishment of a federal ICAC itself, pushing the bill’s passing back until next year could also impact when other Labor promises — such as the Indigenous Voice to Parliament — will be delivered.