Anthony Albanese has sparked a war with crossbench MPs and senators by slashing their parliamentary staff entitlement by three-quarters.
- In the last parliament, crossbench MPs and senators were entitled to four parliamentary staff
- Mr Albanese has reduced that allocation to one parliamentary staff member
- He said the government intended to increase resourcing to the Parliamentary Library to support crossbench parliamentarians
The Prime Minister has emailed a letter to crossbenchers to inform them that in addition to their four electorate staff, they will only be entitled to one parliamentary staff member.
In the last parliament, crossbench MPs and senators were entitled to four parliamentary staff.
Crossbench MPs and senators are furious, viewing the reduced staffing levels as a political maneuver to stymie them.
“It’s a dog act,” one crossbencher told the ABC.
The PM has notified crossbenchers they could instead avail themselves of the Parliamentary Library for research or the Clerk of the Senate for advice on parliamentary procedure.
“My government intends to increase resourcing to the Parliamentary Library to reflect the support role that it provides to parliamentarians, particularly those on the crossbench,” Mr Albanese’s letter reads.
“The Department of Finance will provide the necessary administrative support for the employment of your personal staff member.”
Though parliament is not scheduled to resume until July 26, Mr Albanese’s decision on entitlements has done what few could ever have predicted: unify a motley collection of One Nation senators, teal independents and other crossbenchers.
It’s understood crossbench senators are discussing whether to abstain from parliamentary votes to protest the decision – a tactic that could derail the government’s legislative agenda.
Labor secured 77 seats at the May 21 election and will not need crossbench support to secure passage of legislation through the Lower House.
But Labor will need the Greens plus one extra vote in the Senate to pass legislation the Coalition opposes.
There are 12 crossbenchers in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate.
The Liberals, Nationals and Greens have secured different staffing arrangements with the Labor government.
Pocock says staffing cut reduces ability to participate
Independent Senator for the ACT David Pocock said cutting three-quarters of his parliamentary staffing resource “removes transparency, hinders the democratic process and reduces our ability to participate fully in parliament.”
“Consulting with my fellow crossbenchers we have shared concerns about voting on legislation we don’t have the resources to adequately scrutinize or ensure the integrity of,” Senator Pocock said.
“Parliament should represent all Australians.
“To represent my community I need to have the resources to hold the government to account.”
The Greens said the move contradicted the surge of support for minor parties in the federal election.
“It is unbelievable and so short sighted that the government would cut crossbench staff when the public has just delivered the biggest crossbench representation ever,” the spokesperson said.
“The Greens have experienced a staffing cut in real terms with no increase in overall staffing despite a major increase in numbers of Greens Parliamentarians.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office pointed to resources available to all MPs and senators.
“Allocation of MOP(S) Act [parliamentary] staff is reviewed and re-allocated following every election,” she said.
“In recognition of the enlarged crossbench, the government intends to increase resources of the Parliamentary Library which all parliamentarians can use for information, advice, research and analysis of legislation.”
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