Passing six government bills and debating a motion to disallow a regulation saw the House sit past midnight on Tuesday, the sixth time that the House has sat past midnight in 2018.
Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Regulation 2018
The sitting week began with Mr Buckingham (The Greens) seeking to disallow the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Regulation 2018. The object of the regulation, made under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, is to extend by 1,000 days the period that Santos NSW Pty Ltd is entitled to beneficially use gas, that would otherwise be flared into the atmosphere, at certain exploratory gas wells around Narrabri.
Mr Buckingham spoke in general opposition to coal seam gas, arguing that it is unnecessary and unsafe. Mr Buckingham contended that the regulation allows Santos to continue using gas while not paying royalties to the Government, and on this basis it should be disallowed.
The Government opposed the motion with the Minister for Energy and Utilities (Mr Harwin) noting that the regulation forms part of the Government’s strategic plan to secure the State’s energy needs. The Minister indicated that were it not for the regulation, Santos would be required to flare the gas released from the exploration wells which have a detrimental impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. The Opposition opposed the motion on similar grounds, noting that while it did not support the Santos gas exploration at Narrabri, disallowing the regulation would not force Santos to bring its exploration to an end.
Ultimately The Greens’ motion only drew the support of the Animal Justice Party and was defeated on division (6:30), with the Government, Opposition and Christian Democratic Party all voting against the disallowance.
House of Origin: Legislative Council
The bill proposes a number of amendments to the Combat Sports Act 2013 which regulates combat sports in the State. It was informed by a review of the Act conducted by the Combat Sports Authority. The bill aims to improve combatant health and safety by giving trainers the power to direct a referee to stop a contest if there are concerns about the health and safety of the combatant, clarifying which sport contests are determined to be ‘professional combat sport contests’, providing for medical examinations of combat sport competitors, and removing a waiting period for combat sport competitor registration.
In the second reading debate, the Christian Democratic Party indicated its support for the bill, noting that further combat sports legislation was planned for 2019, while The Greens stated that while they held some concerns about the bill that they would not oppose it. The Opposition supported the bill but foreshadowed they would propose several amendments in committee (see Hansard for details of the debate).
The second reading was agreed to.
The House considered three Opposition amendments in committee: to prevent the addition of a new object to the Act regarding the promotion of the development of the combat sport industry (as this seemed contrary to the purpose of the bill before the House), to provide for contests being temporarily stopped for a medical examination when requested by a doctor, and to require a review of the Act. Despite the support of The Greens, the Opposition amendments were defeated, the first two on division, with the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party joining the Government in opposing the amendments, and the third on the voices.
The Government then moved an amendment to ensure that language in the bill was gender neutral, which was agreed to on the voices. The bill passed the House with one amendment and was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.
Fair Trading Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2018 and cognate
House of Origin: Legislative Council
The Fair Trading Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill seeks to reform administrative and licensing processes impacting various business types, including home building contractors, property agents, motor dealers, architects and surveyors. The bill aims to increase transparency and competition and provide consumers with more information, including ensuring that traders disclose any commissions or referral fees received for providing recommendations about other businesses. The bill further amends strata scheme legislation to prevent owners corporations from being permanently locked into utility supply agreements.
The cognate, Charitable Fundraising Amendment Bill, seeks to implement recommendations from the public inquiry into the RSL NSW conducted by the Hon Patricia Bergin SC earlier this year (available here). Other inquiry recommendations have already been implemented through the RSL NSW Bill 2018 which was assented to in September.
The Charitable Fundraising bill seeks to improve governance and oversight of the charities sector, including by modernising and simplifying clauses of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and aligning NSW financial reporting and self-disclosure reporting requirements with those of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission. The bill also clarifies that the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation is required to approve remunerated board positions on charities.
The second reading debate resumed on Tuesday (see Hansard for details of the debate) with the Opposition foreshadowing that it would move two amendments to the Fair Trading Bill in the committee stage to seek to remove the definition and categories of specialist work for electricity and LP gas fitters for caravans and recreational vehicles. The Opposition noted an article in CHOICE magazine which indicated that there are already significant problems in the industry and argued that the provisions may further reduce the standards and quality of installation and repairs for caravan and recreational vehicles. The bill was read a second time.
In the brief committee stage, the Greens spoke in favour of the Opposition amendments, which were opposed by the Government and defeated on the voices.
The bills were then reported to the House without amendment, read a third time and forwarded to the Assembly.
House of Origin: Legislative Assembly
Statute law miscellaneous provisions bills have featured in most sessions of Parliament since 1984 These types of bills are considered an effective method for making minor changes to various pieces of legislation that are too inconsequential to warrant the introduction of a number of individual amending bills.
This bill, which is the second of its kind to be introduced this year, makes various minor and non-controversial amendments to 21 separate Acts and one related by-law.
The bill was received from the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday evening and introduced by Minister Harwin. Often if a provision of a statute law revision bill is objected to or raises concerns with another party or member, the Government will consider removing that provision from the bill to ensure its smooth passage. In the second reading debate, The Greens raised concerns regarding one provision concerning the definition of a private school in the Education Act 1990 (see Hansard for details of the debate). Consequently, a Government amendment in the committee stage removed this provision. The bill was then read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly with one amendment.
House of Origin: Legislative Assembly
The bill seeks to impose a 10 per cent point of consumption tax on wagering in New South Wales. As the existing regime was designed around transactions made in person, this legislation responds to advancements in online gaming technology, capturing online transactions in the taxation scheme and bringing New South Wales in line with other Australian jurisdictions.
The second reading debate commenced late on Tuesday night, and after contribution from five members (see Hansard for a transcript of the debate), the second reading was agreed to.
At the start of the committee stage, The Greens amendments that sought to reduce the tax free threshold from 11,000,000 to $150,000 were defeated on the voices.
Following that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) and The Greens both sought to change the 10 per cent tax rate, with the SFFP proposing to reduce the rate to 8 per cent, while The Greens proposed to increase it to 15 per cent. Ultimately, neither could garner any support for their respective proposals and both were defeated on division.
The SFFP and The Greens then both moved amendments relating to the annual distribution of 2 per cent of gambling tax revenue between Racing New South Wales, Harness Racing New South Wales and Greyhound Racing New South Wales provided for in the bill. The Greens sought to entirely remove the return of tax revenue, while the SFFP sought to have the revenue distributed between the three racing bodies according to market share, rather than the breakdown proposed in the bill, which they argued disadvantaged the greyhound racing industry. The SFFP amendment drew the support of the Opposition only, while The Greens could not garner any support for their proposal.
Lastly, an Opposition amendment to have the Act reviewed after 12 months was defeated. The bill was read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
House of origin: Legislative Council
The bill strengthens the security of correctional and juvenile justice centres by amending the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 and the Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987 to prohibit flying drones above correctional premises and intimate relationships between correctional officers and inmates, and clarify when reasonable force may be used against visitors by correctional officers.
Resumption of the second reading debate commenced on Tuesday evening, with contributions from four members (see Hansard for a transcript of the debate). The Opposition, The Greens and the Christian Democratic Party all noted that the bill related to issues that had attracted media attention and which did need to be addressed. The Greens indicated that they were concerned with the specific provisions relating to the prohibition of intimate relationships and foreshadowed amendments in the committee stage.
The Greens were concerned that as drafted in the bill an intimate relationship would only be considered an offence if it ’caused a risk or potential risk to the safety or security of a correctional centre … or to good order and discipline within a correctional centre’. The Greens argued that given community expectations and the power imbalance between a prison officer and an inmate, that there should be an absolute prohibition on intimate relationships. The Greens were also concerned to ensure that a prison officer who happened to be married to or in a de facto relationship with an inmate was not potentially in breach of a penalty simply by remaining in that relationship.
The second reading motion agreed to on the voices.
In the committee, stage, despite drawing the support of the Opposition, The Greens amendments were defeated on division (13:17) with the Christian Democratic Party voting with the Government.
The third reading was agreed to and the bill was forwarded to the Assembly for consideration.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate:
- Mrs Maclaren-Jones – Hindu Community
- Mr Graham – New South Wales Economy
- Mrs Taylor – New South Wales Agriculture
- Mr Shoebridge – Child Sexual Abuse
- Mr Mookhey – Corporate Taxation Cuts
- Ms Walker – North Coast Littoral Rainforest
See Hansard for details of the debate.