During a busy sitting week, including sitting past midnight on Tuesday, the Council passed a total of ten government bills and introduced another 12 bills, including two from private members.
The introduction of numerous bills during the last two weeks coincided with the ‘cut-off date’ for government bills on Friday. This procedural resolution specifies that bills introduced in the Council or received from the Assembly after the cut-off cannot be dealt with this year unless they are declared urgent. The purpose is to ensure that Parliament does not rush its consideration of important legislation during the final weeks of the year.
Bills on a diverse range of topics were passed by the Council on Tuesday and Wednesday including those relating to safety practices in combat sports, off-the-plan residential property contracts, imposing a 10 per cent point of consumption tax on betting, oversight of the charities sector, intimate relationships in prison and improving the regulation of building certifiers.
On Tuesday, through the Selection of Bills process, the House referred the Road Transport Amendment (National Facial Biometric Matching Capability) Bill 2018 to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for an inquiry. The committee is to report by 12 November 2018, the day before the House next sits. The bill follows a COAG meeting on counter-terrorism which agreed to establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability to provide police with a powerful investigative tool to identify people. The bill seeks to amend the Road Transport Act 2013 to allow Roads and Maritime Services to contribute driver licence facial images and associated information to the scheme.
On Thursday a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party bill was introduced to repeal the controversial ‘lock-out laws’ which were passed by Parliament in January 2014. A protest took place outside Parliament in support of the bill while it was being introduced. The bill seeks to repeal the lock-out laws that prevent patrons from entering licensed premises in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross precincts after 1.30 am. Following the introduction of the bill, the Animal Justice Party introduced a bill to prohibit the exhibition of exotic animals in circuses.
Also on Thursday a motion was debated and agreed to which established procedures to ensure people who participate in Legislative Council committee proceedings receive fair treatment. These procedures are many years in the making following a recommendation by the Select Committee on the Legislative Council Committee System and consideration in detail by the Privileges Committee. It contains similar procedures to those adopted by the Australian Senate: ‘Procedures to be observed by Senate Committees for the protection of witnesses‘.
There are now only two more sitting weeks to go before the State Election in March next year. The Council will meet again on Tuesday 13 November.