On Wednesday, the House debated two bills and agreed to the appointment of eight Joint Committees. Contributions to the Address-in-Reply to Her Excellency’s speech continued. The Council insisted on its amendments to the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019, disagreed with by the Legislative Assembly.

Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment (Inmate Behaviour) Bill 2019

House of origin: Legislative Assembly

This bill permits the Commissioner of Corrective Services to adopt policies to manage the behaviour of inmates of correctional centres. Specifically, the bill gives correctional officers the power to withdraw privileges from inmates as a means to incentivise good behaviour and ensure the safety and security of officers and inmates.

The bill was reported to the House on 4 June 2019, with the second reading debate commencing on Wednesday 19 June.

During debate, several members referred to the decision this year in Hamzy v R, which found withdrawal of privileges from inmates to be unlawful, and noted that the bill provides clarification that in future, corrective officers will be able to withdraw privileges to address issues with inmate behavior.

After contributions from seven members, the second and third readings were agreed to, and the bill returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment. (See Hansard for a transcript of the debate).

Appointment of Joint Committees

On Wednesday the House appointed and resolved the membership of the following eight joint committees:

  1. Committee on Children and Young People
  2. Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission
  3. Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption
  4. Committee on the Ombudsman, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission and the Crime Commission
  5. Legislation Review Committee
  6. Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
  7. Joint Standing Committee on the Office of the Valuer-General
  8. Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety.

These committees feature members from both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly and are administered by the Department of the Legislative Assembly staff. Details are available on the NSW Parliament website.

The first five committees are ‘statutory committees’ as they are required to be established under various Acts. This includes the Legislation Review Committee which reports to both Houses whether bills trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties. This committee does not consider the policy implications of legislation and therefore its inquiries serve a different function to the Legislative Council committee inquiries into legislation referred by the House from time to time.

Local Government Amendment Bill 2019

House of origin: Legislative Assembly

The bill includes provisions concerning the administration of council elections, council procurement and tendering requirements and measures to enable councils to work (together) more effectively. The bill also allows for the extension of the three year rate freeze which applies to merged councils.

The second reading was agreed to on Wednesday (See Hansard for a transcript of the debate).

In the committee stage The Greens moved amendments designed to remove the ability of general managers to conduct council elections and instead allow for councils to engage electoral services providers. The amendments were agreed to on division (23:16).

The third reading was agreed to and the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly with amendments.

Address-in-reply to Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor

The House continued to debate the Address-in-Reply to the Governor’s opening speech.

The Address-in-Reply expresses thanks for the opening speech by the Governor and the Council’s loyalty to Australia and the people of New South Wales. It also provides an opportunity for members to respond to the government’s agenda as outlined by the Governor.

See Hansard for the latest contributions to Address-in-reply debate.

Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019

On Tuesday, the Council concluded its consideration of the bill and returned it to the Legislative Assembly with a number of amendments (See Hansard for a transcript of Tuesday’s debate). On Wednesday, the Council received a message from the Legislative Assembly advising that it agreed with most of the amendments, but disagreed with six of them. In committee of the whole the Minister proposed that the Council not insist on the six amendments disagreed to by the Assembly. The Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment to the effect that the Council only insist on two of the amendments.

The first amendment, no. 4, concerned the independence of the Commissioner from the control and direction of the Minister. Mr Searle argued that the independence of the Commissioner from ministerial control or direction was limited to certain functions but not all functions. In response the Minister stated that the amendment was unnecessary as the relevant provisions in the bill were consistent with all other statutory independent officers.

The second amendment, no. 34, concerned the recommendation that $20 million be provided for disability advocacy services. The Assembly’s message stated that the Government strongly opposes the amendment “as its intention appears to be to redirect appropriated funds for a specific purpose. This would make the bill an appropriation or ‘money’ bill and therefore unconstitutional or in the alternative, has no legal effect”.

The Opposition, The Greens, Animal Justice Party and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers reiterated their support for the amendment, with The Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers noting that it was even more important in light of inadequate funding of the Commission in the 2019-2020 budget.

In response the Minister maintained the position articulated in the Legislative Assembly’s message that the amendment, amounting to an appropriation, is outside the purview of the Council and stated that the amendment potentially risked the entire bill and the appointment of the commission.

The amendment of Mr Searle was agreed to on division 21 votes to 18. As a consequence, a message was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising that the Council did not insist on four of its amendments disagreed to by the Assembly but insisted on amendments nos 4 and 34.

Stay tuned for the response from the Legislative Assembly to the Legislative Council’s message.

Adjournment debate

The following members spoke to the adjournment debate: