Thursday was private members’ business day but proceedings were interrupted in the afternoon when two items of government business were considered – the Appropriation Bills and the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill. Consideration of these bills took several hours after which the House returned to private members business for the remainder of the evening, concluding proceedings at 12.34 am.
Appropriation Bill 2019, Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2019, and State Revenue and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
On Thursday the Council received the Appropriation Bill 2019 and two cognate bills. The Appropriation Bill 2019 appropriates money from the Consolidated Fund, the governments bank account into which receipts from taxes, fines, some regulatory fees, Commonwealth grants and income from Crown assets are paid, for the services of the Government for the 2019-2020 financial year.
The bill appropriates more than $82 billion for the government departments and agencies.
The second bill, the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2019, appropriates $164,242,000 from the Consolidated Fund for the operations of the Parliament including for capital works and services. This separate bill is an important symbol of the separation and independence of the Parliament from the Executive Government.
The object of the third bill, the State Revenue and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 is to make amendments to various Acts to support the government program as set out in the Appropriation Bill. While this is a ‘money bill’ it is not an appropriation bill.
While the first two bills were agreed to, the third bill was amended in committee of the whole. Two Greens amendments removed changes to long service leave for future public servants and an Opposition amendment removed from the bill a legislated merger of Roads and Maritime Services and Transport for NSW.
The bill was read a third time and returned to the Assembly. Later in the evening a message was received from the Assembly agreeing to the Council’s amendments in the bill.
On Tuesday, the Council returned the Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019 to the Legislative Assembly with a number of amendments (hyperlink).
On Wednesday, the Council considered a message from the Assembly in which it advised that it agreed to 29 of the 35 amendments. In committee of the whole the Council agreed not to persist with four of its amendments but to insist on two of them. The first concerned the independence of the Commissioner from the control and direction of the Minister and the second concerned a recommendation that $20 million be provided for disability advocacy (hyperlink). The Government proposed that the Council not persist with its amendments but the Opposition and some cross bench members joined to again insist on the two amendments and a message was returned to the Assembly advising of that outcome.
A message was received from the Assembly returning the bill to the Council for the third time, advising that it would now agree to the amendment concerning the independence of the Commissioner but could not agree to the amendment concerning funding for disability advocacy. Instead, it offered an alternative amendment: that the Commissioner prepare a report on the arrangements for funding of disability advocacy and provide the report to the Parliament by the end of the year.
In committee of the whole the Government moved that the original amendment recommending $20 million for disability advocacy not be insisted upon, and that the alternative proposition be agreed to. The Opposition, while supporting the proposal that the Commissioner prepare a report, continued to insist on the amendment recommending $20 million for disability advocacy. The Greens, Mr Justice Field and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party agreed with the Opposition and argued in support of the original amendment.
However, the Animal Justice Party, which had originally joined with non-government members to support the recommendation for funding said they were satisfied that the new independent Commissioner would be able to make recommendations about funding and other aspects of disability services and therefore their concerns had been addressed. The Opposition’s amendment was defeated 18 to 19, the Animal Justice Party now voting with the Government.
A message was returned to the Assembly advising that the Council had agreed to its alternative proposition, thereby bringing to an end a rare disagreement between the two Houses and a fascinating and thoughtful debate from all sides about the appropriate arrangements, funding and support for ageing and disability services, the power of the Council to amend money bills, and the constitutionality of a Council amendment recommending the allocation of funds.
ORDERS FOR PAPERS
This week saw another nine orders for papers agreed to by the House.
Orders for papers are the exercise of the Council’s inherent power to order the Executive Government to produce particular documents to the House to assist members in the scrutiny of the Executive Government.
Many of the orders for papers agreed to by the House this Thursday focused on the Budget. In debate on these orders, the Opposition argued that the budget documents tabled earlier in the week did not provide enough information to analyse the budget. The Government, opposing the orders, highlighted the resources required to comply with orders for papers and other ways members could obtain budget information, such as the upcoming Budget Estimates hearings.
The orders agreed to this week include:
- 2019-2020 Budget Finances
- 2019-2020 Budget
- Old growth forest timber supply
- Document entitled “Election Commitments – The NSW Budget 2019-2020”
- Government departmental employment numbers
- Energy funding initiatives in the 2019-2020 Budget
- Granting of lease for the Campbell’s stores in the Rocks
- Transport Asset Holding Entity
All orders for papers resolved by the House, including due dates and any documents returned, can be viewed on our Orders for Papers webpage.
Disputed Claim of Privilege
On Thursday Independent member Mr Field disputed a claim of privilege over part of a document returned in 2014 under an order for papers on the VIP Gaming Management Agreement. A privileged document is one that the Government has claimed should not be made public on grounds of legal professional privilege or public interest immunity.
If a member disputes a claim of privilege, an independent legal arbiter is appointed to evaluate and report on the validity of the claim. The report is then lodged with the Clerk and made available to members of the Council only. At the next sitting, a member may give notice to move that the report be tabled and if the arbiter has recommended that the claim of privilege on certain documents be denied, a member will usually give notice requiring that the documents be published by the Clerk.
Stay tuned to see what the independent legal arbiter recommends.
In addition to the motions for orders for papers, six other motions were moved:
- Ms Faehrmann, The Greens, raised the impact the quality of care and treatment given to mental health patients in Emergency Departments can have on the risk of attempted suicide in future. The motion was agreed to.
- Ms Jackson, ALP, raised the recent AFP Raids on a News Corporation journalist and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The motion was agreed to.
- Mr Latham, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, proposed changes to the consideration of highly contentious legislation in the Legislative Council. The motion proposed that highly contentious Government legislation be subject to a Green and White Paper process and that highly contentious private members’ bills referred to a committee could be subject to a modified process including a Parliamentary Library Issues Paper and the commissioning of the new Democracy Foundation to facilitate community input. The Greens successfully amended the motion to refer the Green and White Paper proposal to the Council’s Procedure Committee, and for the modified process for private members’ legislation to be reviewed by the Procedure Committee after two years.
- Mr Latham also moved a motion concerning the rights of employees to run for election and express political opinions and condemning the sacking of a Pauline Hanson’s One Nation candidate for her political opinions. The motion was amended on Division (34:5) to omit the specific reference to the candidate. The motion as amended was agreed to.
- Mrs Ward, The Liberals, raised the commitment of East Rugby Club’s support for women in sport. After Mrs Ward’s speech the debate was adjourned until the next sitting day.
- Mr Martin, The Liberals, moved a motion concerning the Surf Life Saving Sydney Branch 2019 Awards of Excellence. At the conclusion of Mr Martin’s speech the debate was adjourned until the next sitting day.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate:
- Mr Borsak – Press Freedom
- Mr Franklin – Lyn “Raz” Burtonwood
- Mr D’Adam – Wages Policy
- Ms Boyd – Abdul Aziz Muhamat
- Mr Martin – Newcastle Light Rail
- Ms Jackson – Economic Inequality
- Mr Moselmane – Museum of Chinese in Australia