Inquiries into circus animals, coal seam gas, hate crimes against gay and transgender people, coal ash repositories, the use of mobile phones while driving, and even the parliament’s budget process…. and that’s just the new inquiries that have commenced in the past few weeks. Committees have also tabled reports into the trespass offences set out in the Right to Farm Bill and Local Land Services Regulation. Business onto the books and off the books – that’s the focus of this week’s In Committees post.
Examining the welfare of circus animals and the exhibition of dolphins, porpoises and whales
On 26 September 2019 Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry self-referred the inquiry into circus animals and exhibition of cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales). Submissions are now open and an online questionnaire has commenced, both with a closing date of 24 November 2019. The committee will conduct hearings in March 2020 and report in June 2020.
New technology to detect drivers using mobile phones under the spotlight
The Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019 was received by the Legislative Council on 15 October and sent to Portfolio Committee 5 for inquiry and report. The committee will hold a public hearing to look into the bill on Wednesday next week (30 October) and will table its report on Tuesday 12 November. For more information, you can check out the inquiry webpage here or bill webpage here.
Committee to inquire into implementation of NSW Chief Scientist’s recommendations regarding coal seam gas
On 3 October, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry established an inquiry into the implementation of the recommendations contained in the NSW Chief Scientist’s September 2014 Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW. The committee is seeking input from the NSW Government, as well as key stakeholders, on this particular issue. This is not an inquiry into community views on the more general issue of coal seam gas activities.
Submissions close on 27 October and the committee is due to report by 20 December 2019.
Costs for remediation of sites containing coal ash repositories under review
The Public Works Committee established an inquiry on 1 October 2019 into the costs for remediation of sites containing coal ash repositories in NSW. The inquiry will help inform the level of government liability for remediating contamination at various power stations across NSW as well as the expected expenditure to perform such work.
Submissions close on 16 February 2020 and the committee is due to report by 1 July 2020.
How is the budget for independent oversight bodies and the Parliament determined?
The Public Accountability Committee self-referred an inquiry into the budget process for independent oversight bodies and the Parliament of New South Wales on 14 October 2019. The committee will focus on the budgetary process for agencies including the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, the Audit Office of New South Wales, the NSW Electoral Commission, the NSW Ombudsman, and the Parliament of NSW (Legislative Council and the Department of Parliamentary Services).
Hearings are planned for 12 and 13 December and the committee is expected to report at the end of April 2020.
Committee resumes inquiry into historic hate crimes
On 15 October the House, following a recommendation from the Social Issues Committee in a report tabled earlier this year, referred the inquiry into gay and transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010 to the committee for further inquiry and report. The committee will continue its investigation into historic hate crimes and also report on contemporary issues experienced across the state, with a particular focus on the experience of people living in regional and rural areas. The committee is expected to report in mid to late 2020 – further details will be posted on the committee’s website as they become available.
Reports tabled by committees
Inquiry into the Right to Farm Bill 2019
On Monday, Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry tabled its report on the Right to Farm Bill 2019. If passed, the bill will increase penalties and introduces new offences in relation to trespass under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901. It will also introduce a ‘nuisance shield’ to prevent an action for nuisance being brought in relation to a commercial agricultural activity where it is occurring lawfully on agricultural land.
The committee recommended that debate on the bill proceed in the Upper House, and that stakeholder concerns raised during the inquiry be addressed during debate. The committee noted that amendments were made to the bill in the Legislative Assembly on 16 October 2019, after the committee took public evidence from concerned stakeholders. These amendments addressed some of the more contentious elements of the bill.
Local Land Services Regulations
Also on Monday, the Regulation Committee tabled its report into the Local Land Services Amendment (Critically Endangered Ecological Communities) Regulation 2019 and the Local Land Services Amendment (Allowable Activities) Regulation 2019. The committee made a total of six recommendations, including that the two regulations not be disallowed.
Both regulations made specific amendments to the land management framework for native vegetation contained in the Local Land Services Act 2013 and Local Land Services Regulation 2014. In the case of the Local Land Services Amendment (Critically Endangered Ecological Communities Regulation) 2019, the committee concluded that the regulation strengthened environmental protections for land containing the Monaro and Werriwa Critically Endangered Ecological Communities, in the absence of these communities being mapped as category 2-sensitive regulated land. In the case of the Local Land Services Amendment (Allowable Activities) Regulation 2019, the committee found that it was primarily aimed at reinstating the position as it was prior to the introduction of the new land management framework in 2017.
While the committee recommended that these regulations not be disallowed, it also made a number of other recommendations aimed at increasing transparency, supporting landholders in conserving the Monaro and Werriwa Critically Endangered Ecological Communities through the Biodiversity Conservation Trust, and providing greater education, outreach and guidance to stakeholders.
And next week..
Committee activity has also continued on the many other inquiries underway this year. We’ll provide an update on some of these other inquiries in next week’s post, including inquiries into koala populations in NSW, regulation of building standards, outcome-based funding for schools, use of battery cages for hens in the egg production industry, and many more.