On Wednesday the House considered the Right to Farm Bill and confirmed its sitting calendar for 2020.

Sitting day calendar for 2020

The House passed the sitting calendar for next year, which includes:

  • 45 sitting days over 15 weeks (including one reserve week)
  • 12 days of hearings in August and September for Budget Estimates 2020/21
  • 5 days of supplementary Budget Estimates 2020/21 hearings in October.

A Greens amendment to provide that Legislative Council committees must not conduct any activity during January 2020 and certain school holiday periods throughout the year (unless a committee has urgent business to consider) was agreed to.

Address-in-reply to the Governor’s Speech at the Opening of the 57th Parliament

The House concluded debate on the Address-in-Reply to the speech of Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of New South Wales on the Opening of the 57th Parliament. The Address thanked the Governor for her speech, noted members’ loyalty to Australia and the people of New South Wales and pledged that members would carry out their duties on behalf of the people.

Following the conclusion of debate, the Governor advised that she would welcome Legislative Council members to Government House at 5.30 pm on Thursday 12 November 2019 to present her with the Address.

Disallowance motion – Biosecurity Amendment (Biosecurity Management Plans) Regulation 2019

The regulation gives persons who carry out intensive agricultural or horticultural activities the option of preparing a biosecurity management plan. This may contain measures to prevent or minimise biosecurity risks. Any person entering such a place must comply with the requirements set out in the management plan.

The motion to disallow the regulation was moved by Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party), who argued that the regulation had nothing to do with biosecurity and was instead part of what she described as the Government’s sustained attack on animal activists. Ms Hurst was also critical that the regulation provided no prescription or guidance on what measures could be included in a plan.

The Government opposed the motion, arguing that the regulation would provide farmers with increased protection from unauthorised entry, thereby minimising biosecurity risk. While the Opposition expressed some reservation concerning what they saw as a lack of rigour around what management plans, they were not convinced that the regulation should be disallowed. In the end only the Greens and Mr Field joined the Animal Justice Party in supporting the motion, which was defeated on division (6 votes to 33).

Right to Farm Bill 2019

The Right to Farm Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly in September. In the Minister’s second reading speech in the Assembly, he stated that the bill is intended to create a new Act to protect commercial farmers from nuisance claims and from ‘unlawful disruption by protesters.

The bill had two primary objectives:

  • In relation to nuisance claims, the Minister noted the bill would introduce a ‘nuisance shield’ which would ‘help to protect lawful primary producers from conflict and interference caused by neighbours and other land users’ by preventing an action for the tort of nuisance being brought in relation to a commercial agricultural activity where it is occurring lawfully on agricultural land.
  • In relation to trespass, the bill would extend the circumstances of aggravation for an offence of entering inclosed lands without permission or failing to leave inclosed lands when requested to do so and to increase the maximum penalty for the aggravated offence, and to create an offence of directing, inciting, procuring or inducing the commission of the aggravated offence.

While the bill was still in the Assembly, the Council agreed that Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry commence an inquiry into the provisions and objectives of the bill.

The committee reported on Monday 21 October recommending that the Government address concerns expressed by stakeholders during the inquiry.  Read the committee’s findings and recommendations for further detail.

In the Council, the bill was considered during a lengthy debate on Wednesday night with members divided on the merits of the bill. Government, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Christian Democratic Party members supported the bill stating that it would achieve the important objective of providing better protections for farmers against illegal activities and would ensure people living on farms feel safe in their own homes.

The Opposition opposed the bill, stating that the nuisance provisions were unclear and that generally the bill is a disproportionately harsh response to the relative minor harms being caused. The Greens, Animal Justice Party and Mr Field strongly opposed the bill arguing its purpose was essentially to stop animal rights advocates from being able to expose animal cruelty on farms and was an attempt to silence whistleblowers and reduce transparency.

The second reading was agreed to on division (18 votes to 17). Consideration of amendments to the bill circulated by the Greens, the Opposition, Mr Field, the Animal Justice Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party was set down for the next sitting week.

Justice Legislation Amendment Bill (No 2) 2019

This omnibus bill, introduced by Mrs Ward, amends a range of Acts in order to address developments in case law and to support procedural improvements in relation to domestic violence, criminal investigations, surveillance procedures and court processes. After Mrs Ward’s speech, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.

Better Regulation Legislation Amendment Bill 2019

This bill, introduced by Mr Farlow, amends ten principal Acts and a number of associated amendment Acts across the Better Regulation and Innovation portfolio. The amendments that are mainly administrative seek to address a number of matters, including residential tenancy domestic violence reforms, short-term rental accommodation arrangements, professional development in the real estate industry and regulation of building certification processes. At the conclusion of Mr Farlow’s speech, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.

Adjournment debate

The following members spoke to the adjournment debate:

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