This week In Committees, the State Development Committee considers whether to repeal the ban on uranium mining, Portfolio Committee No. 5 tables its report into the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019, and animal welfare is under the spotlight with two committees inquiring into the welfare of circus animals and exhibited cetaceans, and the effectiveness of animal cruelty laws. As always you find more information on these and our other inquiries on our website.
Committee considers whether to repeal a ban on uranium mining
On Monday 11 November, the State Development Committee held the second public hearing for its inquiry into the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019. The committee heard evidence from government agencies, the Australian Nuclear Association, environmental groups and nuclear energy advocacy groups. This evidence offered a range of perspectives on the key issues for this inquiry, with strongly held views for and against what is being proposed in the bill before parliament.
This inquiry was established to consider the merits of a bill which, if enacted in law, would repeal the ban on uranium mining in New South Wales – a moratorium that has been in place since the enactment of the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986. The inquiry has provided a platform for debate on whether nuclear energy should be considered on its merits as one possible energy source in the State’s future energy mix.
An issues paper has been released by the NSW Parliamentary Research Service to support and inform consideration of the bill. The paper draws on recent reports, studies, articles and research material to provide an overview of the key considerations for the debate about uranium mining and nuclear energy.
The committee will hold its third hearing on Monday 18 November, ahead of reporting to the House in the first quarter of 2020.
Have your say on the welfare of circus animals
Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Industry has commenced an inquiry into circus animals (such as lions, elephants and monkeys) and exhibited cetaceans (such as dolphins and porpoises). It will examine the welfare of these animals, having regard to community expectations, and possible legislative and regulatory action.
Are animal cruelty laws in NSW working effectively?
An inquiry into animal cruelty laws in NSW is now underway with submissions open until Friday 29 November.
The committee is tasked with examining the effectiveness of the administration and enforcement of the laws that protect animals from cruelty. The current New South Wales laws are generally enforced by charitable organisations approved under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, so the committee will look at whether this is effective and appropriate and/or whether the Government should establish a specialist unit to investigate animal cruelty complaints and enforce animal protection laws.
The Select Committee is also seeking the views of interested stakeholders via an online questionnaire, which is also open until Friday 29 November.
The first hearing for the inquiry is scheduled for Monday 2 December with further hearings intended in the new year. The Select Committee is expected to report by April 2020.
Portfolio Committee No. 5 tables report into the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019
Portfolio Committee No. 5 has spent the last few weeks examining the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019.
The bill follows a pilot program of mobile phone detection cameras by the government, who are hoping to roll out the full camera program over Christmas. These cameras take photos of drivers to find drivers who are using their phone illegally.
It is already illegal to hold and use a mobile phone while driving but this new bill reverses the onus of proof in relation to whether a driver is holding a phone or not. If the bill becomes law, it will mean that if a photo depicts a person holding an object while driving, that object is presumed to be a mobile phone. It will then be up to the driver to disprove that the object is a phone on the balance of probabilities.
The inquiry was a different type of inquiry format used by Upper House Committees. As the House resolved that the committee must report by 12 November 2019, the entire inquiry was run in only 3 weeks! Submissions were invited from key stakeholders and one hearing was held on 30 October 2019 where the committee heard from various stakeholders.
The committee heard evidence about the impact of mobile phone use on road safety, the camera pilot program, and how the program the cameras are intended to be used now they have been tested. Committee members explored issues around artificial intelligence, privacy, and reversing the onus of proof.
The committee has now completed its report and tabled with the Clerk today – Tuesday 12 November 2019. After considering all the evidence, the committee recommended that the Upper House consider the bill and any amendments about the reverse onus of proof, privacy and the use of artificial intelligence.
It’s now over to the House, which has the benefit of all the evidence the committee gathered, to consider the bill.