Wednesday was dominated by the consideration of bills relating to music festivals and another about meeting critical water needs for certain regional areas.
In February this year the Government introduced regulations to improve patron safety at certain music festivals. However, these regulations attracted some controversy and were later disallowed by the Legislative Council on 26 September (read the blog from that day for more details). This followed an inquiry by the Legislative Council’s Regulation Committee which recommended to disallow the regulation.
The Government then introduced the Music Festivals Bill with the objective of promoting a safer environment at music festivals by requiring certain festivals, identified by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority as being ‘high-risk’, to comply with approved safety management plans.
While all parties agreed that it was essential for certain types of festivals to have specific safety measures in place, there were different views on the detail that should be in those formal requirements. The Opposition welcomed the opportunity to debate the substance of the Government’s proposal and indicated they wanted to have some form of regulation in place in time for the peak summer music festival period. The Greens agreed, stating that it was clear that in the past some festivals did not have enough safety measures in place and there is a need for a minimum but workable standard.
The second reading was agreed to, and the House proceeded to consider the proposed amendments to the bill that had been circulated by the Opposition and The Greens.
Despite the support of the Animal Justice Party and The Greens, Opposition amendments seeking to change the term “high risk festival” to “nominated festival” were defeated (18 votes to 19). Following that, the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party proved to be crucial in deciding whether other amendments were agreed to. Significantly, the House agreed to the establishment of an ongoing music festival roundtable designed to support the growth of the music festival industry while ensuring the safety of patrons and to a statutory 5-yearly review of the Act. The House also agreed to some practical amendments to the contents and timeliness of approval of safety management plans.
The third reading of the bill was agreed to and the amended Music Festivals Bill was returned to the Assembly for its consideration. On Thursday the Assembly advised the Council that it had agreed to the amendments.
The bill seeks to deliver water supplies to certain locations in response to the current drought and to declare certain developments relating to dams to be critical State significant infrastructure. The bill also facilitates the acceleration of the implementation of water projects required in the context of extreme drought. The bill expires after two years and can only be extended for a further 12 months if the Minister is satisfied that the identified locations still have critical water needs.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) did not oppose the bill but argued that the bill needed to identify more locations as having critical water needs. The Opposition raised concerns regarding potential unintended consequences regarding the limits of compensation payments under the bill. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party supported the bill but criticised the Government for the delay in which it has responded to the drought. The Greens supported the bill with reservations and argued that it was only necessary because of the Government’s poor water management.
Mr Field and the Animal Justice Party opposed the bill, with Mr Field stating that it gives the Water Minister additional powers that are not necessary and minimises oversight. The second reading was agreed to on division (35 votes to 3).
In committee, 16 amendments were moved by the Government, Opposition, Mr Field and the SFFP. Ten amendments were agreed to which increased the number of identified locations as having critical water needs, including two moved by the Government. Further amendments were moved to increase the regulatory requirements imposed on the Minister for Water with respect to approving certain water projects. These amendments were defeated.
The bill was read a third time and was returned to the Assembly with amendments which were subsequently agreed to.
The bill creates a new Act to consolidate the powers and functions of the Children’s Guardian. The Minister stated that the bill will implement responses to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and will transfer the reportable conduct framework and the Official Community Visitor scheme from the Ombudsman to the Office of the Children’s Guardian. These changes aim to streamline functions and make improvements which will ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in New South Wales.
In leading for the Opposition, Mr Veitch indicated overall support for the bill, noting the good sense in consolidating the powers of the Children’s Guardian under one Act. Mr Veitch outlined concerns relating to the consultation process in the development of the bill, advising the House that Ms Sharpe, in her capacity as Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, along with Mr Shoebridge, had convened a roundtable with relevant stakeholders to discuss their concerns. Mr Veitch requested that the Government ensure that organisations receive sufficient funding and support throughout the transition period so that they can continue their work promoting the best interests of children.
Mr Shoebridge (The Greens) also expressed general support for the bill and reiterated the concerns around consultation raised at the roundtable. Mr Shoebridge particularly noted that most of the Act would commence upon assent, with one section commencing on 30 January 2020, suggesting that due to the significant structural changes outlined in the legislation, many organisations will not be ready to comply with the Act when it commences.
In reply, the Minister acknowledged the concerns around consultation and advised that the committee stage on the bill will not take place until next sitting week, allowing additional time for development and consideration of proposed amendments. The second reading was agreed to, with consideration of amendments likely to take place next week.
The House also passed this bill following a brief debate. The bill seeks to make a range of minor changes to various Acts and regulations.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate: