On the final sitting day in 2019 the House considered a bill from The Greens concerning the protection of Central Coast drinking water catchments, passed four orders for government papers and ended with a motion of Christmas felicitations.
The bill, which was introduced in October, seeks to protect Central Coast drinking water catchments by cancelling any mining authorisation granted for land in a protected catchment. The bill would also prohibit any granting, renewal or modification of titles and permits for the exploration and mining of minerals in drinking water catchment areas.
Debate resumed on the bill with the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr Farlow) noting that the Government opposes the bill because it would cancel, without compensation, all exploration, mining and related planning approvals and does not propose an alternative for the many workers who are already working on mining projects in the region, including the Wallarah 2 project. He argued that this would damage New South Wales’ business reputation both domestically and internationally. Mr Farlow also affirmed the Government’s commitment to triple bottom line assessments of major projects to protect the environment, the community and local economy.
Mr Searle said that the Opposition also opposed the bill. Mr Searle argued that although the Australian Labor Party had been strongly opposed to the approval of the Wallarah 2 project and had supported legislation to stop the project going ahead, it did not support cancelling a process that is underway. He stated that legislating now, without making any arrangements for appropriate compensation, would not be acceptable.
Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) supported the bill arguing that the proposed coal mine will have a significant impact on the Central Coast’s water supply and on local animal populations. Mr Field (Independent) also supported the bill, noting the recent acknowledgement that coal mining under Sydney’s drinking water catchments has led to cracking and millions of litres a day being lost from our drinking water supply. The bill was defeated on the second reading (6 votes to 32).
Orders for papers motions
The following four orders for government papers were agreed to:
- Bullying and harassment in Victims Services (Due 5 December 2019)
- Early childhood education (Due 5 December 2019)
- Proposal to raise Warragamba Dam Wall (Due 12 December 2019)
- Parramatta Light Rail Project (Due 12 December 2019)
Revenue NSW investigations into payroll tax non-compliance
Mr Mookhey sought to order documents regarding Revenue NSW investigations into payroll tax non-compliance by certain organisations.
The Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin) took a point of order that the motion was out of order as it is incompatible with the secrecy provisions under the Taxation Administration Act 1996 which makes it an offence for the Chief Commissioner of State Revenue to disclose information obtained under or in relation to the administration of a taxation law. Further, the Minister argued that the motion is incompatible with the Ministerial Code of Conduct and the Office Holder’s Staff Code of Conduct as the order would require Ministers to give unlawful directions to public servants.
Mr Searle moved an amendment to the motion which noted that the House and its committees maintain that statutory secrecy provisions have no effect on the common law power of the Legislative Council to order the production of State papers, unless they do so expressly or by necessary implication. The amendment also provides that, notwithstanding the above assertion, documents returned under the order be redacted to remove information subject to the privacy and secrecy provisions of the Taxation Administration Act.
The President reserved his ruling on the point of order, noting that he would seek legal advice, and debate was adjourned until the new year.
On a motion moved by Minister Harwin, members joined together to thank each other for the collaborative way that the House worked together during 2019. Members also thanked their staff and the staff of the Parliament for all their work and support during such a busy year.
A message from the writers
Thank you all for reading our blog throughout the year. Our aim is to provide the public with an accurate and informative, yet easy to read and (where appropriate) entertaining blog about the work of the NSW Legislative Council.
This is only our second year writing the blog so we are very open to your feedback if there is anything you would like more (or less) of.
While the House is now on a break until 25 February 2020, this will not be our last post of the year. There is still a lot going on in the Legislative Council, so stay tuned for our regular Committees and Procedural posts over the sitting break.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate: