For a second day there was a sombre mood in the House as debate on a condolence motion regarding the 2019-20 bushfire season continued.
Condolence motion – 2019-2020 bushfire season
Debate on the condolence motion continued from Tuesday and was agreed to with members standing in their places as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives.
Throughout the day 24 members from all sides of the Chamber spoke in support of the motion.
Members commemorated the victims of the bushfires, recounted the numerous ways that people have been affected throughout the state, spoke of the resilience of New South Wales communities, recounted personal stories, detailed the impacts on flora and fauna and highlighted the role that climate change has played.
Amendments to sitting schedule
The House agreed to a motion by the Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin) to amend various sessional orders in order to swap the precedence given to business considered by the House on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Private members’ business will now be considered on Wednesdays and will start one hour earlier at 10 am, while Government Business will be considered on Thursdays.
The Government stated that it was proposing these changes to address workplace safety concerns for regional members that came to light in 2019 and to make the House more family-friendly. The amendments to sessional orders at the start of the Parliament meant that in 2019 the House often sat late on Thursdays, with regional members unable to return to their families until Friday, or were at risk of driving long distances late at night following a tiring week. Government members also noted that while positive family-friendly changes were made in 2019, these primarily benefited Sydney-based members and called on members to now support a change that would assist their regional colleagues.
The Opposition did not oppose the proposed amendment to the sitting schedule, agreeing that late sittings on Thursdays had a practical impact on regional members. However, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Searle) argued that moving private members’ business to Wednesday is a reflection of the Government’s legislative program.
The Animal Justice Party successfully moved an amendment to the motion to require that the new timetable be reviewed by the Procedure Committee and reported on by February 2021, while The Greens unsuccessfully moved an amendment that the new timetable would operate on a trial basis until the end of June. The Greens noted reservations with the motion and voted against it once their amendment was defeated.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party strongly opposed the motion, noting their support for the current sitting schedule as agreed to in 2019 and argued that the proposed changes would impede the role of the House to hold the government to account.
The motion was agreed to on division (32 to 5).
Legislative Council Sitting Pattern – from 24 March 2020
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate: