As some of you might know the House agreed to a special adjournment motion and is next due to meet on 15 September 2020.  While it might seem like a long break for the House, committees are still busy at work in this time! But their work might look a little different for a while.

To enable social distancing, the Legislative Council adopted new sessional orders that allows committees to hold electronic meetings and hearings.

Previous practice

Before the pandemic, the usual practice for committee members was to attend committee meetings in person with some limited capacity to attend meetings electronically:

  • Members were only allowed to participate electronically (to date via telephone) in meetings as long as the Chair was in the meeting room
  • No member could attend a meeting electronically to finalise a draft committee report (for more information on meetings to discuss and finalise a committee report, check out this post)
  • While witnesses could appear via teleconference or Skype, it was not usual practice for members to attend hearings electronically.

Current practice

However, on 24 March 2020 the House agreed to a new sessional order removing previous restrictions and allowing committees full flexibility to conduct all committee meetings electronically, including meetings to consider reports and hearings. The sessional order does not specify an end date and could last for the rest of the Parliament, unless the House decides otherwise.

Current vs previous sessional orders - electronic participation v2.png

So what have committees been up to since then?

Since the new sessional order was passed, we’ve had a number of committee meetings held completely electronically. Notably, Portfolio Committee No. 6 was the first to hold a meeting with all members participating electronically to finalise a report .  This committee tabled its report into the Sydenham-Bankstown Line conversion last week. Next cab off the rank will be the Public Accountability Committee for its report into building standards, building quality and building disputes.

New inquiries

Although the House postponed its sittings until September, three new inquiries have been added to the agenda in the last month.

Using its self-referral power, the Public Accountability Committee adopted a new inquiry into the

NSW Government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic inquiry. The committee will investigate the conduct of the NSW Government and its agencies in handling matters related to the COVID- 19 pandemic. For more information and current updates, visit inquiry webpage here.

Two other inquiries were established by the House on its last sitting day:

Inquiries currently accepting submissions

A number of our committees are still accepting submissions.

Future hearings

Although, most hearings have been postponed, under the new sessional orders committees might hold hearings remotely so stay tuned for any updates on hearings held via teleconference, or indeed video conference.

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