During government business days this week the House passed four bills, disallowed a regulation concerning floodplain harvesting and censured the Leader of the Government for non-compliance with an order for papers.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Disallowance – Water Management (General) Amendment (Exemptions for Floodplain Harvesting) Regulation 2020

This regulation provides an exemption from the requirement under the Water Management Act 2000 to hold a water access licence to take water from a water source for the purpose of floodplain harvesting (the capture and use of water flowing across a floodplain).

While Mr Field had given notice of his intention to move the disallowance of the regulation in February, the motion was postponed when the House referred this regulation to the Regulation Committee for inquiry and report.

The committee’s report was tabled on Tuesday. It recommended that the House debate the disallowance motion and noted that the regulation was intended as a transitional arrangement in the journey towards the licensing of floodplain harvesting under the government’s Healthy Floodplains Project, scheduled to be implemented in 2021.

The committee having reported, debate on the disallowance motion was able to proceed. Mr Field stated there was a lack of clarity over both the regulation’s legal basis, and the volumes of water harvested through its use in early 2020. He argued that significant uncertainty over the impacts and fairness of the regulation had resulted in consensus across stakeholders that it should be disallowed.

Speaking for the Government, the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Franklin, opposed the disallowance arguing it would limit the Government’s ability to manage flooding events, such as occurred in early 2020, and hamper the transition to floodplain harvesting licensing. However, Mr Franklin acknowledged that improved stakeholder consultation regarding the regulation would have assisted in addressing any community misunderstanding.

The motion was agreed to on division (22 votes to 16), with Mr Field, the Opposition, The Greens, Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, Animal Justice Party, and One Nation voting in support, and the Government and Christian Democratic Party opposed.

As the disallowance motion passed, the regulation now ceases to have effect. Read more about the disallowance of delegated legislation in Chapter 14 of NSW Legislative Council Practice.

Superannuation Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

The bill seeks to amend a range of Acts concerning superannuation in order to protect the pensions of New South Wales public service retirees in defined benefit schemes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government explained that pensions paid to this group of public service retirees are affected by movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has experienced significant downward pressure following the Commonwealth Government’s fiscal response to COVID-19. The Government advised that without this bill, pension payments would have reduced for approximately 67,000 retirees in New South Wales.

The Opposition and Crossbench did not oppose the bill, and instead commended the Council’s bipartisan approach to COVID-19 related legislation. Several members referred to the importance of protecting potentially vulnerable people during times of crisis, emphasising that the bill will maintain the fixed income of this group of retired public servants. The bill was agreed to without amendment and returned to the Assembly.

Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Courts and Civil) Bill 2020

This omnibus bill seeks to introduce a number of miscellaneous amendments to address developments in case law, support procedural improvements and close gaps in the law relating to courts and civil procedure.

The Parliamentary Secretary (Mrs Ward) noted that miscellaneous amendment bills are typically introduced into Parliament every six months as part of the Government’s regular legislative review program. However, owing to the disruption caused by COVID-19, a miscellaneous amendment bill was not introduced earlier in the year. Mrs Ward indicated that this will be the first of four separate miscellaneous bills to be introduced before the end of 2020.

The bill was supported by all members who spoke in debate. In committee, a Government amendment was agreed to which addressed a concern by The Greens that a new offence regarding the unauthorised sharing of a court recording was too broad. The Greens had intended to move their own amendment to address this matter, but withdrew it once the Government amendment was proposed. The amended bill passed the Council and was returned to the Assembly, which agreed to the amendment the next day.

Thursday 24 September 2020

Censure of Leader of the Government – Non-compliance with order for papers

In the morning, Mr Graham (Labor) successfully moved to bring on a motion to censure the Leader of the Government for non-compliance with an order for papers relating to the Stronger Communities Fund. However, before debate on the motion could commence, business was interrupted for Question Time.

Following Question Time, Minister Tudehope, Leader of the House, tabled further documents concerning the approval of guidelines in response to the morning’s debate. Nevertheless, later in the afternoon, Mr Graham again gained the House’s agreement to bring on the censure motion.

During debate, the Opposition and The Greens acknowledged that the guidelines approval documents had been provided, but emphasised that the Leader of the Government had yet to table the certifying funding approval documents for successful grant applications also required by the order. They supported the motion, insisting that the documents must exist as the grants would need to have been approved.

The Government maintained that all documents covered by the terms of the order for papers had been provided, and that the documents in question do not exist and therefore cannot be produced.

The censure motion was agreed to on division (23 votes to 17) with all members except for the Government and the Christian Democratic Party voting in support. The motion also called for the Government to provide the outstanding documents by 10.00 am on Tuesday 13 October 2020 (the morning of the next sitting day).

Better Regulation Legislation Amendment Bill 2020

This bill seeks to make miscellaneous amendments to 13 principal Acts and associated amendment Acts across the Better Regulation and Innovation portfolio. The second reading was agreed to in August, with consideration of amendments held over to this week.

In committee, two Opposition amendments were defeated and one government amendment was agreed to. The first Opposition amendment sought to penalise landlords for not providing their name and address to a tenant. The second sought to include a new section in the bill to allow the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation to declare certain goods or services as essential in order to prevent price gouging during an emergency or crisis, such as that which occurred during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding face masks. The first amendment was lost on the voices, the second on division (18 votes to 20).

A government amendment was then agreed to which extended a COVID-19 emergency measure from October 2020 to 26 March 2021 to restrict the eviction of tenants who are in rental arrears due to COVID-19 and extend the notice period that landlords must give to terminate leases in certain circumstances. The amended bill was agreed to and returned to the Assembly, with that House agreeing to the amendment later in the day.

Stronger Communities Legislation Amendment (Crimes) Bill 2020

As indicated above, this is the second of four miscellaneous amendment bills to be introduced before the end of 2020. The bill seeks to make 22 miscellaneous amendments to 16 Acts to address developments in case law, support procedural improvements and close gaps in the law relating to crimes. The Government indicated that these amendments will particularly improve criminal investigation and support the management of young adults in custody.

All members supported the bill and, following a brief debate, the House proceeded to consider an amendment from The Greens in the committee stage. The amendment sought to ensure that children aged 14 to 17 years that are considered National Security Interest Detainees are not treated as though they are adult offenders when being transferred from point to point in detention, from detention to court or from detention to a medical service by Corrective Services prison officers. The amendment was defeated on the voices. The bill was agreed to and returned to the Assembly without amendment.

Next post

Stay tuned for part 2 on Monday where we will cover what occurred on private members’ business Wednesday.

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