On Tuesday and Thursday, the House passed a number of bills, including bills relating to digital driver licences, a new liquor licensing regime for venues, and to transfer management of sporting and entertainment venues to Venues NSW. The House unanimously agreed to a condolence motion in relation to the passing of a former Premier, and considered whether to debate a motion to find the Leader of the Government in contempt.
Tuesday 13 October 2020
CONDOLENCE MOTION – THE HONOURABLE JOHN FAHEY, FORMER PREMIER
Prior to Question Time, the Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin) moved a condolence motion which honoured the former Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable John Fahey AC. First elected as the Member for Camden in 1984, Mr Fahey was Premier of New South Wales from 1992-1995 before entering federal politics in 1996.
In speaking to the motion, Mr Harwin described Mr Fahey as ‘a man of character with a deep respect for the parliamentary process’, noting that many of his achievements as Premier remain in New South Wales today. These included the establishment of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, the creation of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 and the introduction of local government reforms. Mr Harwin also noted that outside of Parliament, John Fahey’s love of sports was clear – illustrated by his famous ‘jump for joy’ following the announcement of Sydney’s winning Olympic bid.
Members from all sides of the chamber spoke in support of the motion, and echoed many of the Leader of the Government’s sentiments. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Searle) described Mr Fahey as a man who acted with the highest personal integrity, whilst Reverend Nile noted that Mr Fahey ‘never shied away from danger’. In this regard, many members referred to Mr Fahey’s role in preventing an apparent assassination attempt on Prince Charles, during his 1994 visit to Australia.
The motion was agreed to unanimously, with members and officers of the House standing as a mark of respect.
The bill proposes to amend the Road Transport Act 2013 to give digital driver licences the same status as a physical driver licence. This would give a person the option of choosing between the physical or digital version, when required to produce their licence.
The bill also includes provisions dealing with the sharing of information across government agencies, where a customer has given their consent. On the practical effect of these changes, Ms Cusack (Government) said the bill would simplify the entire process of applying for and using a driver licence.
While the Opposition and The Greens did not oppose the bill, both expressed concerns around the privacy and the security of data held. Reverend Nile (Christian Democratic Party) gave his support to the bill, also referring to the popularity of the existing digital scheme.
The bill was agreed to on the voices and forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.
Thursday 15 October 2020
PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE – MATTER OF PRIVILEGE
Following formal business, Mr Primrose (Labor) moved a motion for the House to adopt the recommendations of a report of the Privileges Committee tabled earlier this week. The report on the execution of search warrants by the Australian Federal Police recommended that the House uphold claims for privilege made over 12 items. These items were seized as a result of search warrants executed in relation to the Hon Shaoquett Moselmane by the AFP in June 2020.
The motion was agreed to unanimously, with a number of members commending the work of the committee. In the afternoon, the President read a letter from the Hon Shaoquett Moselmane, informing the House of his intention to return to the House on Thursday 22 October 2020.
CONTINGENT NOTICE OF MOTION – CONTEMPT OF HOUSE BY LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT
After lunch, Mr Graham (Labor) used a contingent motion on the Notice Paper to bring on debate on a motion to find the Leader of the Government in contempt for failure to provide documents previously ordered relating to the Stronger Communities grants program. According to Mr Graham, the Leader of the Government was yet to table the certifying funding approval documents for successful applications under the Stronger Communities grants program, as required by the order. As discussed in an earlier edition of this blog, the Government had previously asserted 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 Leader of the House, Minister Tudehope (Government) took a point of order. He argued that the ‘trigger’ for the contingent notice – the failure to provide documents – had not been established. According to the Minister, all documents held by the Government had been produced and in the absence of concrete evidence that a document existed which the Government had failed to produce, the contingency trigger for the contempt motion failed.
The President heard further contributions from a range of members on the Minister’s point of order.
The President then addressed the House, informing members of the seriousness of a motion to suspend a member and hold that member in contempt of the House. For this reason, along with the what the President described as the ‘complexity of the arguments’ put on the point of order, the President reserved his decision until the House next meets on Tuesday 20 October.
ORDER FOR PAPERS – PREMIER’S EMAILS
Later that afternoon, Mr Shoebridge (Greens) moved an order for papers motion relating to email correspondence of the Premier regarding a number of NSW government agencies and departments. In this instance, the motion called for emails sent from ‘all emails received by and sent from the Premier’s direct email addresses (as described by Counsel Assisting the Commission during the public hearing into Operation Keppel on Monday 12 October 2020), including any emails that proposed or requested government action, or meetings with herself, any other government member or official’, in relation to a number of matters.
Amendments to the motion were proposed by Mr Mookhey (Labor) which, following the agreement of the House, had the effect of expanding the order to cover the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Treasurer and the Treasury. The motion, as amended, was agreed to on the voices, with the documents to be provided by Thursday 29 October.
The bill proposes a range of amendments to the Liquor Act 2007 and Liquor Regulation 2018, introducing a new regulatory liquor licencing scheme for venues based on sanctions (demerit points), incentives, and cumulative impact assessments.
In January 2014, the House was recalled to consider legislation responding to drug and alcohol related violence in Sydney—commonly referred to as ‘the lock out laws’ (see House in Review 55/64). These laws have been the subject of considerable commentary and debate since then, including an inquiry by the Joint Select Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy in 2019.
In the second reading debate, Ms Cusack (Government), on behalf of the Minister, described the bill as the first stage of the Government’s response to the inquiry and part of the vision for a vibrant, modern and safe 24-hour economy. The bill sets up a new liquor licencing regime for venues and a framework for the assessment of licence applications and the regulation of same day liquor delivery services. It also seeks to improve industry diversity around small bars, family friendly services, and live music and entertainment.
Members of the Opposition, Crossbench and Government broadly spoke in support of the bill, with Mr Graham (Labor) and Ms Faehrmann (Greens) both foreshadowing proposed amendments to the bill. Debate on the second reading was adjourned and the bill sits on the Notice Paper for future consideration.
(Note: Monday’s House in Review will discuss the Liquor Amendment (Right to Play Music) Bill 2020 a private members’ bill of Mr Graham (Labor) agreed to by the House on Wednesday, which canvassed a number of related issues.)
This bill proposes to close two sections of non-operational railway line in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Franklin stated that closing the railway would enable development of the ‘Northern Rivers Rail Trail’ to remain in public land managed by local councils.
Mr Graham (Labor) stated that the Opposition would not oppose the bill, emphasising the importance of keeping rail corridors in public hands and acknowledging the tourism opportunities that rail trails bring to the state.
Mr Latham (One Nation) and Ms Boyd (The Greens) spoke against the bill, stating a preference to restore a working rail line in the Northern Rivers area. Ms Boyd moved an amendment to refer the bill to Portfolio Committee No. 6 – Transport and Customer Service for inquiry and report, in order to allow for consultation with the Northern Rivers community. The motion to refer the bill was defeated on division and the bill progressed to the committee stage, where Ms Boyd proposed amendments to dedicate the rail trail as Crown land. The amendments were negatived on the voices, before the bill was read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly.
This bill seeks to amend the Sporting Venues Authorities Act 2008 to transfer management of some of New South Wales’ major sporting and entertainment venues to a new body, known as Venues NSW, and to establish advisory committees to provide advice to the Minister and Venues NSW in exercising their functions. The bill dissolves the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and transfers ownership and management of land managed by the Trust to Venues NSW.
In her second reading speech the Parliamentary Secretary, Mrs Ward, stated that the bill is a significant reform, as it will enable the state’s key sporting venues to be managed on a more efficient basis, making the state more competitive in bidding to host major events.
The Opposition supported the establishment of Venues NSW as a single management body but expressed concern about the bill’s provisions relating to the management of public land, whilst One Nation stressed that the unique heritage value of the SCG should be better recognised by the new body.
In the committee of the whole the Opposition successfully moved eight amendments to: provide for greater regional representation on the Venues NSW board; mandate that there be no change in the use of public lands managed by Venues NSW except through an act of Parliament; and maintain government sector employment conditions for Venues NSW staff. One Nation successfully moved two amendments, both relating to recognition of the SCG’s heritage.
The bill was read a third time and returned to the Assembly with amendments.
The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 is an omnibus bill which seeks to make miscellaneous developments across a number of NSW Acts and Regulations. As described by Mrs Ward on behalf of the Government, statute law bills often make minor technical changes to existing legislation, with common amendments including changes to departmentnames and updating of dates.
On behalf of the Opposition, Mr Searle (Labor) noted the custom for the Opposition to support such bills. Mr Searle noted that in this case, the Opposition had raised earlier concerns around some matters in the bill’s first print, and thanked the Government for addressing these via amendments in the Legislative Assembly.
In committee of the whole the Government successfully moved two amendments to address concerns raised by the Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. The Opposition also successfully moved an amendment to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Regulation 2017. The effect of this amendment is threefold. Firstly, it includes a note to the effect that the part applies not only to Ministers but expressly to Parliamentary Secretaries and that a reference to a Minister in the part will include a reference to a Parliamentary Secretary. Secondly, it prohibits a Minister from accepting or seeking payment of a commission from a property developer, either directly or through a third party. Finally, it confirms that the term ‘property developer’ with the Code has the same meaning that it does within the Electoral Funding Act 2018.
The bill was read a third time and returned to the Assembly with amendments.
Stay tuned for our next blog on Monday, which will discuss business debated on Private Members’ Day, Wednesday.