On Wednesday, the House debated three bills spanning domestic violence reform, bushfire prevention and management and the funding of ICAC and other independent agencies. The House also agreed to sixteen orders for papers. Read on for more. 

Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence)  Amendment (Coercive and Controlling Behaviour) Bill

The bill, introduced by Ms Boyd (The Greens), seeks to amend the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 to establish a new offence of abusive control, otherwise known as coercive control. The bill sets out a list of abusive behaviours to be used to determine whether someone has committed the offence and also states that the offence of abusive control may be made out if the behaviour is directed at a third party such as a child, as well as at a person’s pet. 

Introducing the bill, Ms Boyd described the need to recognise that domestic violence extends beyond physical violence. In doing so, she spoke of three women who were subjected to sustained periods of coercive control by their partners and which resulted in the tragic murder of two of the women and children. Ms Boyd described the current state of the law as failing to protect women in these situations and said that the bill would offer a “fighting chance” to prevent more murders such as these. 

Debate on the Bill was adjourned for five calendar days.

Bushfire Legislation Amendment 2020

Debate resumed on the bill, which seeks to implement the recommendations of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry.

As part of Wednesday’s conduct of business motion the House agreed that government business would take precedence between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm. At 4.30 pm consideration in committee of the whole resumed from Tuesday. The majority of amendments proposed related to the introduction of a Rural Boundary Clearing Code which would permit the owners of land in a rural zone to clear vegetation within 25 metres of a holding’s boundary with adjoining land for the purposes of bush fire hazard reduction.

An amendment moved by The Greens to remove the Rural Boundary Clearing Code in its entirety was negatived on division (5/31), having been supported by the Animal Justice Party and Mr Field but opposed by all other parties. Two amendments moved by the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party which sought to expand the remit of the Code to include land in environmental zones and also remove certain commencement provisions relating to the Code, were both negatived in separate divisions (4/32), supported by the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation but opposed by all other parties. Similarly, two amendments moved by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation seeking to extend the permitted width of boundary clearing to 50 metres, and to allow vegetation clearance to occur in consultation with local firefighting services were negatived on division (4/32), supported by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party but opposed by all other parties.

At 6.30 pm, when consideration of private members’ business was scheduled to resume but the proceedings in committee had not concluded, the House agreed to a resolution to allow consideration of the bill to take precedence until concluded. Amendments were then successfully moved by the Opposition relating to ongoing oversight by Parliament in the form of progress reporting and a statutory review. The third reading was agreed to on division (31/5) with the Government, Opposition, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, and Christian Democratic Party voting in support and The Greens, Animal Justice Party and Mr Field opposed. The bill was returned to the Assembly for consideration of the Council amendments, which were agreed to later in the week.

ICAC and Other Independent Commissions  Legislation Amendment (Independent Funding) Bill 2020

Debated resumed on this private members’ bill from an earlier sitting week, which seeks to amend the means by which the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and other independent agencies are funded. Specifically, the bill would establish independent funding structures for these bodies.

Speaking on behalf of One Nation, Mr Latham indicated his support for the bill. He argued that the ICAC’s resources are insufficient to do its job effectively and that ICAC must be truly independent from government and have a full funding allocation.

The Government opposed the bill. The Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin) noted that the Auditor-General had recently completed an independent review of the finances and governance of all integrity agencies, including the ICAC. Minister Harwin also referred to an ongoing Public Accountability Committee (PAC) inquiry into the budget process for independent oversight bodies, advising that the Government is currently working through the Auditor-General’s recommendations and is awaiting the PAC’s final report. Mr Harwin argued that on that basis the bill was premature.

The Opposition supported the bill, noting recent public statements of the ICAC Chief Commissioner expressing concern that the ICAC would not be able to hold public inquiries due to inadequate funding from the Government. The Christian Democratic Party also supported the bill, with Revd Nile noting his role in helping establish the ICAC in 1988 and stating that he would always support any bill that strengthens the ICAC and other investigative bodies. The Greens also supported the bill. Mr Shoebridge suggested that the current funding arrangement, whereby the government controls the funding, granted the government substantial control over these agencies and that this bill was an attempt to break that power.

The second reading was agreed to on division (24 ayes/14 noes) with the Opposition and all cross-bench parties/members in support, and the Government opposed. The bill was read a third time and forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.

General motions

  • Referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – motion referring a number of matters relating to the purchase of land at Camellia.
  • Commencement of Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Mr Searle, Labor) – motion, as amended, noting the delay in the commencement of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.
  • Job cuts at Ausgrid (Mr Buttigieg, Labor) – motion noting the recent job cuts at Ausgrid.

Orders for papers

  • 2020-2021 Budget (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 9 December 2020
  • 2020-2021 Budget Finances (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 9 December 2020
  • 2020-2021 Budget job creation (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 9 December 2020
  • Stage 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail Project (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 9 December 2020
  • Interests and representations of Mr Daryl Maguire (Mr Latham, One Nation) – due 2 December 2020.
  • School Infrastructure NSW 2019/2020 Works in Progress Summary (Mr D’Adam, Labor) – due 16 December 2020.
  • Civil claims and the NSW Police Force (Mr Shoebridge, Greens) – due 16 December 2020.
  • Funding grants and the Premier (Mr Graham, Labor) – due 9 December 2020.
  • Floodplain Harvesting Regulation (Mr Field, Independent) – due 2 December 2020.
  • Fast Rail Network Strategy (Mr Banasiak, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) –  due 9 December 2020.
  • Property acquisition for Western Sydney Airport (Mr Buttigieg, Labor) – due 9 December 2020.
  • Bushfire reports by Noetic – due 9 December 2020.
  • Councillor Antoine Doueihi, Mayor of Strathfield – due 2 December 2020.
  • Dam Infrastructure Projects – due 9 December 2020.
  • Adjudicated claims in the Building and Construction Industry – due 9 December 2020.
  • Ombudsman’s Investigation into SafeWork NSW – due 9 December 2020.

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