On Thursday, the House debated a number of items, including a motion under Standing Order 163 to invite the Minister for Energy and the Environment into the Chamber to explain the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020, and a matter of public importance relating to a job plan for Newcastle. The House also debated the Local Land Services (Amendment) Bill and voted to refer it to committee for inquiry and report and started debate on the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020. Read on for more.
Motion according to Standing Order 163
In the morning, Mr Latham (One Nation) moved a motion under SO 163 to seek the House’s consent for the Hon Matt Kean MP, Minister for Energy and the Environment to sit in the Chamber to explain the provisions of the Electricity Infrastructure Amendment Bill. Speaking to the motion, Mr Latham referred to the complexity of the bill and said that having the Minister appear to explain the bill would ensure it was scrutinised thoroughly, in keeping with the functions of a House of Review. Mr Searle (Labor) indicated that the Opposition would be minded to support the motion but noted that the Government had requested more time to allow discussions to take place outside the Chamber. On the motion of the Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin), further debate on the motion was adjourned until later in the day. When the motion to bring on debate was called on later in the day, it was negatived, 17 ayes to 20 noes.
Matter of public importance – jobs plan for newcastle
Mr Latham (One Nation) also moved a motion to bring on debate on a matter of public importance, on the topic of a jobs plan for Newcastle. Mr Latham said that a jobs plan for Newcastle and the Hunter Region was even more important given the NSW budget was in deficit. The Leader of the House did not oppose bringing on debate but noted that there were many more items of government business that should be dealt with by the House. The motion to bring on debate was agreed to on the voices.
During the substantive debate, Mr Latham reiterated his earlier statements about the importance of ensuring the NSW Budget adequately provide for the Hunter Region, noting the plan to transition the region away from its traditional employment base. A number of Opposition members including Mr Searle, Mr Graham, Mr Buttigieg and Ms Sharpe contributed to the debate, expressing support for the motion’s focus on job creation and criticising a perceived lack of funding for the region in the 2020-2021 Budget. Mr Martin spoke on behalf of the Government, telling the House that a number of government initiatives had focused on the regions including the Hunter. Members of the crossbench, including Ms Boyd (The Greens) and Reverend Nile (CDP), also spoke to the motion. Ms Boyd stressed the importance of consulting and collaborating with the people of Newcastle and the Hunter for future jobs planning, while Reverend Nile agreed with the importance of the motion. Under the standing order, at the conclusion of debate the motion lapsed.
The bill seeks to remove the application of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 (the Koala SEPP) to certain land under the Local Land Services Act 2013. Specifically, it would prevent the application of the Koala SEPP to private native forestry operations, as well as to the clearing of land in circumstances set out in the Act. It would also extend the duration of private native forestry plans from 15 to 30 years and exempt these types of activities from requiring approval under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
Minister Mitchell was granted leave to incorporate the Minister for Agriculture’s second reading speech into Hansard. During debate on the bill in this chamber, a number of members referred to media reports which suggested that the bill introduced by Minister Marshall included changes beyond those agreed by cabinet and referred to in the second reading debate.
Leading for the Opposition, Ms Sharpe, who participated in the Portfolio Committee No. 7 inquiry into koala populations earlier in the year, described the bill as a further weakening of koala and other environmental protections in this State, whilst other Opposition members such as Mr Graham referred to the existence of the bill against a backdrop of increased land clearing. Ms Faehrmann (The Greens) who chaired the inquiry expressed concern about the introduction of the bill following the loss of koalas in the 2019-2020 bushfires and the inquiry finding that koalas will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050 without urgent government intervention. Both members of the Animal Justice Party strongly opposed the bill, while other crossbench members Reverend Nile (CDP) and Mr Banasiak (SFFP) indicated that they would support the bill. Notwithstanding this support, Mr Banasiak said that he would move a number of amendments should the bill reach committee of the whole stage to limit its impact on the private property rights of farmers and those involved in private native forestry.
Ms Cusack (Liberal) also contributed to the debate, describing the bill as flawed and expressing concern that the final form of the bill varied from that passed by cabinet. At the end of her contribution, Ms Cusack moved a motion to refer the bill to Portfolio Committee No. 7 for inquiry and report. The motion was agreed to on division, 19 ayes to 18 noes, with Ms Cusack crossing the floor to vote with the Opposition, The Greens, Animal Justice Party and Mr Field.
The bill seeks to give effect to the New South Wales Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, by improving the affordability, reliability, security and sustainability of electricity supply in NSW and encouraging investment in new electricity generation, storage, network and related infrastructure. A key feature of the bill seeks to establish renewable energy zones, described by the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr Franklin) in his second reading speech as ‘the modern-day equivalent of traditional power stations’. Mr Franklin also said that the measures seeking to be created by the bill would lead to increased private sector investment, significant job creation, reduced carbon emissions and energy savings for households.
Members from all sides contributed to the debate. Leading for the Opposition, Mr Searle indicated the Opposition’s support for the bill on the basis that it would provide certainty to homes and businesses across NSW and commended the Government for its consultation during the bill’s formation. Some crossbench members, including Mr Shoebridge (The Greens), Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party), Reverend Nile and Mr Field spoke in support of the bill, while Mr Latham (One Nation), Mr Borsak (Shooters Fishers and Farmers) and Mr Roberts (One Nation) expressed their opposition. Following the contribution of Mr Franklin in reply, proceedings were interrupted for the adjournment of the House at midnight.
the week ahead
With the House still to debate the remainder of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020, along with the three Appropriation Bills introduced earlier in the sitting week, the House agreed to a special adjournment, moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Tudehope), to adjourn until 10.00am on Friday 20 November. The events of the Friday sitting day – along with the events of the reserve sitting week – will be captured in a ‘bumper’ edition of this blog, to be published at the start of next week.