Things were a little different this sitting week, with private members’ business taking centre stage over two consecutive days. Here’s what happened…





Wednesday, 17 February





In short: On Wednesday, the House agreed to a motion indicating its disagreement with the Legislative Assembly’s transmission of the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2020 to the Governor for assent, notwithstanding that both Houses had not agreed to the final text of the bill. Five Private Members’ bills were also introduced, covering cannabis legalisation, the welfare of racehorses, government grants, compensation for vaccinations, and the recognition of certain aquatic creatures as animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979. The House also agreed to 13 orders for papers and 19 general motions.





Message to the Legislative Assembly – Parliament Appropriations

As regular readers will know, on Tuesday the Council received a message from the Legislative Assembly dated 27 November 2020, disagreeing with the Council’s amendments to the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill 2020. These amendments sought to include an additional appropriation of $7.3 million to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and to establish a new funding arrangement for the NSW Legislative Council from 2021 onwards.

The Assembly advised that it proposed, pursuant to section 5A of the Constitution Act 1902, to send the bill to the Governor for assent, notwithstanding that the Legislative Council had not agreed to the final text of the bill.  Under sections 5A and 5B of the Constitution Act 1902, all bills must be agreed to by both Houses in the same terms before being sent to the Governor for assent, except for a bill appropriating revenue ‘for the ordinary annual services of the Government’.

In response, Mr Searle moved a motion disagreeing with a number of aspects of the message. The focus of Mr Searle’s disagreement was whether the annual Appropriation (Parliament) Bill was a bill for the ‘ordinary annual services of the Government’, and therefore, whether it could be sent to the Governor pursuant to section 5A of the Constitution Act 1902.

In Mr Searle’s view, the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill was not a bill for the ‘ordinary annual services of the Government’ because, in his words, “the Legislature is not an instrument of the Government and that the Government does not provide services through The Legislature”.

The Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council (Mr Harwin) said that appropriations for Parliament had “long been treated as part of the ordinary annual services of the Government” and therefore, that the bill in question was covered by section 5A.

Mr Shoebridge (The Greens) said he agreed with Mr Searle that it was not a 5A bill. His comments focused on findings of a recent Public Accountability Committee report into the budget process which said that, amongst other things, the Government should adopt a funding model for both the Parliament and independent oversight agencies which recognises their independence from government.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Searle said that the Council should consider passing a resolution (similar to that passed by the Australian Senate) which sets out its understanding of what constitutes ‘the ordinary annual services of the Government’.

Mr Searle’s motion concluded by stating that the Council intends to pursue a funding model for the Parliament and various other independent oversight bodies that recognises their independence from the Executive Government.

The motion was agreed to on division – 24 ayes to 17 noes – with a message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly conveying the terms of the resolution.





Cannabis Legalisation Bill 2021

The Cannabis Legislation Bill 2021, introduced by Ms Faehrmann (The Greens), proposes a licensing scheme to regulate cannabis production and distribution, as well as a NSW cannabis authority to regulate the industry and to grant licences for the production and distribution of cannabis products. It also seeks to allow a certain number of cannabis plants to be grown for personal use.

In her second reading speech, Ms Faehrmann said this bill would bring NSW in line with the global trend towards decriminalising and legalising cannabis, with a legal and regulated cannabis market creating thousands of jobs in retail and distribution, and research and development, as well as revenue through taxation.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





Racehorse Legislation Amendment (Welfare and Registration) Bill 2021

Introduced by Mr Pearson (Animal Justice), the Racehorse Legislation Amendment (Welfare and Registration) Bill 2020 seeks to improve the welfare of horses in the horse racing industry. It would make it an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to use whips, spurs and tongue ties. It also seeks to introduce new requirements around ownership of race horses, requiring horse racing industry participants to register their horses under the Thoroughbred Racing Act 1996. Furthermore, the bill seeks to prohibit the racing of horses under three years of age, along with the slaughtering of racehorses at the end of their career – requiring instead that all racehorses registered under the Thoroughbred Racing Act 1996 be rehomed.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





Government Sector Finance Amendment (Government Grants) Bill 2021

The Government Sector Finance Amendment (Government Grants) Bill 2021, introduced by Mr Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), seeks to introduce a framework for notification of decisions about Government grants. Primarily, it would amend the Government Sector Finance Act 2018 to require an entity responsible for deciding a grant application to inform the ‘relevant member of Parliament’ of their decision. As per the bill, this ‘relevant member’ would be the member of the Legislative Assembly for the electorate within which the address of the grant applicant was located.

Mr Borsak described the bill as intending to “curb the misuse of government grants by the Government – or any government” and ensure elected representatives are kept informed of grant decisions affecting their electorates.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





Public Health Amendment (Vaccination Compensation) Bill 2021

The Public Health Amendment (Vaccination Compensation) Bill 2021, introduced by Rev. Nile (Christian Democratic Party) seeks to amend the Public Health Act 2012 to provide for the payment of compensation to workers who suffer injury, loss or damage as a result of a requirement to be vaccinated. As per the bill, liability would be activated if a body required their worker to be vaccinated and the worker suffered injury as a result, with compensation payable up until the death of the worker, even if the worker ceased employment with the body.

Rev. Nile referred to the “legitimate public concerns” that existed about the future of vaccines currently being developed and said the bill was directed at how any future vaccines would interact with employment law and workers’ rights.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Aquatic Animal Recognition) Bill 2021

Introduced by Ms Hurst (Animal Justice), the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment (Aquatic Animal Recognition) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to provide that crustaceans and cephalopods are animals for the purposes of that Act. This would have the flow-on effect of ensuring that those animals are protected by the provisions of that Act, which provides that an individual must not be cruel or neglectful towards an ‘animal’. 

Ms Hurst referred to the fact that crustaceans and cephalopods – which include octopuses, squid and cuttlefish – were classified as animals in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, along with a community expectation that they be recognised as such, as reasons why the Act required amendment.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





ORDERS FOR PAPERS

  • Sydney International Equestrian Centre Upgrade (Mr Latham, One Nation) – due 10 March 2021
  • reINVEST trial (Ms Boyd, Greens) – due 10 March 2021
  • Gregory Hills Primary School Project (Mr Buttigieg, Labor) – due 17 March 2021
  • Biorefinery Project In Muswellbrook Shire (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 10 March 2021
  • Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (Mr Shoebridge, Greens) – due 10 March 2021
  • Isolation hotels (Mr D’Adam, Labor) – due 10 March 2021
  • Stage 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail Project – Further Order (Mr Mookey, Labor) – due 24 February 2021
  • Western Sydney Airport Rail Links (Mr Latham, One Nation) – due 10 March 2021
  • Performance of current Department Secretaries (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 12 March 2021
  • Greater Parramatta and the Olympic Peninsula Area (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 15 March 2021
  • Sale of TAFE NSW Scone Campus (Mr Graham, Labor) – due 24 February 2021
  • Narrandera to Tocumwal Rail Line Reopening Feasibility Study (Mr Banasiak, SFF) – due 17 March 2021
  • 2019-2020 Bushfire Season Grants (Mr Graham, Labor) – due 15 March 2021




Thursday 18 February





In short: While Thursday is usually a day for Government business, this Thursday the Leader of the House moved a Conduct of Business motion (read about them here) to allow a number of items of private members’ business to take precedence instead.  In total, 28 items of private members’ business were agreed to, including six orders for papers, 20 general motions, and one bill.

Adjourned debate on a censure motion to censure the Leader of the Government for non-commencement of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 also resumed, with the Council voting in favour of the motion. The Council also agreed to a bill to introduce new ‘combined alcohol and drug driving offences’, following the tragic deaths of four children last year at the hands of a driver under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.





Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021

The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving Offence) Bill 2021 seeks to introduce new ‘combined alcohol and drug driving offences’ for drivers, or those supervising a learner driver, with a prescribed concentration of alcohol combined with the presence of illicit drugs in their system.

In his second reading speech, Mr Farlow said the bill sought to address the ongoing issue of serious casualty crashes in New South Wales and paid tribute to the ‘four angels’ who inspired the bill. The deaths of these four children (Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and Veronique Sakr) in an accident caused by a driver who had been driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs was mentioned by every member who spoke to the bill, with members also acknowledging the manner in which the family had advocated for justice in spite of the terrible circumstances of the tragedy.

Mr Shoebridge supported comprehensive legislation on drink and drug driving but indicated that the Greens would only support the bill if their proposed amendments were agreed to. Mr Shoebridge noted that the Government’s current drug testing program is limited to illegal drugs and therefore, a person driving under the influence of alcohol and a legal drug (such as benzodiazepines) would not be caught by the provisions in the bill.

The Greens amendments were debated in the committee stage, along with very similar amendments circulated by the Animal Justice Party, and one amendment from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party which proposed an increase to the penalties for second and subsequent offences.

Ultimately none of the amendments were agreed to. For this reason, the Greens and Animal Justice Party members voted against the third reading, as previously foreshadowed. Despite this, the bill passed (36/5) and the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.





Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastic Reduction) Bill 2021

The Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment (Plastic Reduction) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 to phase out the use of single-use plastics, polystyrene packaging, products containing plastic microbeads, and other plastic products that are harmful to the environment by 2025. It also proposes the establishment of the Plastics Reduction Commission, to be tasked with planning for measures to meet specified plastics elimination target.

Ms Faehrmann said the bill would address the “catastrophic repercussions” of the use of single-use plastics on the environment and human health, describing it as the most comprehensive ban on single-use plastics in Australia.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





ORDERS FOR PAPERS

  • Sydney CBD-Based Government Sector Workers (Mr Latham, One Nation) – due 11 March 2021
  • Harbour tolling plans (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 18 March 2021
  • Procurement of new ferries (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 18 March 2021
  • Establishment of Resilience NSW (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 18 March 2021
  • Bushfire recovery grants for small business and primary producers (Mr Shoebridge, Greens) – due 18 March 2021
  • Water projects and cap modelling (Ms Faehrmann, Greens) – due 11 March 2021.

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