Here’s what happened during a legislation-packed day in the House…

On Tuesday, the Leader of the Government was required to ‘attend in his place’ to explain why the Modern Slavery Act 2018 had not been commenced. The House also agreed to two bills relating to community land development and management, and another relating to marine pollution. A fourth bill, which increases penalties for animal cruelty offences, was also debated, with consideration of amendments in committee of the whole still to come. Read on for more.

Attendance of the Leader of the Government in his place: Non-commencement of the Modern Slavery Act 2018

In the previous sitting week, the House resolved to censure the Leader of the Government (Mr Harwin) and order him to attend in his place at the commencement of business on Tuesday to explain why the the Modern Slavery Act 2018 had not been commenced, and to provide a timeframe to the House for its commencement. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 was assented to by the Governor on 27 June 2018, with the date of commencement of the Act to be appointed by proclamation. You can read an explainer on proclamation here.

At the start of the day, the President called on Mr Harwin to address the House. Mr Harwin stated that the Act could not be proclaimed owing to outstanding policy and regulatory issues – in particular, the NSW Act requires amendment to bring it into harmony with the equivalent Commonwealth statute.

Mr Harwin argued that while the Council was free to comment on the actions of Government, it has no power to direct Ministers to make recommendations to the Governor, including in relation to the commencement date of Acts. Mr Harwin argued that the power to provide such advice rests solely with the Executive. Mr Harwin also argued that the Council has no power to suspend or expel the Leader of the Government on the basis of a non-commencement.

Following Mr Harwin’s statements, Mr Searle gave notice of a motion proposing that the House deem Mr Harwin’s explanation unsatisfactory, and requiring that the President seek legal advice as to the powers of the Council to compel the commencement of the NSW Act and protect the privileges and powers of the House. The motion was debated on Wednesday, and we’ll be reporting on the outcome in tomorrow’s blog.

Community Land Development Bill 2020  and Community Land Management Bill 2020

The bills repeal and rewrite the Community Land Management Act 1989 and the Community Land Development Act 1989 to modernise and update community schemes laws in NSW (find an explainer on these laws here). The Community Land Management Bill facilitates the subdivision and development of land with shared property, while the Community Land Management Bill governs the management of community schemes, precinct schemes and neighbourhood schemes, providing for meetings and decision-making of associations and committees, the role of managing agents, insurance, financial management, dispute resolution and other needs of a scheme throughout its life.

Speaking in support of the bill, Mr Martin, Parliamentary Secretary, observed that the Government had consulted with the sector on both the policy positions and detailed drafting of the bills, and welcomed broad support from sector stakeholders and the community for the bills.

Mr Mookhey advised that the Opposition would not oppose the bill, noting that the Minister had worked cooperatively with stakeholders and the legislation was welcomed by people in the community land development and management sector.

The question on the second and third readings of the bill was agreed to without division and the bill were returned to the LA without amendment.

Marine Pollution Amendment (Review) Bill 2020

The Marine Pollution Amendment (Review) Bill 2020 seeks to amend the Marine Pollution Act 2012 to address recommendations made in a 2019 statutory review. The Act aims to protect NSW waters from pollution from vessels, consistent with Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Mr Farlow, Parliamentary Secretary, said that the bill would improve consistency in the coverage of vessels across NSW, as well as bringing inland waters such as estuaries and rivers under the purview of the Act. It would also strengthen the protection of NSW waters by expanding pollution management requirements to cover recreational vessels; introduce a new offence relating to defective sewage systems on boats; and align the Act with national and international best practice in shipping and port operations.

Mr Graham (Labor) indicated the Opposition’s support for the bill on the basis that the amendments arose directly from the statutory review. Mr Graham observed that amendments made to ensure consistency in the rules that govern pollution by vessels in both coastal and inland waters were “particularly welcome”. Ms Faehrmann (The Greens) also supported the bill, in particular the expansion of provisions of the Marine Pollution Act to apply to recreational vessels, for which there had been broad support from a range of stakeholders.

In committee of the whole, Mr Farlow moved four Government amendments to further align the provisions of the bill with MARPOL, by ensuring that sewerage and garbage administration requirements apply to vessels of the same size. The bill was read a third time and sent back to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Bill 2021 seeks to increase the penalties for common animal cruelty offences under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA). This includes raising the maximum penalties for both individuals and corporations across three categories: failing to provide food, drink or shelter; committing an act of cruelty; and committing an act of aggravated cruelty. Penalty Infringement Notice amounts would also be increased.

Mr Franklin, Parliamentary Secretary, said that in addition to putting in place a new penalty regime for those who negligently or deliberately cause harm to animals, the bill would provide courts the option to ban people convicted of serious animal cruelty offences from owning animals. This would close the gap between what is available under the POCTA and the Crimes Act 1900.

The Opposition did not oppose the bill, with Mr Veitch noting that penalties needed to be brought into line with those in other Australian jurisdictions. However, Mr Veitch noted that the changes made by the bill were limited only to the penalty regime, and there was a dire need for the Government to prioritise the revision of the entire legislative framework, as it was an old statute that was no longer fit for purpose.

Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) acknowledged that the bill would “take NSW from being one of the softest states on animal cruelty to one of the toughest”. She said that while her party supported the intent of the bill, she would introduce a number of amendments during committee of the whole.

Likewise, Ms Boyd (The Greens) indicated support for the bill but flagged her intention to move a series of amendments “to improve and strengthen it”. The Christian Democratic Party expressed support for the bill. Mr Banasiak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party) said his party did not support the bill, expressing concern over the costs and courses of action for those who may be accused of animal cruelty “whether it is true or not”.

The question on the second reading was agreed to and consideration in committee of the was whole set down for a future sitting day.

That’s all for Tuesday’s recap – stayed tuned for tomorrow’s report on an action-packed private members’ Wednesday.

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