From the election of President to new bills and debate on an ICAC referral, here’s what happened during recent sittings of the Upper House





Wednesday, 24 March and Tuesday, 4 May

ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT

On Wednesday 24 March, the Clerk announced the resignation of the Hon John Ajaka as President and called for nominations for the office. The proceedings that followed will be explored further in blog posts in weeks to come. Those proceedings were unusual and at times tumultuous, with the sitting day beginning on 24 March concluding on the evening of Tuesday 4 May with the election of the Hon Matthew Mason-Cox (Liberal) as President.

Shortly after the election of Mr Mason-Cox the House proceeded to deal with a backlog of 57 items of business before adjourning at 12:30am on Wednesday 5 May.





Wednesday, 5 May

It was another busy Private Members’ Day, with 37 individual items listed for debate. All up, the House considered 28 items – including four bills, 10 orders for papers and one referral to ICAC. Keep reading to learn more, including just exactly what a ‘zombie licence’ is!





PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (CLEAN AIR) BILL 2021

Ms Abigail Boyd (Greens) introduced the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Clean Air) Bill 2021. With a focus on certain air impurities, this bill would amend the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 to set stricter emission concentration standards for coal-fired power stations.

In her second-reading speech, Ms Boyd said the bill had a clear intention to protect people’s health, by ensuring that remaining coal-fired power stations in New South Wales were made to clean up their act. The bill provides for concentration standards not to be exceeded for impurities including nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, solid particles and mercury.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





PETROLEUM (ONSHORE) AMENDMENT (CANCELLATION OF ZOMBIE PETROLEUM EXPLORATION LICENCES BILL 2021

The Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Cancellation of Zombie Petroleum Exploration Licences) Bill 2021 was introduced by Mr Justin Field (Independent).

While the word ‘zombie’ may conjure images of the shuffling undead, in this context ‘zombie licences’ refers to certain unused or expired petroleum exploration licences. The bill would amend the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 to provide that all exploration licences expire at the end of their term unless renewed beforehand, and that zombie licences, if still in effect due to a pending renewal application, cease to have effect and may not be renewed. The bill would not seek to prevent new licences from being issued.

In speaking to the second reading, Mr Field noted that currently, exploration licences that have technically expired remain in effect if a renewal application has been lodged, unless the renewal application is withdrawn by the licence holder, or until a determination to accept or reject the application is made by the relevant Minister. He observed that important agricultural land and water resources, together with contiguous forest and woodland in the Pilliga Forest, is currently covered entirely by expired coal seam gas licences.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





COAL AND GAS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (LIVERPOOL PLAINS PROHIBITION) BILL 2021

The Coal and Gas Legislation Amendment (Liverpool Plains Prohibition) Bill 2021 was introduced to by Ms Cate Faehrmann (Greens).

In respect to the Liverpool Plains area, the bill would prohibit both the granting of new mining authorisations under the Mining Act 1992, and new petroleum titles under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991.

Speaking to the second reading, Ms Faehrmann said that the bill would provide certainty to the communities and farmers of the Liverpool Plains and, more importantly, to the Gomeroi people, who are the traditional custodians of the area. Ms Faehrmann said the bill would see the refusal of any pending applications and renewals, and the cancellation of any previously approved authorisations or titles where mining or prospecting operations are yet to begin. The bill would also ensure that compensation would not be payable by or on behalf of the State as a result of any authorisations revoked.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





ICAC REFERRAL

In the morning, Mr John Graham (Labor) moved a motion to refer several matters relating to the Premier to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for investigation and report, and calling on the Legislative Assembly to pass a similar resolution or the Clerk of the Legislative Council to communicate the resolution to ICAC if the Assembly did not pass a resolution. These included the circumstances behind the approval of $30 million in funding for the Riverina Regional Conservatorium in Wagga Wagga and the role played by the Premier in this process.

The Government opposed the motion, with Mr Don Harwin asserting that funding for the Conservatorium went through all of the appropriate processes. Mr Mark Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) spoke in favour of the motion, saying that it was a legitimate role of the Council to pass such issues on to ICAC for investigation. Mr David Shoebridge (Greens) also supported the motion, describing it as necessary to ‘fill the evidentiary gap’ encountered by the Public Accountability Committee in its inquiry into the NSW government grants program.

The motion was agreed to on division (ayes: 24, noes: 16).

Later in the day, the Legislative Council received a message from the Legislative Assembly advising that it disagreed with the proposal to refer the matters to ICAC.





WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY AMENDMENT (INDUSTRIAL MANSLAUGHTER) BILL 2021

The Work Health and Safety Amendment (Industrial Manslaughter) Bill 2021, introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Adam Searle) seeks to amend the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to create two new offences relating to ‘industrial manslaughter’.  The first covers both individuals and corporations who, through negligent or reckless conduct, directly cause the death of a worker or other person at a workplace.

The second offence, punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment, relates to a senior officer of a business, such as a CEO, whose negligent or reckless conduct directly causes the death of a worker or other person at a workplace. Mr Searle distinguished this offence from one contained within the old Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, which allowed a senior officer of a company to be prosecuted solely because they held that office or role. Under Mr Searle’s bill, a senior officer is only personally liable if it is, in fact, their acts that caused the death of a worker.

Debate was adjourned for five calendar days.





ORDERS FOR PAPERS AGREED TO:

  • Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport Project (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 25 May
  • Sale of TAFE NSW campuses (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 1 June
  • Further order regarding the administration of icare (Mr Mookhey, Labor)– due 26 May
  • Monaro Farming Systems – Amendment to resolution (Mr Veitch, Labor) – paragraph (j) due Monday 10 May, outstanding documents due Wednesday 19 May
  • Water modelling within the Murray Darling Basin (Ms Faehrmann, Greens) – due 26 May
  • Incident in Lockyer Street, Goulburn (Mr Roberts, PHON) – due 19 May
  • James Busby High School (Mrs Houssos, Labor) – due 26 May
  • Core Integrity (Mr Shoebridge, Greens) – due 12 May
  • Eastlakes Shopping Centre Modification (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 26 May
  • Consultation paper entitled ‘Buying in NSW, Building a Future’ (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 26 May
  • Demerger proposals for both the Snowy Valleys Council and the Cootamundra Gundagai Shire Council (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 26 May
  • Alexandria Park Community School enrolments (Mr Searle, Labor) – due 26 May




The sitting week concluded on Thursday, 6 May – stay tuned for a separate blog post on this.

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