On Tuesday, the Council’s newest member, the Hon Peter Poulos, was formally sworn in! Members also debated two bills, as well as a censure motion relating to an order for papers regarding Parramatta Light Rail – see below for more.
NEW MEMBER SWORN – THE HONOURABLE PETER JOHN POULOS
Following his election to the Council in the previous sitting week, Mr Poulos (Liberal) was sworn in as the Council’s newest member. Present in the gallery were members of Mr Poulos’ family, including his wife Vicki, three children Maria, John and Christina and brother Emmanuel, who watched on as Mr Poulos took the Pledge of Loyalty before the President and signed the Roll of the House – the official ‘roll’ of members.
SUSPENSION OF STANDING ORDERS – CENSURE OF THE LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT
Later in the day, Mr Mookhey successfully moved a motion to suspend standing and sessional orders to bring on debate on a motion to censure the Leader of the Government, the Hon Don Harwin, for the Government’s failure to provide documents relating to an order for papers regarding Stages 1 and 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail Project.
The motion called on Mr Harwin to provide the documents by 9.30 am on Wednesday 12 May and, in the event the documents were not provided, to attend in his place to explain why. The motion also provided that if the documents were not provided, it would be open to the House to immediately adjudge Mr Harwin guilty of contempt and to suspend him from the service of this House.
Speaking to the censure motion, Mr Mookhey said that although the Government had previously provided some documents on a ‘voluntary’ basis in response to this order (discussed in an earlier version of this blog), he was still seeking unredacted versions of these documents, as required under standing order 52. Mr Mookhey repeated his call that the Government comply with the orders previously made by the House and provide the two business cases.
In response, Mr Harwin reiterated statements made previously that, in the view of the Government, the New South Wales Court of Appeal has determined that the House’s power to compel the production of documents does not extend to Cabinet information. Moreover, Mr Harwin said that providing such documents risks adversely impacting commercial negotiations forming part of the project and for this reason, only redacted versions of the document had been provided.
The motion was agreed to on division, 23 ayes to 17 noes with the Government and Reverend Nile opposing the motion.
REAL PROPERTY AMENDMENT (CERTIFICATES OF TITLE) BILL 2021
The Real Property Amendment (Certificates of Title) Bill 2021, introduced by Mr Martin (Parliamentary Secretary) on behalf of Minister Tudehope, would make changes to the Real Property Act 1900 in relation to certificates of title and electronic conveyancing. These include removing provisions in the Act that restrict the use of electronic conveyancing, and that require land owners to produce and rely on paper certificates of title in conveyancing transactions. The bill would also remove requirements under the Act for the Registrar-General to issue certificates of title and record certificates of title, and would make other related changes.
Speaking to the second reading, Mr Martin said these changes would remove paper-based processes and complete the transition of the NSW land titles system to a wholly digital system. He said in eliminating certificates of title and moving to paperless approaches, the bill would focus reliance on the integrity of the Torrens Title Register as the complete and accurate record of land ownership in the state.
During debate, Mr Mookhey said the Opposition did not oppose the bill. While noting the concerns of some stakeholders, he said that it was appropriate for legislation to adapt with a world that is increasingly reliant on online services.
Ms Boyd said that The Greens supported the bill. Like Mr Mookhey, she acknowledged some concerns – including that the transition to a digital conveyancing system be ‘secure and safe’ – but noted these were ancillary to the bill itself.
The bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
MANDATORY DISEASE TESTING BILL 2020
The Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020, introduced by Mr Farlow (Parliamentary Secretary) on behalf of Minister Tudehope, would require mandatory blood tests to be undertaken on a person who deliberately caused their bodily fluids to come into contact with a health, emergency or public sector worker.
Speaking for the Opposition, Mr Graham said that his party would not oppose the bill but foreshadowed that amendments would be proposed in committee of the whole. He also acknowledged that assaults on emergency and frontline workers were a concern but called on the Government to explain how this bill will work in practice.
Reverend Nile (Christian Democratic Party) and Mr Roberts (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) indicated that they would support the bill, reiterating the need to protect the health and wellbeing of frontline workers. Mr Shoebridge indicated that the Greens strongly opposed the bill, raising concerns that the bill would affect marginalised groups such as members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Ms Hurst also indicated the Animal Justice Party’s opposition to the bill on the basis that it would not provide any ‘real assistance’ to frontline workers, given that many blood borne diseases are not detectable for months after transmission.
The House resolved into committee of the whole to consider amendments put forward by the Government, Greens, Opposition, Animal Justice Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. These amendments sought to make various changes, including amending the commencements dates of various provisions within the bill, ensuring the testing date for a blood sample to be taken from a person is at least one business day after an order is served on them and raising the age limits for tests. The bill was required to be considered clause by clause, rather than as a whole, as leave was not granted to consider amendments in the more flexible way that most bills are considered. After considering the first five clauses of the bill, the House adjourned at midnight, as required under sessional order. Debate on the remaining amendments was set down as an order of the day for a future day.
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