Final reports for a number of parliamentary inquiries have been released over the last several weeks, signalling the wrap-up of seven Upper House investigations into significant issues and bills, plus the finalisation of the Budget Estimates inquiries for 2020/21.
Read on to learn more, or use the links below to jump straight to the inquiries you want to read about:
- Gay and transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010
- High level of First Nations people in custody and oversight and review of deaths in custody
- Review of the NSW school curriculum
- Long-term sustainability of the dairy industry in NSW
- 2020 review of the workers compensation scheme
- Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020
- Provisions of the Firearms and Weapons Legislation Amendment (Criminal Use) Bill 2020
- Budget Estimates 2020/21
GAY AND TRANSGENDER HATE CRIMES BETWEEN 1970 AND 2010
Established in October 2019, this inquiry saw the Standing Committee on Social Issues shine a strong light on gay and transgender hate crimes that occurred between 1970 and 2010. It continued a 2018 inquiry begun under the previous parliament, and was established following a landmark community report into historical crimes by ACON titled In Pursuit of Truth and Justice, and the Strikeforce Parrabell report released by the NSW Police Force. Visit the inquiry’s webpage here.
The final report was released in early May and can be read in full here. Its key recommendation is that the NSW Government establish a judicial inquiry – or other form of expert review – to inquire into unsolved cases of suspected gay and transgender hate crime deaths. It also calls for adequate victim support services for both survivors of historical crimes, and for people who have lost a loved one to these crimes.
The report ultimately acknowledges the pain and trauma many people from sexuality- and gender-diverse communities in NSW have experienced as result of historical hate crimes, and its recommendations to the NSW Government are intended to help those affected in seeking support and justice.
HIGH LEVEL OF FIRST NATIONS PEOPLE IN CUSTODY AND OVERSIGHT AND REVIEW OF DEATHS IN CUSTODY
This inquiry began in mid-2020 to inquire into the high level of First Nations people in custody in NSW – and in particular, the oversight bodies that play a role in this space. As part of this, the select committee (established just for this inquiry) also looked at the oversight and review of deaths of First Nations peoples in custody. Visit the webpage for the First Nations inquiry here.
Tabled in April, on the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the committee’s report can be seen here. It highlights the systemic and entrenched disadvantages faced by First Nations communities that contribute to disproportionate rates of incarceration, and makes nearly 40 recommendations for the government’s consideration.
The committee’s recommendations are aimed at diverting First Nations people away from the criminal justice system but, importantly, also call upon the NSW Government to address underlying disadvantages in areas including health, housing, employment and education. They also call for legislative reforms, specialist courts, screening and support services within correctional centres and more.
Importantly, the report identifies the need for further review of the coronial system, with the committee noting significant delays in inquests. And indeed, shortly after the evidence of this inquiry was released, the Upper House commenced a new inquiry into the coronial jurisdiction in NSW. Read about the new inquiry here.
REVIEW OF THE NSW SCHOOL CURRICULUM
Conducted by the Education Committee, this inquiry was established to closely examine the 2020 independent review of the NSW school curriculum that was commissioned by the NSW Government and conducted by Professor Geoff Masters. Find all details of the inquiry here.
The report, released in April, can be viewed in full here. It provides a critique of the conclusions and recommendations of the Masters review, and makes 33 of its own recommendations to the government to help improve learning outcomes in NSW schools.
The report’s foundational recommendation is that the government “give greater priority to the most effective ways for teachers to teach, and reiterate its commitment to best practice, evidence-based approaches”. Recommendations range from strategies to ‘declutter’ the curriculum to narrowing the gap between syllabus intentions and what is actually taught in classrooms, plus subject-specific reorientation. A key theme is concentrating schooling on the foundational skills such as literacy and numeracy.
Of note, the back of the report includes statements of dissent from three of the committee’s seven members, relating to the report’s overall position.
LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY OF THE DAIRY INDUSTRY IN NSW
Following an earlier inquiry in 2018, this Industry Committee inquiry began in mid-2020. It explored the long-term sustainability of the state’s dairy industry, including the role of the NSW Department of Primary Industries and other government agencies in supporting the sector. Visit the inquiry’s webpage here.
Find the committee’s final report here. Released in May, its acknowledges the challenges the dairy industry faces on a number of fronts, from attracting new people into the industry, to environmental conditions and events, to market and pricing issues.
The report makes eight recommendations for the NSW Government to consider in supporting the industry’s viability, profitability and long-term sustainability. These include working with the Australian Government to refine the Dairy Industry Code of Conduct and investigating other measures to improve the dairy milk pricing environment, as well as finalising the New South Wales Dairy Industry Action Plan. Further, the report recommends support for new dairy farmers entering the industry, such as additional funding for traineeships.
Of note, the report also contains two statements of dissent from committee members.
2020 REVIEW OF THE WORKERS COMPENSATION SCHEME
The Law and Justice Committee conducts regular reviews of the workers compensation scheme in NSW. These reviews look at overall operation and performance to ensure the scheme is working effectively and providing appropriate support to injured workers. Find all information on the 2020 review here.
The 2020 review report was published at the end of April. It focuses on government agency icare, which manages the state’s Nominal Insurer and Treasury Managed Funds – accounting for some 85 per cent of claims in the workers compensation system.
With 22 key findings and nine recommendations, the report highlights the deteriorating financial position of these funds, and details concerns relating to icare’s operations, particularly in relation to leadership, governance and culture. It calls for a range of actions, from an independent review of icare’s claims management model by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, to implementing administrative efficiencies and operational improvements to improve the state of the Nominal Insurer and the Treasury Managed Fund schemes.
The report also requests that icare provide an update to the committee by the end of 2021 detailing actions being taken to address the issues identified with performance, both operationally and financially.
The committee will hold a hearing later this year to review the situation.
MANDATORY DISEASE TESTING BILL 2020
Through this inquiry, the Law and Justice Committee took a close look at the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020. The bill was introduced to the Legislative Assembly in November 2020 and to the Upper House in early 2021, calling for a scheme for mandatory blood testing of a person if – as a result of deliberate action – that person’s blood comes into contact with a health, emergency or public sector worker, who may be at risk of contracting a blood-borne disease as a result. Visit the inquiry’s webpage here.
At the end of April, the inquiry’s final report was released. It notes that during the course of the inquiry, the committee heard evidence from a range of witnesses, who raised a number of issues, questions and considerations for the parliament to consider.
For example, there were some stakeholders – such as those representing police and correctional service workers – who called for mandatory disease testing as a way to help alleviate anxiety in workers who have been involved in a potential ‘exposure incident’, even where the risk of disease transmission is low. Other stakeholders, including some medical and legal professionals, raised questions about whether a mandatory testing scheme was necessary, while there were also concerns raised regarding the infringement on civil liberties, and the ethical concerns involved in mandatory blood testing.
With the report’s singular recommendation being that the Upper House proceed with debate on the bill – and consider stakeholder concerns in doing so – the bill was debated in the House in mid-May. You can read an overview of the debate, including amendments moved by members, in our blog post here.
The bill was ultimately passed in the Upper House and returned to the Legislative Assembly for progression.
PROVISIONS OF THE FIREARMS AND WEAPONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CRIMINAL USE) BILL 2020
Conducted by the Legal Affairs Committee, this inquiry examined the provisions of the Firearms and Weapons Legislation Amendment (Criminal Use) Bill 2020. This bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly in early 2020, with the Upper House inquiry getting underway shortly thereafter. The bill intends to amend the Firearms Act 1996, the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 and the Firearms Regulation 2017 to introduce new offences to deter the illegal manufacture of firearms and firearm parts, and to clarify police powers when conducting firearms prohibition order searches.
The committee’s report was published in late April and can be seen in full here. It makes nine recommendations for members of the Upper House to consider when debating the bill (noting that at the time of writing, the bill was still awaiting introduction in the Upper House).
The report’s first recommendation is that the bill should not be passed by the Upper House in its current form, and only passed with substantial amendments – with those amendments making up the rest of the committee’s recommendations. In the report, the committee notes that while it supported the intentions of the bill, the recommendations were developed to address concerns that the bill would adversely affect law-abiding firearm owners and that proposed penalties were significantly more severe than similar offences in other NSW legislation.
When the bill is debated in the Upper House, stay tuned for updates on Twitter (follow us at @nsw_upperhouse) and here on the blog.
Each year, Upper House committees undertake hearings to scrutinise the government’s projected spending. One hearing is held for each minister and their portfolios, and there’s an additional hearing to examine the President of the Legislative Council. You can learn more about Budget Estimates in this simple blog post, which we published at the start of the 2020/21 process.
Unlike ‘regular’ inquiries, Budget Estimates centres on public hearings – and when the process wraps up, the final reports don’t detail ‘findings’ and ‘recommendations’ in the traditional way. Instead, the reports (there’s one produced by each Upper House Portfolio Committee) document the key issues raised during the hearings. They also point readers to further details, such as full transcripts, tabled documents and answers provided after the hearings.
Click through to each of the seven reports, all released in May, below:
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Premier and Finance Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 1). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Special Minister of State, Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts
- Finance and Small Business
- Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney
- The Legislature
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Health Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 2). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Health and Medical Research
- Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Education Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 3). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Education and Early Childhood Learning
- Skills and Tertiary Education
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Industry Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 4). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade
- Agriculture and Western New South Wales
- Water, Property and Housing
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Legal Affairs Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 5). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Attorney General and Prevention of Domestic Violence
- Police and Emergency Services
- Counter Terrorism and Corrections
- Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans
- Families, Communities and Disability Services
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Transport and Customer Service Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 6). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Regional Transport and Roads
- Transport and Roads
- Customer Service
- Better Regulation and Innovation
- Budget Estimates 2020/21 report of the Planning and Environment Committee (Portfolio Committee No. 7). This report covers the following portfolios…
- Planning and Public Spaces
- Energy and Environment
- Local Government