On Wednesday 13 October, Private Members’ Day, four bills were introduced in the Legislative Council. Interspersed between 13 orders for papers and one other motion, members introduced bills addressing the funding independence of ICAC and other integrity bodies; the operation of animal breeding businesses; the public display of Nazi symbols; and an amendment to the NSW Constitution to enable members to attend meetings of Houses of Parliament remotely, by providing that a member is taken to be legally ‘present’ for the purposes of voting and being counted in a quorum. Read on for more…
ICAC and Other Independent Commissions Legislation Amendment (Independent Funding) Bill 2021
In November 2020, Mr Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) introduced the ICAC and Other Independent Commissions Legislation Amendment (Independent Funding) Bill 2020, which was passed in the Legislative Council, but defeated in the Legislative Assembly. On Wednesday, he reintroduced a similar bill as the ICAC and Other Independent Commissions Legislation Amendment (Independent Funding) Bill 2021.
Mr Borsak explained that the bill seeks to increase the independence of four integrity agencies, including the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, the New South Wales Electoral Commission, and the Ombudsman’s Office, by implementing the recommendations of a recent Public Accountability Committee inquiry (which you can read about here). While these agencies currently sit within the Premier and Cabinet portfolio cluster, so receive funding via ministerial allocation, the bill would see four key changes introduced: independent review of the annual unbudgeted submissions of each agency by the relevant parliamentary oversight committee; allocation of a set contingency fund to each agency within annual budgets to address any unbudgeted demands; direct allocation of funding to each agency via appropriation legislation, removing reliance on budget allocation via the relevant Minister; and removing all four agencies from the Premier and Cabinet cluster.
With the bill reintroduced in the Council, debate was adjourned for five calendar days – a standard procedure when a bill is first introduced, to provide members the opportunity to consult stakeholders.
Companion Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms) Bill 2021
The Companion Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms) Bill 2021, introduced by Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party), seeks to amend the Companion Animals Act 1998 to regulate the breeding of companion animals – most commonly dogs and cats. It would require businesses that breed and sell these animals to register with local councils, with an exception for breeders who have two or fewer female breeding dogs. Councils would be required to inspect these locations, and may not register a business if the owner has been found guilty of an animal cruelty offence anywhere in Australia, or if the facility holds more than 10 cats or dogs. The bill also grants enforcement powers to councils, as well as the NSW Police, RSPCA and Animal Welfare League to enter property and seize any dogs or cats held in breach of the aforementioned restrictions.
Ms Hurst said the bill was modelled on an effective system introduced in Victoria in 2017. She argued that the measures contained in the bill would create a robust regulatory system that will work toward an end to puppy farming in New South Wales. The debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021
The Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021 was introduced by Mr Secord (Labor). It would amend the Crimes Act 1900 to make the public display of Nazi symbols an offence, including use of the Nazi swastika (the ‘Hakenkreuz’ or hooked cross), the Nazi flag and other emblems and flags associated with the Nazi Party, the Third Reich or neo-Nazism. The maximum penalty set out in the bill for an individual is a $5,500 fine, six months’ imprisonment, or both. For a corporation, it is $55,000.
Mr Secord said the bill had been introduced in response to the rise of neo-Nazi activity in Australia, and its role in inciting hate behaviour and hate crimes. He said that there had been consultation with various communities and bodies in NSW and that, importantly, the bill would not apply to swastikas used in connection with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. He added that the proposed offence would also not apply if the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW was satisfied that the display of a Nazi symbol was ‘reasonable’ and done in good faith for ‘purposes in the public interest’ – such as in film or TV productions, in academic or debate contexts and similar.
Following the introduction of the bill, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
Constitution Amendment (Virtual Attendance) Bill 2021
Introduced by Mr Shoebridge (Greens), the Constitution Amendment (Virtual Attendance) Bill 2021 seeks to amend the Constitution Act 1902 to enable Members of Parliament to attend meetings of Houses of Parliament remotely, by providing that a member is taken to be legally ‘present’ for the purposes of voting and being counted in a quorum.
While you may have read about some of the innovative measures put in place to allow members to participate virtually (remotely) in some aspects of sitting, the resolution of the House authorising remote participation did not make provision for them to be counted for the purposes of determining whether a quorum exists (the minimum number of members required to constitute a meeting of the Council) or voting. The bill would facilitate full remote participation for members across all aspects of the House’s proceedings, including for the purposes of quorum and voting, provided that the Presiding Officer of the House had declared the existence of a public emergency, including a public health crisis, natural disaster, major accident, civil disturbance or act of terrorism, and determined that it is not safe or practicable for House to meet in person.
Mr Shoebridge said the bill would support the continuation of democracy and representation even during times of crisis, such as during the recent lockdown in response to the June 2021 Delta COVID-19 outbreak. The debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report (Ms Boyd, Greens)
Orders for papers
- Health advice provided to the Public Accountability Committee (Mr Graham, Labor) – due 3 November
- Transport Asset Holding Entity Of NSW (TAHE) – Further order (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 27 October
- Floodplain Harvesting – Further Order (Ms Faehrmann, Greens) – due 3 November
- NSW Generations Fund (Debt Retirement Fund) (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 20 October
- Water services for the Sydney Science Park proposal (Mr Latham, PHON) – due 3 November
- Luddenham rail line and station (Mr Latham, PHON) – due 20 October
- Westinvest fund (Mr Mookhey, Labor) – due 20 October
- Forestry operations in public forests – Further order (Mr Field, Independent) – due 20 October
- Agricultural workforce planning for the 2020 and 2021 harvest seasons (Mr Veitch, Labor) – due 3 November
- COVID-19 outbreaks within correctional facilities (Ms Moriarty, Labor) – due 3 November
- Classification of the Hon Brad Hazzard MP as a casual COVID-19 contact (Mr Latham, PHON) – due 3 November
- Hassall Developments Pty Ltd (Mrs Houssos, Labor) – due 20 October
- Briefing of the new Premier (Ms Sharpe, Labor) – due 10 November