Rounding out the first sitting week for 2022, Thursday began with a joint sitting with the Legislative Assembly, where a new member of the Legislative Council was elected. The House then went on debate a disallowance motion concerning floodplain harvesting, discuss school performance measures as a matter of public importance, and pass two bills. Read on for the details…
JOINT SITTING TO ELECT SCOTT BARRETT TO THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Regular proceedings were paused early in the day for a joint sitting of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. The sitting was convened to fill the seat in the Upper House left vacant on the resignation of the Hon Trevor Khan. The joint sitting elected Mr Scott Barrett of the Nationals as the newest member of the Council.
In the below photos of the joint sitting, which took place in the Upper House chamber, Mr Barrett can be seen sitting with his partner, Maryanne Hawthorn, in the gallery to left of President Matthew Mason-Cox and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Honourable Jonathan O’Dea.
DISALLOWANCE – WATER MANAGEMENT (GENERAL) AMENDMENT REGULATION 2021
On Thursday morning, the House also debated a motion to disallow the Water Management (General) Amendment Regulation 2021. The regulation amends the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 in relation to floodplain harvesting, by providing for licences for landholders to access floodplain harvesting and carving out exemptions from requirements of the Water Management Act 2000.
Mr Field (Independent), the mover of the motion, noted that the House had already disallowed similar regulations on two separate occasions and argued that the current regulation did not address previous concerns raised by members or other stakeholders. Ms Faehrmann (Greens), who had given notice of an identical disallowance motion, agreed the regulation did not address stakeholder concerns and that this was supported by evidence given to a select committee on floodplain harvesting last year. Ms Jackson (Labor) also spoke in favour of the disallowance while Mr Farraway (Nationals) argued licensing of floodplain harvesting is necessary to measure water take and the regulation should therefore remain in force. You can read the full debate in Hansard.
The House agreed to disallow the regulation on division, 18 ayes to 15 noes.
MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – PERFORMANCE MEASURES IN SCHOOLS
‘Matter of public importance’ debates allow members to discuss the merits of a particular issue, without the House having to vote on the matter at the end of the debate. Indeed, the only vote related to matters of public importance is whether the debate itself should proceed in the first instance.
Mr Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) proposed a debate on “the government’s failure to implement a consistent, rigorous and enforceable set of performance measures in NSW government schools” as a matter of public importance. The motion that debate on the issue proceed was agreed to on division (19 ayes to 17 noes), with Mr Latham and members from the Government, Opposition and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers contributing to the debate. With no requirement for a vote, on the debate concluding the motion lapsed. Find the full discussion in the Hansard record here.
ENVIRONMENT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2021
The Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 updates a number of longstanding environmental laws, including the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997, the Pesticides Act 1999, the Radiation Control Act 1990 and the Protection of the Environment Administration Act 1992. In his second reading speech, Mr Franklin (Nationals) explained that environmental protection laws need to be updated to address evolving criminal behaviours and new environmental issues, as well as to ensure penalties and enforcement powers are strong enough to prevent and address environmental crimes. Read the full second reading speech in Hansard.
A number of members from across the chamber spoke to the bill in the second reading debate. Most members who spoke expressed broad support for strengthening environmental protections and the powers of the Environment Protection Authority, though Mr Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), raised concerns about lack of consultation and the potential impact of the bill. The second reading was agreed to on the voices.
In committee of the whole, Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) moved five amendments which were negatived on the voices and Mr Borsak moved 12 amendments which were negatived on division. The House agreed to the third reading of the bill and it was returned to the Assembly without amendment.
PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURES BILL 2021
Introduced in October last year, the Public Interest Disclosures Bill 2021 establishes a new Act to provide protections for people making public interest disclosures of serious wrongdoing in the NSW public sector. Details can be found in our earlier blog here.
On Thursday, the Opposition and The Greens contributed to the second reading debate. With the second reading agreed to on the voices, the House resolved into committee of the whole to consider amendments. These were:
- Four Government amendments, moved by Minister Maclaren-Jones (all agreed to on the voices)
- Three Opposition amendments, moved by Mr Graham (all agreed to on the voices).
Following the committee stage, the bill as amended was read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence with the amendments. You can find the full second reading debate and committee-of-the-whole proceedings in the day’s Hansard record.