The first March sitting week started with some milestone moments – the election of a new Deputy President, and a farewell to long-serving member and former President and minister the Hon Don Harwin. The House also agreed to two bills and agreed to a model for an Independent Compliance Officer. Keep reading for all the details!
ELECTION OF A NEW DEPUTY PRESIDENT
Following the resignation of former Deputy President Trevor Khan earlier this year, on Tuesday the Honourable Wes Fang (Nationals) was elected as the Council’s new Deputy President and Chair of Committees. As Mr Fang was the sole nominee, the proceedings to declare him elected were swift, but can be found in the Hansard record here.
Wondering what Mr Fang’s new role involves? When the President is absent, or requests the Deputy President to take the chair in the chamber, the Deputy exercises the same authority and has the same duties and powers as the President. Meanwhile, the Chair of Committees presides over the consideration of bills during the ‘committee of the whole’ stage – an important part of the legislative process explained simply in our article here.
In taking up his new title, Mr Fang vacated the post of Deputy Government Whip in the Council. It was subsequently reported that this position has been filled by the Honourable Scott Barrett (Nationals) who, as the newest member, signed the Roll of the House earlier in the day.
Valedictory Speech of The Honourable Don Harwin
On Tuesday evening, the Honourable Don Harwin (Liberal Party) gave his valedictory speech in the chamber, after announcing his intention to resign from the Council after 23 years of service. Of interest, departing members give their farewell address prior to formally submitting their resignation to Her Excellency the Governor of NSW, as once their resignation is received and accepted they can no longer speak from the floor of the chamber.
Pictured below, Mr Harwin delivered his valedictory to an audience of current and former colleagues, friends, and special guests including his parents and sisters. The transcript of his speech is available here. On concluding his speech, members and visitors in the galleries responded with a lengthy applause, a mark of the regard in which Mr Harwin was held by his colleagues following 23 years of service to the House.
First elected to the Upper House in 1999, Mr Harwin was President of the Legislative Council between 2011 and 2017, and most recently was Leader of the Government in the House. He is of course also the former Minister for the Arts, Aboriginal Affairs, and for the Public Service and Employee Relations, as well as the former Special Minister of State. A record of his career at the Parliament can be found here.
Independent Complaints Officer
Debate resumed on a motion to establish an Independent Complaints Officer for the Parliament, the motion having been originally introduced in November 2021. The model considered by the House reflects the findings of a recent report of the Legislative Council Privileges Committee.
The motion was unanimously supported by all parties, with members noting the work of the Privileges Committee and the Clerks in the development of the model adopted. A message was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly conveying the terms of the model proposed by the House, which that House will consider alongside a report of its own Privileges and Ethics Committee on a suitable model for an Independent Complaints Officer.
COVID-19 and Other Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Bill 2022
The COVID-19 and Other Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Bill 2022 amends various existing legislation to make permanent a number of temporary measures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include options for remote participation in a range of government and community activities and meetings, as well as more flexible access to long service leave. The bill also extends for another year special pandemic provisions in the Constitution Act 1902 which were due to expire, and amends the Interpretation Act 1987 in relation to tabling documents in Parliament.
With all parties supporting the legislation, the second and third readings of the bill were agreed to on the voices and the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
Health Legislation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2022
The Health Legislation (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2022 makes a range of amendments across the Health portfolio including COVID-19 provisions.
In her second reading speech, Ms Taylor (Nationals) explained amendments were required to a number of acts including Health Practitioner Regulation (Adoption of National Law) Act 2009, Private Health Facilities Act 2007, the Public Health Act 2010 and the Mental Health Act 2007. You can find the full second reading speech in Hansard. While all parties supported the bill, One Nation and the Greens foreshadowed they would move amendments in committee. Th second reading was agreed to on the voices.
In committee of the whole, Mr Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) and Mr Shoebridge (The Greens) moved one amendment each, that were the same, which was negatived on a division.
The House agreed to the third reading of the bill and it was returned to the Assembly without amendment.