The House was all systems go on Thursday – a Minister was called to give a special explanation to the House, a new member was elected, a new office holder appointed, a first speech given, the flood emergency was debated and a bill establishing the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust was passed following a contentious committee of the whole debate. Find out more below..
Attendance of the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads in his place
Thursday started with the President calling on Mr Farraway to attend in his place to explain his answer to a question asked in Question Time on 23 February 2022 regarding when , in his capacity as Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, he was briefed on the shutdown of the Sydney rail network.
The explanation was prompted by a motion agreed to the previous day, moved by Mr Graham (ALP), which sought to determine whether the answer given by Mr Farraway in question time aligned with evidence given in Budget Estimates by Transport for NSW representatives. The motion had called on the Minister to attend in his place at the commencement of business on Thursday to provide an explanation for his answer on 23 February 2022, including whether he misled the House.
New Temporary Chair of Committees – The Hon Adam Searle
President Matthew Mason-Cox informed the House that he had nominated the Hon Adam Searle (Labor) to act as a temporary Chair of Committees for the remainder of the parliament session.
Temporary Chairs act for the President, the Deputy President and the Assistant President on a temporary basis whenever required. In doing so, they exercise the same authority and have the same duties and powers as the President.
Joint sitting – Election of the Hon Chris Rath
Proceedings were interrupted at 10.30 am to hold a joint sitting of both Houses convened by Her Excellency the Governor to elect a new member to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of the Hon Don Harwin. (Mr Harwin had resigned on Wednesday – you can read about his valedictory speech in Tuesday’s blog.) At the joint sitting, Mr Christopher Rath of the Liberal Party was elected to be the newest member.
Inaugural Speech of the Honourable Scott Barrett
On Wednesday new member the Hon Scott Barrett (The Nationals) gave his first speech. Mr Barrett was elected to the Legislative Council to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of the Hon Trevor Khan in February.
First speeches, also known as inaugural speeches and formerly called ‘maiden’ speeches, are an important part of parliamentary life, a moment of achievement and a platform as new members step onto the parliamentary stage for the first time.
Mr Barrett particularly spoke to his commitment to regional NSW. The transcript of his speech can be found here
Disallowance motion – Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (Savings and Transitional Provisions) Regulation 2022
The House debated a motion moved by Mr David Shoebridge (The Greens) to disallow the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (Savings and Transitional Provisions) Regulation 2022. Mr Shoebridge argued that the regulation is ultra vires (beyond regulation making power) as it amends an Act of Parliament – the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997. The amendment would extend the period in which approvals can be granted under State environmental planning laws and in doing so, would delay the activation of protections that would otherwise apply to the Kosciusko National Park environment. You can read Mr Shoebridge’s speech in Hansard here and other contributions to the debate here. The motion was defeated on division, with most members voting against disallowing the regulation (5 ayes to 30 noes).
President’s ruling – Sub judice
The President gave a ruling on the sub judice convention, which relates to whether the House can debate matters before the courts.
During question time on Wednesday, Mr Latham took a point of order about questions and answers relating to the Member for Kiama that canvassed pending legal proceedings. The President had reserved his ruling. As a President’s ruling guides how the rules of the House will be interpreted in future, it is common practice for the President to reserve a ruling on a point of order for a future time. This gives the President time to consider past rulings, precedents and any other advice, in order to come to a considered opinion on a matter.
In giving his ruling on Thursday, the President noted a number of previous President’s rulings, observing that, while the House has an absolute privilege of debate, in practice members should observe the sub judice convention. This means they should refrain from making reference to matters before the courts where this could prejudice proceedings or harm specific individuals. However, the President noted further that just because a matter is before a court does not necessarily mean that aspects of it can’t be debated. In each case, the President will weigh the competing public interest in debate against any possible prejudice to the case, bearing in mind a general presumption that discussion should be allowed if possible.
Matter of Public Importance – Northern Rivers Floods and Government Response
Ms Faehrmann (The Greens) proposed a discussion on “The failure of the New South Wales Government’s emergency response during the Northern Rivers floods and the inadequacy of disaster recovery” as a matter of public importance. Matters of Public Importance allow the House to discuss the merits of an issue without the House having to vote on the matter at the conclusion of the discussion.
Mr Secord (Labor), Mr Franklin (Nationals), Ms Boyd (The Greens), Ms Jackson (Labor), Mr Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation), Ms Cusack (Liberal) and Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) contributed to the discussion. Find the full discussion in Hansard. With no requirement for a vote, on the discussion concluding the motion lapsed.
Order for Papers – Member for Kiama
Notwithstanding that Thursday was allocated to debate on Government Business, the House agreed to the suspension of standing and sessional orders to debate a private members’ business item standing in the name of Mr Graham (Labor) relating to an order for papers regarding the Member for Kiama. Mr Buttigieg (Labor) moved an amendment to the order to vary the scope the order, which the House agreed too. Although Mr Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) expressed concerns regarding the nature of the material sought in the order, the motion as amended was agreed to.
Greater Sydney Parklands Trust Bill 2021
Mr Mallard (Liberal) introduced the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust Bill 2021, having been agreed to by the Assembly in November 2021.The bill seeks to establish the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust, a trust and central agency to manage Callan Park, Centennial Park, Moore Park and Western Sydney Parklands. You can find Mr Mallard’s second reading speech explaining the intent of the bill in Hansard.
Consideration by the Council had been interrupted by the referral of the bill to a select committee in November 2021. The committee report was tabled on 21 February 2022, recommending that debate on the bill proceed and that the views of stakeholders as set out in the report be addressed during the debate in the House. You can read the full report here.
The Opposition, Greens, One Nation and Christian Democratic Party spoke to the bill in the second reading debate, with all but One Nation supporting the general intent of the bill but most foreshadowing they would move amendments in committee of the whole. The bill was agreed to on division (29 ayes to 3 noes).
In committee of the whole:
- Mr Latham (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation) moved 3 amendments, all of which were negatived
- Mr Graham (Labor) moved 28 amendments, 27 of which were agreed to and 1 of which was withdrawn,
- Mr Shoebridge (The Greens) moved 15 amendments on three sheets (here, here and here), 13 of which were agreed to and 2 of which were negatived, and
- Mr Mallard (Government) moved 10 amendments, all of which were agreed to.
Not all of the amendments on these sheets were agreed to, so make sure to check out the Hansard record to see which amendments were agreed to, the debate that took place and find the outcome of each individual vote.
The House agreed to the third reading of the bill and it was returned to the Assembly for consideration of the Council’s amendments.