Thursday’s sitting saw a number of significant events take place: the House farewelled long-serving Greens member David Shoebridge; the Procedure Committee tabled its recommended new standing orders for the House following only the fourth full review in 166 years; and the House commenced debate on the Roads and Crimes Legislation Bill… which in turn, at close to midnight, prompted a decision to recall the House on Friday to enable members to complete their consideration of over 40 amendments in committee of the whole. Find all the details here…

Procedure Committee – Review of Standing and Sessional Orders

Something big happened on Thursday morning – the Procedure Committee tabled it’s report on a complete review of the Council’s standing orders. This is only the fourth such review in 166 years!

The committee’s review sought to tweak and incorporate some of the effective new procedures trialled over the course of the current parliament; make some practical amendments and housekeeping updates; and remove the small number of rules that have been obsolete or suspended since the last review of the standing orders in 2004.

The changes made canvass a range of key processes in the House, from new procedures to allow members to co-sponsor bills, to removing the old ‘chook raffle’ system for prioritising private members’ business in favour of the new ‘Business Committee’ selection process coordinated by the Government Whip in recent years. You can find a summary of all the changes in the report and they will also be the focus of a special edition blog in April.

Home Building Amendment (Medical Gas Licensing) Bill 2022

The Home Building Amendment (Medical Gas Licensing) Bill 2022 amends the Home Building Act 1989 to extend the transitional arrangements of medical gas licensing from 1 May 2022 until 30 September 2022. This was necessitated in part because updated licensing qualifications that required key face-to-face teaching components were unable to be delivered due to COVID-19 restrictions in the last year. The amendment is intended to prevent shortages of eligible personnel being able to undertake work related to medical gas systems.

The bill was introduced to the House on Wednesday and after contributions to the second reading debate were heard from the Opposition, the Greens and the Christian Democratic Party, who supported the bill, the bill was read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment. Find details of the second reading speech and debate in the Hansard.

DISALLOWANCE – ROADS AMENDMENT (MAJOR BRIDGES AND TUNNELS) REGULATION 2022

On Thursday morning – following a division on a procedural motion that the disallowance proceed forthwith (19 ayes to 17 noes) – the House debated a disallowance of the Roads Amendment (Major Bridges and Tunnels) Regulation 2022, moved by Ms Boyd (The Greens). The regulation amends the Roads Act 1993 to make it an offence to disrupt any bridge or tunnel across Greater Sydney, and not just the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the Act has originally provided for.

Members from The Greens and the Animal Justice Party spoke in support of the disallowance and members from the Government, Opposition and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation spoke against it, as seen in the split Hansard record here, here and here. Following a further division, with 4 ayes and 33 noes, the disallowance was not agreed to.

Of note, some members spoke of the connection between this regulation and the Roads & Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which was debated later in the sitting. Keep reading for more on this bill and the many procedural points of interest it raised…

VALEDICTORY SPEECH OF MR DAVID SHOEBRIDGE

On Thursday evening, proceedings were interrupted for Mr David Shoebridge (The Greens) to give his valedictory speech in the chamber to an audience of colleagues, friends and family, signalling an end to his nearly 12 years of service on the Council. Mr Shoebridge had earlier flagged his intention to resign in order to run as the lead Greens candidate for the Senate in the upcoming Federal Election.

Mr Shoebridge was elected to the Upper House in 2010, and details of his NSW Parliament career – including his active committee membership – can be found here. Meanwhile, the full transcript of his farewell address can be read in the Hansard record.

At the conclusion of his valedictory, Mr Shoebridge received a resounding standing ovation from members of the Council and audience members in the chamber galleries.

Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

Consideration of the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 was the focus of  Thursday evening and all of Friday. It was a controversial and procedurally interesting bill, with 12 different sheets of amendments, multiple instructions to committee of the whole, and the House returning on Friday, a day not previously planned as a sitting day, to finalise its consideration.

The bill aims to amend the Roads Act 1993 and the Crimes Act 1900 to create two new offences for actions that cause damage or seriously disrupt or obstruct major roads or facilities. The new offences would carry a maximum penalty of $22,000 or two years imprisonment, or both, and will extend to bridges and tunnels across the state (having previously been restricted to the Sydney Harbour Bridge). The House heard that the bill had been prompted by recent protests that have caused major disruptions to the transport network, including protests blocking access to Port Botany and surrounding roads, and the Spit Bridge. The Minister for Metropolitan Roads observed that “the right to protest must be weighed against the right of other members of the public to move freely and not be obstructed in public places”.

On receiving the bill from the Legislative Assembly and reading it a first time, the House agreed on division (35 ayes to 4 noes) to declare the bill urgent, which would allow the bill to proceed through all stages in one sitting. During the second reading debate most members were broadly supportive, but some foreshadowed amendments. However, the Greens and the Animal Justice Party were opposed to the bill.

During the second reading debate, Mr Shoebridge (The Greens) moved that the bill be referred to Portfolio No. 6 – Transport for inquiry. The motion was defeated on division (4 ayes to 31 noes) before the second reading of the bill was agreed to, also on division (31 ayes to 4 noes).

Before going into committee of the whole, the House first debated a motion of Minister Ward (Liberal) that would instruct the committee to consider Opposition and some Pauline Hanson’s One Nation amendments in a certain order. Under standing order 179, the House may give the committee of the whole an instruction to consider matters not otherwise referred to it, or extend or restrict its authority. (Instructions are most commonly used to authorise the committee to consider amendments not within the scope of the bill. You can read more on instructions in our explainer blog here.)

Mr Shoebridge and Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) moved amendments to the instruction motion so that certain Greens and Animal Justice Party amendments would be included. Their amendments to the instruction were agreed to on the voices and the amended instruction was then agreed to on division (32 ayes to 4 noes).

The House then went into committee of the whole. Here’s where it gets really interesting. Leave was not granted to consider the bill as a whole, so the House came back out of committee to debate another instruction. Let’s unpack that a bit. The traditional way to consider a bill is to do so clause-by-clause, which means there is a vote on every clause of the bill. Not surprisingly, this can be a very long process. So to expedite consideration, the House can instead consider each bill ‘as a whole’. But! When the motion to consider the bill ‘as a whole’ was defeated by The Greens, it impacted the order of consideration that had been applied by the instruction to the committee. In effect, the special order in which the Opposition and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation amendments were to be considered would only apply when the committee reached the relevant clause in the bill. So debate would take much longer than hoped.

After a short debate about this technicality, members agreed on division (32 ayes to 4 noes) to come back out of committee and that any further motions to resolve out of committee could only be moved by the Leader of the Government. Mr Tudehope (Liberal) then moved a second instruction that the bill be taken as a whole. Ms Boyd (The Greens) moved an amendment to this motion which was defeated on division (4 ayes to 32 noes) and the House agreed to Mr Tudehope’s second instruction, also on division (32 ayes to 4 noes).

When the House resolved back into committee, the bill was taken as a whole and members debated amendments in the order set out in the first instruction.

Prior to midnight, the committee adjourned debate and the House agreed to a ‘special adjournment’, on the motion of Mr Tudehope, agreeing to meet again at 10am the next day to continue consideration of the bill.

On the next day, Friday, consideration in committee in the following amendments resumed:

  • The Greens moved 19 amendments, of which 18 were negatived and 1 withdrawn
  • The Animal Justice Party moved 11 amendments, of which were all negatived
  • The Opposition moved 8 amendments, of which 4 were agreed to and 4 were negatived, with one of the Opposition amendments also successfully amended by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
  • Pauline Hanson’s One Nation moved 2 amendments, of which 1 was agreed to and 1 was negatived. 

Debate on these amendments proceeded over five hours!

Following debate on the motion to read the bill for the third time, the motion was agreed to on a division (23 ayes to 4 noes) and the bill was returned the Assembly for consideration of the Council amendments. The Assembly agreed to the amendments later on Friday.

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