Thursday saw two significant events take place in the House – the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 passed the final stages, and the House debated and adopted the first revised standing orders in 18 years. A number of new bills were also introduced by the Government, and one bill was passed. Let’s take a look to see how these historic events unfolded…
Procedure Committee – Review of Standing and Sessional Orders
Standing orders aren’t something that interests everyone – they were described (fondly) in debate this week as “arcane” and “nerdy” – but they matter because they can be used by members to debate policy, discover what was meant to be hidden, question decisions and bring about change. They set a framework to resolve conflicting political interests in an orderly and (usually) civil way.
On Thursday, a six-month process of review of the standing orders (see our previous blog for further context) came to a conclusion with a debate to adopt new standing orders for a six-month trial until the October sittings. The report on the review made 89 recommendations for change to the existing standing orders. Some of these were adopting changes which have been used as temporary measures (sessional orders) for many years, and many were modifications of the many innovations which were initiated in 2019 by the larger crossbench and the Opposition following the election. Other changes were simply to make proceedings work more smoothly with less complex motions, and doing away with standing orders that are outdated or no longer useful (although standing order 117, requiring a member to “be covered” when taking a point of order in divisions remains… but that’s for another day!). The most popular new standing order is predicted to be the one which changes the “hard adjournment” at midnight to 10pm each sitting day.
When Minister Tudehope (Liberals) as Leader of the Government moved the proposed standing orders be adopted, a debate ensued in which four more changes were made. The first was a technical change by Ms Boyd (The Greens) to give more flexibility to a deadline for members to request their notices be considered in formalities at the start of the next sitting day. The second was to reduce the time for government responses to committee reports from six months currently to three months, and was moved by Mr Banasiak (Shooters Farmers and Fishers Party).
The Leader of the Government, Ms Sharpe (Labor), also moved an amendment aimed at improving the preparation of bills, which requires Ministers to present a “Statement of Public Interest” (see this report of the Procedure Committee for more on these statements and their purpose) or face the risk of a member moving a motion that the bill not proceed or be referred to a committee. Finally, the Leader of the Government moved an amendment to standing order 52, which is aimed at protecting the privacy of ministerial staffers making a complaint under the Respectful Workplace policy by not requiring such documents to be returned in an order for papers.
All four amendments were agreed to without division, reflecting the consensus approach taken through the review.
The revised orders will come into effect from 7 June when the House resumes sitting, and will be reviewed after the trial period with further changes possible. The Procedure Committee has recommended that following this the new standing orders are to be presented to the Governor for approval in November, ready to be used in the next Parliament. This will be only the fourth time in an almost 200-year history for a new set of standing orders to be adopted by the Legislative Council.
Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021
Consideration of amendments to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 continued in committee of the whole on Thursday. To recap previous consideration of this bill, check out our Wednesday blog here.
Minister Mitchell (Nationals) and Mr Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) moved one amendment each that sought to require reporting on palliative care spending. While the amendment of Mr Borsak was negatived, 14 ayes to 20 noes, the amendment of Minister Mitchell was agreed to on the voices.
After a short debate the House divided on the question on the third reading. As the result was in the affirmative (23 ayes to 15 noes), the bill was returned to the Assembly with amendments. Later in the day, the House received a message from the Assembly agreeing with the Council’s amendments. The bill will now move to the assent process to become law, but the act will not commence until 18 months after assent. To read more on this process, see our previous blog entry for assent when a bill becomes an act.
Motor Accidents and Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2021
The Motor Accidents and Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 seeks to amend motor accidents and workers compensation legislation, and amend the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015 and the Personal Injury Commission Act 2020.
The amendments proposed by the bill cover five broad themes: firstly, improving customer experience, scheme efficiency, fairness and equity; secondly, improving access to compensation entitlements for injured workers, certain volunteers and people injured in motor vehicle accidents and their dependents; thirdly, expanding and clarifying existing regulation-making powers including provisions related to point to point vehicles; fourthly, establishing new powers for the State Insurance Regulatory Authority to enable better regulation of providers of treatment and other services in the workers compensation and compulsory third party (CTP) insurance schemes; and fifthly, supporting the establishment of the Personal Injury Commission. You can find the parliamentary secretary’s second reading speech and other members’ contributions in Hansard.
Following the second reading being agreed on the voices, the House resolved into committee of the whole to consider two amendments moved by Mr Roberts (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation), which were agreed to on the voices. While Greens amendments were also circulated, they ultimately were not moved, having been circulated by Mr Shoebridge who had since resigned his seat.
The third reading of the bill was also agreed to on the voices, and the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly for consideration of the Council amendments.
Disability Inclusion Amendment Bill 2022
The Disability Inclusion Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced to the House on Thursday by Mr Martin on behalf of Minister Maclaren-Jones (Liberals). The bill implements the recommendations made in the report of the Statutory Review of the Disability Inclusion Act 2014, which was tabled in Parliament in November 2020. The changes include removing obsolete provisions following the implementation in NSW of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and ensuring disability inclusion plans prepared by state and public authorities are regularly reviewed, remade and made accessible to people with disability. You can read the second reading speech in Hansard.
According to standing order, following the parliamentary secretary’s speech, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
Firearms Legislation Amendment Bill 2022
The House agreed to the second reading of the bill on the voices, then resolved into committee of the whole to consider amendments. These were:
- Four Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party amendments moved by Mr Borsak (all negatived across four separate divisions)
- Two Greens amendments, moved by Ms Higginson (both negatived on the voices).
Following the committee stage, the House divided on the third reading of the bill, which was resolved in the affirmative (27 ayes to 4 noes. The bill was returned to the Assembly without amendment.
Children’s Guardian Amendment Bill 2022 and Child Protection (working with Children) Amendment Bill 2022 (cognate bills)
Parliamentary secretary Mr Martin on behalf of Minister Maclaren-Jones (Liberals) introduced two cognate bills relating to child safety: the Children’s Guardian Amendment Bill 2022 and the Child Protection (working with Children) Amendment Bill 2022.
The Children’s Guardian Amendment Bill 2022 seeks to enhance the work of the Office of the Children’s Guardian as a child safe authority by addressing reform in four key areas. Firstly, designated agencies and adoption service providers will be brought within the scope of the Child Safe Scheme. The scheme requires certain organisations to implement the Child Safe Standards, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in their systems, policies and processes. The scheme also provides the Office of the Children’s Guardian power to monitor, investigate and enforce these Child Safe Standards. Secondly, concepts of voluntary out-of-home care and registered agencies will be removed and replaced with specialised substitute residential care and related provisions. Thirdly, a range of provisions relating to various registers required under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 will be clarified and updated. Fourthly, the accreditation framework for designated agencies and adoption service providers will be consolidated in the Act.
The cognate Child Protection (Working with Children) Amendment Bill 2022 implements key recommendations of the Royal Commission to ensure that NSW is a leader in child safe legislative and operational best practice, and also makes a number of miscellaneous amendments to enhance operational efficiency and secure swift, effective decisions to promote the safety of children.
Following the parliamentary secretary’s second reading speech, according to standing order, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
Government Telecommunications Amendment Bill 2022
The Government Telecommunications Amendment Bill 2022 seeks to make amendments to the Government Telecommunications Act 2018. These amendments will support the rollout of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP) by addressing delays encountered by the NSW Telco Authority in accessing land to assess suitability of potential sites, accessing other government infrastructure for collocation or integration to the Public Safety Network, and in accessing land where there is infrastructure owned by the NSW Telco Authority.
The Public Safety Network provides vital communications infrastructure that ensures the ongoing safety of people and places across NSW, so an expanded CCEP network will ensure NSW emergency service organisations have the critical infrastructure required to protect communities during emergencies and natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods. Completion of this statewide rollout will in turn deliver the final Public Safety Network land coverage of 85 per cent, reaching 99.7 per cent of the population.
You can find the parliamentary secretary’s second reading speech together with contributions made by other members to debate here via Hansard. Following the second and third readings of the bill being agreed to on the voices, the bill was returned to the Assembly without amendment.