With Thursday being a government business day, the House concluded consideration of three important pieces of legislation and a condolence motion acknowledging the passing of former President the Hon Max Willis RFD. But being the Council, members also debated a matter of public importance moved by The Greens and engaged in an unusual debate on the procedural motions for the scheduling of a private members’ bill… find it all in today’s blog.
Matter of public importance
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.
On Thursday, Ms Boyd (The Greens) proposed that the House debate the energy crisis and its impact on cost-of-living pressures. The motion that the matter of public importance proceed forthwith was agreed to on the voices, and contributions to the debate were made by members of the Government, Opposition, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Mr Justin Field (Independent). With no requirement for a vote, on the debate concluding the motion lapsed. You can find the full record of debate in Hansard.
Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022… and the first Statement of Public Importance agreed to
Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bills are a convenient way for the Government to make minor amendments to a broad range of Acts in one bill. This approach has been adopted by successive governments for over 35 years, with the bills recognised as a necessary mechanism for keeping NSW’s statutory regime up to date. The bill is usually split into similar sections: minor policy amendments are made in Schedule 1; minor technical or typographical changes to legislation deemed necessary by the Parliamentary Counsel are set out in Schedule 2; and Schedule 3 contains general savings, transitional and other provisions.
The Government reassured the House that, consistent with established practice, the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 made only minor and uncontroversial amendments, with Schedule 1 making three policy changes. First, an amendment to the Public Works and Procurement Act 1912 to allow the Minister or Constructing Authority to delegate certain functions in a way that was said to better reflect modern government practices. Secondly, an amendment to the Subordinate Legislation Act 1989 to postpone the automatic repeal of four statutory rules. Thirdly, an amendment to the Western Sydney University Act 1997 to enable a member of the Board of Trustees to be appointed by the board to preside at committee meetings.
During debate members also observed that this was the first occasion on which a ‘Statement of Public Interest’ (SPI) had been tabled – a new requirement under the proposed Standing Orders adopted by the House (see this report of the Procedure Committee for more on these statements and their purpose). Ms Sharpe observed that the SPI answered key questions as to the objective of the bill, why it was specifically in the public interest and even the timetable and steps for the policy’s rollout – matters that were not otherwise always addressed as a matter of course.
The second and third readings of the bill were agreed to on the voices and the bill returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
Condolence motion – the Hon Max Frederick Wills RFD
In accordance with a conduct of business motion agreed to the previous day, at 3.00 pm on Thursday proceedings were interrupted to enable a condolence motion regarding the Hon Max Frederick Willis RFD to be given precedence. The motion, taken up by Mr Mallard following Mr Harwin’s recent resignation, placed on record the deep sense of the loss sustained to the state and the House by the death of Mr Willis, who was a member of the House from 1970 to 1999. Mr Willis was also President of the House from 1991 to 1998, including during the pivotal Egan v Willis legal cases that confirmed the power of the Legislative Council to order the production of state papers from the government.
Members recalled the fundamental changes that Mr Willis had witnessed in the Council, including the move to a fully elected House in 1978; the 1978 Free Conference to resolve the deadlock between the Houses over reform of the Council; and the introduction of the first standing committees, one of which he chaired during a ground-breaking inquiry on past adoption practices. Members also acknowledged Mr Willis’s devotion to community service, his service to the Liberal Party, his mentorship of young members of parliament and staff, and his commitment to the people of Solomon Islands.
The motion was agreed to on the voices, with members and officers standing in their place as a mark of respect. Members of Mr Willis’s family were present for the occasion, together with former members the Honourable John Hannaford AM and Mr Jim Longley, the former member for Pittwater, and Mr John Evans PSM, former Clerk of the Parliaments.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Amendment Bill 2022
On Thursday afternoon, a message was received from the Legislative Assembly forwarding the Parliamentary Budget Officer Amendment Bill 2022 for concurrence – a private members’ bill introduced by Mr Ron Hoenig (Labor Party). Debate on the bill in the Assembly had been brought on by a majority of members voting for the suspension of standing and sessional orders in the Assembly the previous day – an usual occurrence, reflective of the changing dynamics at play in the other place at present.
On the bill arriving in the Council, carriage was taken by Mr Mookhey (Labor Party), who moved the initial procedural motions required. However, on Mr Mookhey moving that the second reading debate be set down as an order of the day for the next sitting day, a lengthy debate ensued, with the Leader of the Government, Mr Tudehope, suggesting that given the urgency afforded to the bill in the other place it would be in order for debate to proceed immediately in the Council rather than on the next sitting day. Some members argued that it was appropriate to set the bill down for consideration, both in acknowledgement that Thursday was a government business day, and in order to give members time to consider the bill and prepare any amendments necessary in consultation with Parliamentary Counsel.
Notwithstanding the lively debate that took place, on the President putting the question that the second reading stand an order of the day for the next sitting day, the motion was agreed to on the voices.
Children’s Guardian Amendment Bill 2022 and Child Protection (Working With Children) Amendment Bill 2022
Debate resumed on the Children’s Guardian Amendment Bill 2022 and Child Protection (Working With Children) Amendment Bill 2022, the bills having been introduced on 19 May 2022. The bills implement recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including by bringing designated agencies and adoption service providers under the scope of the Child Safe Scheme; implementing the Child Safe Standards; introducing specialised substitute residential care in place of voluntary out of home care; and amending requirements relating to maintenance of certain registers under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019. You can find a full summary in our blog post from 19 May 2022.
The second reading was agreed to on the voices, with all members supporting the bills.
In committee of the whole, Ms Hurst (Animal Justice Party) moved one amendment to the Child Protection (Working With Children) Amendment Bill 2022, which was agreed to on the voices.
The third reading was also agreed to on the voices, and the bills (one amended) were forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.
Disability Inclusion Amendment Bill 2022
Debate also resumed on the Disability Inclusion Amendment Bill 2022, introduced on 19 May 2022. 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 – you can find more in our blog here.
While members supported the bill, the Opposition and The Greens argued that it could be strengthened, and The Greens foreshadowed amendments would be moved in committee of the whole. On that basis, the second reading was agreed to on the voices.
In committee of the whole, The Greens moved 10 amendments, one of which was agreed to on division, and two of which were agreed to on the voices.
The third reading was agreed to on the voices and the amended bill was forwarded to the Assembly for concurrence.