On Thursday there were a total of nine bills before the House, ranging from the government’s ‘Family is Culture’ Bill, seeking to implement recommendations from a report into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people living in out-of-home care, to three cognate bills relating to money laundering, criminal communication devices and digital evidence access. The Legislative Council also found time to debate a matter of public importance. Read on for details…
MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE: BIODIVERSITY OFFSETS SCHEME
Early in the sitting day, the House agreed to a motion moved by Ms Sue Higginson (The Greens) that ‘The Auditor‑General’s report into the Effectiveness of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme, dated 30 August 2022′ be debated as a matter of public importance.
Debate on the motion took place over the course of an hour, with members from the Government, Opposition and The Greens contributing, as well as Independent Mr Justin Field. Contributions from members are able to be seen in the Hansard record.
Matters of public importance are an opportunity for the House to debate matters without the need for a vote, so at the conclusion of the discussion, the motion lapsed.
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (CARE AND PROTECTION) AMENDMENT (FAMILY IS CULTURE) BILL 2022
The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Family is Culture) Bill 2022 was introduced by Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones. The bill would amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to implement several recommendations from the 2019 report Family is Culture: Independent Review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care in New South Wales. The proposed reforms can be found in section one of the Government’s consultation report in response to the review, Family is Culture – Legislative Recommendations.
Among other amendments, the bill inserts the core elements of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children Placement Principle into the Act. These elements aim to keep children connected to their families, communities, cultures and country through ‘active efforts’, ranging from placing children with family, kin or community where remaining with parents is not possible, to involving children, parents and family members in decisions about care and protection.
The bill would also make changes to the Advocate for Children and Young People Act 2014, the Children (Protection and Parental Responsibility) Act 1997 and the Ombudsman Act 1974, seeking to place a greater focus on culturally appropriate early interventions.
Full details can be found in the Minister’s second reading speech in Hansard. At the conclusion of the Minister’s speech, according to standing order, debate was adjourned for five calendar days.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS AND DOMAIN TRUST AMENDMENT (FACILITATION OF SYDNEY METRO WEST) BILL 2022
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Amendment (Facilitation of Sydney Metro West) Bill 2022 was introduced in the Council by Parliamentary Secretary Shayne Mallard on behalf of Minister Natalie Ward.
The bill amends the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980 to allow for Sydney Metro’s acquisition of the ‘substratum’ (land beneath the surface of the ground) of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain, for the development of Sydney Metro West underground rail facilities.
The substratum land cannot be acquired without an Act of Parliament, because the land is vested in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, and the Act includes a prohibition on the acquisition of any part of the land without an Act of Parliament.
With the second and third readings agreed to on the voices, the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment, ready to be forwarded to the Governor for assent.
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PROSECUTION OF INDICTABLE OFFENCES) BILL 2022
Parliamentary Secretary Shayne Mallard, on behalf of Minister Damien Tudehope, introduced the Criminal Procedure Legislation Amendment (Prosecution of Indictable Offences) Bill 2022. Making certain changes to the procedure for the prosecution of indictable offences, the bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1986, and associated regulations.
The bill seeks to establish an appropriate framework for the prosecution of indictable offences under regulatory legislation. Among other things, its changes will allow prosecutors other than the Director of Public Prosecutions – in particular regulatory agencies (for example, SafeWork NSW) – to undertake functions to support the prosecution of indictable offences. It clarifies processes and definitions relating to this.
The second and third reading of the bill were agreed to on the voices, and it was then returned to the Legislative Assembly, to be forwarded to the Governor for assent.
SECURITY INDUSTRY AMENDMENT BILL 2022
The Security Industry Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced by Parliamentary Secretary Taylor Martin on behalf of Minister Sarah Mitchell. The bill makes a number of changes to the Security Industry Act 1997 – legislation that provides for the licensing and regulation of those working in the security industry. It also makes changes to the associated Security Industry Regulation 2016, and includes new offences in the Tattoo Parlours Act 2012.
The bill implements the findings of the NSW Police Force’s review of the Security Industry Act in 2020, seeking to ensure the regulation of the security industry remains fit for purpose and strengthens resistance to organised crime infiltration. Changes range from introducing a tiered penalty system for breaches of security licence conditions under the Security Industry Act, to introducing new offences in this Act and the Tattoo Parlours Act, including those relating to altering, damaging or destroying records, providing false or misleading information, conspiracy, and more.
The bill passed the Council without amendment, with the second and third readings agreed to on the voices. It was then returned to the Assembly.
THREE COGNATE BILLS RELATING TO ORGANISED CRIME
The following ‘cognate bills’ were considered by the House on Thursday, as introduced by Parliamentary Secretary Taylor Martin on behalf of Minister Sarah Mitchell:
- Crimes Amendment (Money Laundering) Bill 2022
- Dedicated Encrypted Criminal Communication Device Prohibition Orders Bill 2022
- Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment (Digital Evidence Access Orders) Bill 2022.
Cognate bills are two or more bills that are related in subject matter, and that the Parliament agrees to package and consider together. In this case, the bills concerned the interrelated topics of money laundering, criminal communication devices and digital evidence access. Their amendments are intended to ensure that the state’s law enforcement agencies, including the NSW Police Force and the NSW Crime Commission, have the necessary tools to respond to serious and organised crime.
Each bill serves a specific purpose: The first targets loopholes in the Crimes Act 1900 that have been identified as failing to protect against modern laundering practices of organised crime groups; the second gives law enforcement agencies greater powers over communication devices modified by organised crime groups to avoid detection; and the third introduces digital evidence access orders, giving certain law enforcement officers the power to issue directions requiring a person to assist the officer to access a device holding evidence that is protected by passwords or other access restrictions.
After the second and third readings were agreed to on the voices, the cognate bills were returned without amendment to the Legislative Assembly, where they continued their journey to the Governor for assent.
CRIMES (ADMINISTRATION OF SENTENCES) AMENDMENT (NO BODY, NO PAROLE) BILL 2022
Parliamentary Secretary Peter Poulos introduced the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment (No Body, No Parole) Bill 2022 on behalf of Minister Natalie Ward. It amends the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 so that a parole order must not be made for an offender serving a term of imprisonment for a homicide offence, if the offender has not cooperated in locating the victim’s body or remains. The bill’s amendments reflect similar laws in other Australian jurisdictions.
With the second reading agreed to on the voices, the House resolved into committee of the whole, where Ms Sue Higginson (The Greens) moved eight amendments. The amendments were considered ‘in globo’ (all together) and were negatived on the voices.
The third reading of the bill was then agreed to and returned to the Legislative Assembly. Having passed both Houses of Parliament, it was ready to be forwarded to the Governor for assent.
CHILDCARE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FUND BILL 2022
The final of nine bills introduced in the Council on Thursday, the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Bill 2022 was introduced in the Council by Parliamentary Secretary Peter Poulos on behalf of Minister Damien Tudehope.
The bill establishes the NSW Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund, and an associated Board to oversee its management and strategic direction. The Fund will be used to provide financial assistance related to the provision of childcare, particularly in areas where there are childcare supply shortages or there are higher barriers to participation in work either because of the affordability or accessibility of childcare services, or both. Key aims of the bill are to improve access to affordable care, and to support parents and carers in taking part in the workforce.
Further details can be found in the second reading speech, which appears in Hansard with members’ contributions to the second reading debate (with the second reading agreed to on the voices).
In committee of the whole:
- Nine amendments were moved by Ms Abigail Boyd on behalf of The Greens, with five agreed to on the voices and four negatived (three on the voices and one on division)
- Two amendments (found here and here) were moved by Mr Poulos on behalf of the Government, both agreed to on the voices
- One amendment was moved by the Hon Daniel Mookhey on behalf of the Opposition, negatived on the voices.
With the third reading agreed to, the bill was then forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for its consideration of the Legislative Council’s amendments.