Thursday drew 2022 to a close in the Legislative Council chamber, rounding out the year’s 40 sittings. And what a finale it was! Beginning with a bang, the House agreed to a new set of Standing Rules and Orders – a notable moment, given you can count on two hands the number of times the standing orders have been the subject of a complete revision across the Council’s 200 year history. The day also brought the passage of four bills, the release of a new Bicentenary video, and a round of well-wishes during the traditional seasonal felicitations. There was also an informal valedictory speech from a member of 15 years. Read on…
ADOPTION OF NEW STANDING ORDERS
On Thursday, in a significant moment for the Legislative Council, the House agreed to and adopted new Standing Rules and Orders recommended by the Procedure Committee. The standing orders of the House were formally amended following a review, a six-month trial of the proposed changes, and an evaluation of the trial that led to some final adjustments. Importantly, in the Council’s 200-year history, the standing orders have been comprehensively reviewed just seven times.
Further coverage of the changes will be covered in a later blog, but some of the key amendments include:
- The formal adoption of a hard adjournment at 10pm, previously trialled as a midnight hard adjournment
- Formal adoption of a requirement that a Statement of Public Interest (SPI) be tabled with government bills being introduced in the Council – a document accompanying the bill that sets out the underlying policy rationale and the process the department went through in putting together the proposed legislation
- Formalising a range of other sessional orders that have become the practice of the House, including the establishment of a Business Committee, Selection of Bills Committee and setting short format motions as the default for debate on private members’ motions.
Visit the Hansard record to see members’ contributions to debate on this milestone motion. In accordance with section 15 of the Constitution Act 1902, the President will now present the new Standing Rules and Orders to the Governor for assent.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ANNUAL REPORT
Early in the sitting, the President tabled the Legislative Council’s 2021/22 annual report together with the financial performance report of the NSW Parliament.
The annual report details the Department of the Legislative Council’s financial performance and reports on key statistics and milestones that were achieved in the past financial year.
This year, the Department trialled a new format of reporting against its strategic priorities in the NSW Parliament Strategic Plan 2019-2023 and the Department of the Legislative Council Strategic Plan 2021/22.
In the report, among other things the Clerk notes that the 2021/2022 financial year was marked by both the House and its committees maintaining record-high volumes of work in areas such as orders for papers, private members’ business, amendments to bills and committee inquiries.
BICENTENARY STATEMENT: A NEW ‘IMMORTALS’ VIDEO
In his last official statement for 2022 relating to the Bicentenary of the Legislative Council, the President announced the release of the latest video in ‘The Immortals’ series. The ongoing series has been exploring esteemed figures from the Council’s history, who have been commemorated by marble busts inside the chamber.
The President advised that the newest video in the series addresses John Blaxland – who was the first person to have a marble bust in the chamber, and who had a surprising connection to the Parliament’s Macquarie Street site. Learn more in the video below:
INTEGRITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2022
The Integrity Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced to the House by Minister Damien Tudehope. The bill amends the Constitution Act 1902 to expand regulation-making powers relating to the disclosure of pecuniary interests by members of the NSW Parliament, and their immediate family members. This will allow for regulations that could, among other things, require members to disclose interests in trusts. The bill also amends the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 to make the Code of Conduct for Ministers an applicable code of conduct in relation to Parliamentary Secretaries as well.
As noted in Minister Tudehope’s second reading speech, the bill begins to implement the Government’s response to recommendations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), made in its report) Investigation into the conduct of the local member for Drummoyne
After members contributed to debate on the bill, as detailed in Hansard, the second and third readings were agreed to on the voices. The bill was then returned to the Legislative Assembly. With the bill now passed both Houses of Parliament, it awaits the Governor’s assent.
GOVERNMENT SECTOR EMPLOYMENT AMENDMENT BILL 2022
The Government Sector Employment Amendment Bill 2022 was introduced by Minister Damien Tudehope and amends the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 to give effect to recommendations arising out of the recent report DPC Inquiry: Appointment of Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas and the Independent Review of the NSW Government Sector Employment Act 2013 dated 30 November 2020.
Among the bill’s many proposed amendments to the Act is the clarification of public servants’ ethical obligations and decision-making responsibilities, specifically in the areas of recruitment and employment. The bill will amend the Act to require that senior public servants employed in the two most senior bands, and other heads of public service agencies, must first seek the guidance of the Public Service Commission before accepting an offer of employment in the private sector that relates to roles and responsibilities held by the senior executive during the previous two years. The bill also clarifies that a secretary or agency head is not subject to the direction or control of a Minister in respect to their employer functions.
With the second reading of the bill agreed to on the voices, the House resolved into committee of the whole, where eight amendments were moved by the Hon Daniel Mookhey on behalf of the Opposition. All were agreed to on the voices.
Following the committee stage, the bill was reported with amendments, read a third time on the voices and returned to the Assembly for its consideration of the amendments.
NSW RECONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY BILL 2022
Following its introduction in the Council on Wednesday by Minister Natalie Ward, the House debated the NSW Reconstruction Authority Bill 2022 in committee of the whole on Thursday.
As noted in our previous blog, the bill establishes the NSW Reconstruction Authority to facilitate prevention, preparedness, recovery, reconstruction and adaptation for the impact of disasters in NSW, to improve resilience for potential disasters, and to provide for the functions and powers of the authority.
- Twenty one amendments were moved by Ms Cate Faehrmann (The Greens), with two amendments (nos. 12 and 14) agreed to on the voices and the remaining negatived – 12 on division and seven on the voices.
- Four amendments (found here, here and here) were moved by Mr Justin Field (Independent), with two amendments (nos. 1 and 2 on sheet c2022-237) agreed to and the remainder negatived on the voices.
After the third reading was agreed to on the voices, the bill was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for its consideration of the Council’s amendments.
MOTOR ACCIDENT INJURIES AMENDMENT BILL 2022
The final bill to be introduced in the Council on Thursday – making it the final bill for the current session of Parliament – was the Motor Accident Injuries Amendment Bill 2022. Introduced by Parliamentary Secretary Shayne Mallard on behalf of Minister Damien Tudehope, the bill implements the findings of a three-year statutory review into the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 – legislation that established the state’s current compulsory third party (CTP) insurance scheme. The main objectives of the bill are to allow speedier access to benefits and damages for injured people; to increase access to and the availability of rehabilitation and trauma support services; and to improve the clarity and workability of the CTP insurance scheme.
Find more details on the bill in Mr Mallard’s second reading speech, which appears together in Hansard with members’ contributions to the second reading debate.
After the second reading was agreed to on the voices, the House resolved into committee of the whole. In committee:
- One amendment was moved by the Hon Rod Roberts (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation), which was negatived on division
- Five amendments (nos. 4 to 8 on the sheet in the link) were moved by the Hon Mick Veitch (Opposition) and agreed to on the voices.
With the third reading agreed to on the voices, the bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly for consideration of the Council’s amendments.
FELICITATIONS AND A SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT
At the end of the sitting, members from across the chamber offered seasonal felicitations to one another, staff and the parliamentary community – a fitting conclusion to a jam-packed 2022 and, indeed, the particularly active 57th Parliament.
Just shy of 8pm, the House adjourned for the final time this year. As agreed to earlier in the sitting, this was a ‘special adjournment’ to allow the House to return on Tuesday 28 February 2023, unless an alternative day of meeting is advised.
Of note, during the last adjournment debate of the year, the Hon Mick Veitch (Labor) stood to give an unofficial valedictory address. A member of the Council since 2007 who has been active across the House’s committees and held numerous shadow ministries, Mr Veitch noted that while he is contesting the next election, “if things don’t work out, then this shall be my last speech in this place”. You can read his words in full in the Hansard record here and learn more about Mr Veitch’s parliamentary record here. At the conclusion of his address (for which the usual clock was held), members and guests in the chamber’s galleries delivered a lengthy standing ovation.
** A note from the blog team **
Thank you to our loyal readers who have followed us for sitting day updates throughout the year! We’ll still be publishing blogs for you to read before the House sits again next year – and if you have any topics you’d like to learn more about, feel free to send us a suggestion at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, we hope you’ve enjoyed our final sitting wrap-up.