Three bills were passed in the Legislative Council on Tuesday, including the Defamation Amendment Bill 2023, which makes some significant changes to defamation legislation, including in relation to certain content published online. Other bills passed related to the powers and responsibilities of the state’s Waste Asset Management Corporation, and to keeping NSW’s statute book up to date. Read on for more…  

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT: PASSING OF AUNTY ESME TIMBREY 

During Tuesday’s sitting, President the Hon Ben Franklin made a statement acknowledging the passing of Aboriginal Elder Aunty Esme Timbrey, a proud Bidjigal woman from La Perouse and inaugural winner of the 2005 Parliament of NSW Indigenous Art Prize. Full details of his statement can be found in Hansard. 

Mr Franklin’s statement followed a motion by Ms Abigail Boyd (The Greens) extending the House’s condolences to the family and friends of Aunty Esme and acknowledging her contribution to the arts sector in Australia and internationally. Ms Boyd’s motion was agreed to by the House. Read the motion in full here

Also on Tuesday, the House acknowledged the passing of Kelvin Mierendorff, a former Editor of Debates who worked in the Parliament’s Hansard team for nearly 30 years from 1955.  

INTRODUCED: CENTENNTIAL PARK AND MOORE PARK TRUST AMENDMENT (PUBLIC TRANSPORT) BILL 2023 

Introduced by the Hon Penny Sharpe, the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust Amendment (Public Transport) Bill 2023 would amend the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust Act 1983 to facilitate public transport arrangements in and around Sydney’s Centennial Parklands – including Centennial Park, Moore Park and Queens Park.  

Specifically, the bill would grant the Minister for Transport a permanent licence over a revised area of land, to use the land for public transport purposes – including in relation to the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail project, which has connections to and through the parklands Full details can be found in Minister Sharpe’s second reading speech in Hansard (also continued in the record here).  

After the bill’s introduction, debate was adjourned for five calendar days according to standing order. 

PASSED: STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL (NO. 2) 2023 

Introduced in an earlier sitting week, the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No 2) 2023 was debated in the Council. As noted in our blog at the time, the bill makes a suite of minor amendments to several different Acts. This is the second statute law bill relating to ‘miscellaneous provisions’ introduced in the Council this year, and like its predecessor the bill’s changes are broadly to ensure the state’s statute book remains current and accurate – making minor policy changes, repealing redundant provisions, and making corrections and updates as required. 

During the second reading debate members of the Government and the Opposition made contributions. Read the contributions in Hansard.  

With no amendments made, the second and third readings were agreed to on the voices, and the bill was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly for concurrence.  

PASSED: WASTE RECYCLING AND PROCESSING CORPORATION (AUTHORISED TRANSACTION) AMENDMENT BILL 2023 

The Waste Recycling and Processing Corporation (Authorised Transaction) Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced in the Council after passing in the Assembly earlier in the day. The bill makes changes to the Waste Recycling and Processing Corporation (Authorised Transaction) Act 2010 to change how the Waste Asset Management Corporation (WAMC) functions. 

The WAMC is a statutory corporation created under the Act, and part of the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. 

The bill enables the WAMC to become the centralised agency to manage land containing hazardous and contaminated materials. It also provides the WAMC with the power to acquire, transfer, or sell contaminated land for the purpose of land remediation or development. Learn more in the second reading speech, delivered by the Hon Mark Buttigieg, Parliamentary Secretary, on behalf of the Hon Daniel Mookhey. 

Contributions to the second reading debate were made by the Opposition, The Greens, and the Government, before the House resolved into committee of the whole to consider one amendment moved by Dr Amanda Cohn on behalf of The Greens. This amendment sought to include a requirement for the WAMC to report on any land it acquires or disposes of under the Act, and for this report be tabled in Parliament. The amendment was agreed to on voices.  

With the third reading also agreed to on voices, the bill was returned to the Assembly for consideration of the changes.   

You can read the full proceedings which begin in Hansard here and conclude here

PASSED: DEFAMATION AMENDMENT BILL 2023 

The Defamation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced by Parliamentary Secretary the Hon Mark Buttigieg on behalf of the Hon Daniel Mookhey, to make a suite of substantial changes to the Defamation Act 2005

In Australia, Model Defamation Provisions guide uniform defamation laws across the states and territories, which in NSW are enacted through the Defamation Act. The bill amends the Act to address recommendations from a second-stage review of the Provisions and related consultation, which you can read more about in the bill’s explanatory note. In a nutshell, these changes modernise defamation laws in respect to responsibility for comments published online and, separately, extend the defamation defence of ‘absolute privilege’ to police reports. 

Looking closer at defamation online, the bill’s changes clarify the liability of ‘digital intermediaries’ in publishing, hosting or otherwise providing access to defamatory content created and posted by third parties. Using a simple example, currently if a member of the public (a ‘third party’) posts a defamatory comment on a Facebook page operated by a brand, entity or community, the owner or administrator of that page would be responsible for the comment as its ‘publisher’. Other ‘intermediaries’ considered to publishers could be the Facebook platform itself; a search engine such as Google, if the comment can be searched and found; and even ‘conduit’ services allowing users to connect to the internet and related ‘storage’ services, such cloud service providers. 

The bill’s changes include conditional liability exemptions for conduit, storage and caching services, and for search engine providers. It also introduces a defence for other digital intermediaries (such as page or forum owners) if ‘reasonable steps’ are taken to remove or prevent access to defamatory matter within seven days of receiving a complaint. There are also changes relating to court actions, detailed in Mr Buttigieg’s second reading speech. 

In addition to these digital defamation matters, the bill deals with ‘absolute privilege’ provisions, extending the defence of absolute privilege to publications of defamatory matter by police officials while they are acting in their duties. Mr Buttigieg said that, in particular, this would remove one potential barrier in victim-survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault coming forward to police – noting that while protections are provided under the existing ‘qualified privilege’ defence, absolute privilege would provide the “strongest possible protection from defamation liability”. 

During the second reading debate, contributions were made by members of the Opposition, The Greens and the Government, before the second and third readings were agreed to on the voices. With the bill having passed the Legislative Assembly earlier in the day, the bill was ready to be forwarded for the Governor’s assent. See the full proceedings in Hansard. 

GENERAL MOTIONS 

The following motions were agreed to without debate during the morning’s formal business: 

DOCUMENTS TABLED AND REPORTED IN THE HOUSE 

Among the documents reported on Tuesday was the Special report on the public funding and regulation of the 2023 NSW State Election, an October 2023 report of the NSW Electoral Commission. Find all tabled and reported documents in our Tabled Papers Database. 

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