LEGISLATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Report: Legislation Review Digest No. 16 of 2010
Question—That the House take note of the report—proposed.
Mr ALLAN SHEARAN
(Londonderry) [12.25 p.m.]: I take this opportunity to comment on the recent Legislation Review Digest Report No. 16, dated 22 November 2010, which was received out of session. This digest report examined 13 bills in total. For the benefit of members I will summarise some of the major issues of concern identified by the committee in this digest. Of the 13 bills, the committee identified concerns arising from the Shop Trading Amendment Bill 2010 and the Water Management Amendment Bill 2010. I will outline some of the concerns identified. They include denial of compensation potentially arising from the Shop Trading Amendment Bill 2010. The committee acknowledges the right of Government to be exempt from paying compensation to affected retailers for declaring public holidays, and notes the public policy grounds to restrict retail trading on certain public holidays. However, the committee does not support denial of compensation in circumstances where the Government, or any statutory agency acting on legislative authority, has engaged in conduct that is "unconscionable, misleading or deceptive" or which makes statements that are "negligent, false or misleading", as contained in proposed section 22B (2).
The committee also identified concerns about strict liability issues arising from the Water Management Amendment Bill 2010. The committee is of the view that where proposed strict liability offences have available defences and penalties for such offences do not attract terms of imprisonment—along with the consideration of the community impact of the offences and compliance with the bill's objective—such proposed provisions may not be unduly trespassing on individual rights and liberties. However, there does not appear to be the availability of any corresponding defences for the strict liability offences contained in proposed section 60C (2) and (3). The committee is also concerned about the removal of basic landholder rights as a defence in relation to the Water Management Amendment Bill 2010, given that proposed section 91M (2) will remove this currently available general defence to a prosecution of some of the offences under division 1A.
In relation to the Water Management Amendment Bill 2010, the committee also asks the Parliament to consider whether individual rights or liberties may be unduly dependent on non-reviewable decisions by removing appeals to the Land and Environment Court against decisions proposed by proposed section 368 (2) (c) and proposed section 368 (2) (a1). Once again I recommend members go directly to the digest report if they are interested in the specific details of the bills that have been scrutinised. I also take this opportunity to remind members that the digest report is available online soon after the committee concludes its meeting and tables the digest report. Each of the digest reports is an important volume, as each digest aims to apply a systematic scrutiny to new legislation in order to alert the Parliament to potential breaches of individual rights and liberties. In turn, this gives the Parliament an opportunity to consider whether such potential breaches are justified. I trust that the digest reports continue to raise the awareness and respect for personal rights and liberties, and that they assist members in their contributions to the debates on the bills presented.
In conclusion, it is appropriate at this time of the parliamentary cycle that I express my appreciation to the Legislation Review Committee members and staff, namely: Deputy Chair Paul Pearce, MP, member for Coogee; Robert Furolo, MP, member for Lakemba; the Hon. Kayee Griffin, MLC; Judy Hopwood, MP, member for Hornsby; the Hon. Trevor Khan, MLC; Mr David Shoebridge, MLC; Russell Turner, MP, member for Orange; Catherine Watson, Committee Manager; Carrie Chan, Senior Committee Officer; Jason Arditi, Senior Committee Officer; Leon Last, Committee Officer; and Millie Yeoh, Assistant Committee Officer.
There are many committees and many areas of interest in this Parliament. However, given the nature of the terms of reference for the committee, I believe no other committee has the workload faced by the Legislation Review Committee. When the Parliament is sitting week after week Legislation Review Committee members and staff are able to bring to the Parliament the Legislation Review Digest with the minimum of fuss. Despite restricted timelines, all those involved manage to meet the challenges demanded, generally with consensus. The commitment and dedication of these people make an extremely difficult job all that much easier. I congratulate and thank everyone involved in the committee over the current parliamentary term and wish them all the best for the future.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA
(Davidson) [12.30 p.m.]: I contribute to debate on the report of the Legislation Review Committee entitled Legislation Review Digest No. 16 of 2010 and echo the thanks of the chairman. I do so not as a member of that committee but as someone who benefits from its reports. I again express appreciation, as I am sure all members do who take advantage of the commentary and analysis in the Legislation Review Digest. In light of my comments in previous weeks, when I spoke yesterday in debate on three bills— the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Further Amendment Bill 2010, the Plumbing Bill 2010 and the Public Sector Employment and Management Amendment Bill 2010—I was saddened that not one of those bills appeared in the Legislation Review Digest.
Mr Alan Shearan:
Watch this space.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA:
I am watching the space but at the moment it is an empty space. Those three bills and other bills which were rushed through the Parliament this week have not been properly analysed or subjected to parliamentary scrutiny in the way in which they are required to be analysed by the standing orders of this place. As has been pointed out this week on numerous occasions, clearly it is a mismanagement of the parliamentary agenda and, unfortunately, it results in substandard laws being passed in this House without appropriate scrutiny and discussion. It is a case of the Government abusing proper process and overriding our democratic system. I am not making these points for political purposes—purely; however, I admit there is some political mileage to be gained. I am genuinely dismayed—if members opposite were genuine I am sure they would also be dismayed—as it is not good practice for us to handle legislation in this way.
Last week I asked the Legislation Review Committee about the Food Amendment Bill 2010, which I am pleased to see appears in this week's digest. While debating that bill, members on both sides of the Chamber exhibited a degree of confusion that resulted in debate that was not of the high standard it would have been had we been given proper notice and had we been able to give a more detailed consideration of the issues at hand. That was evident all this week and I suspect it will be evident again next week. It behoves members of the committee to comment on this issue. I refer to the committee's functions as set out in the Legislation Review Act 1987. I refer in particular to section 8A Functions with respect to Bills. Likewise requiring attention is section 8A (1) (b), which states:
to report to both Houses of Parliament as to whether any such Bill, by express words or otherwise
(i) trespasses unduly on personal rights and liberties ...
I feel as though my personal rights and liberties have been trespassed on, both as a member of Parliament and as a member of the public who expects the Parliament to follow its standing orders and proper processes. In relation to a number of other bills the rights of many stakeholders to have an input into the process have either been removed or severely impeded. Section 8A (1) (b) (v) reads:
insufficiently subjects the exercise of legislative power to parliamentary scrutiny.
I would like members of the Legislation Review Committee in their next report to consider seriously the points I have made. I have asked for those points to be considered as that consideration was not reflected in this week's digest. I again put that request on the record. I again put on the record the Liberal-Nationals' disappointment at the very least, going through to outrage, that our democratic system is being compromised when it does not need to be, in particular, in debate on bills such as the Plumbing Bill 2010, when it has been indicated clearly that there are issues that need further consideration.
Question—That the House take note of the report—put and resolved in the affirmative.