Published on: June 2021
Legislation Review Committee
Report: Legislation Review Digest No. 31/57
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):
The question is that the House take note of the report.
Mr DAVID MEHAN (The Entrance) (12:44:06):
It gives me great pleasure to address the House. I am delighted to make a short contribution on the thirty-first digest of this Parliament, dated 8 June. In our deliberations on 8 June the committee considered five bills: the Better Regulation Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2021, the Building Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, the Children's Guardian Amendment (Child Safe Scheme) Bill 2021, the Greyhound Racing Amendment (Whole-of-life Tracking) Bill 2021 and the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Amendment (Commissioners) Bill 2021. We commented on three of those. The committee also considered 16 regulations, commenting on eight of those. I will not read them all out today. I will not go through in detail all of the legislation we considered, but as usual I encourage members to refer to the digest. It is a fine summary of the legislation before the House and addresses the requirement of the committee to comment on the aspects of the legislation that infringe upon the rights and liberties of the citizens of New South Wales, which is always something members should be mindful of.
The committee also noted that one of the staff who has served the committee well for many years, Elaine Schofield, is soon to retire. I am sure all committee members would join me in wishing her well in her retirement and thanking her for her high professional standards and exemplary service to the committee. The committee also noted that it had written to the Premier in August 2019 about the review of the Legislation Review Act 1987 conducted during the previous Parliament. The committee wrote again to the Premier in August reminding her that we had not received a response from the Government to the committee's review of the Act. The committee undertook to follow up on that correspondence and I look forward to seeing a response from the Premier. As usual I thank my fellow committee members for their attention to their duties on the committee, and I thank the staff who serve the committee well. I commend the digest to the House.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (12:46:49):
As Chair: I address the House on behalf of the Legislation Review Committee regarding the thirty-first digest for this Parliament, tabled on 8 June 2021. In this digest the committee examined the five bills introduced in the last sitting week, beginning 11 May 2021. Three of those bills contained issues on which the Committee reported. The committee also commented on eight statutory instruments. I now draw the attention of the House to some of the issues raised.
The Children's Guardian Amendment (Child Safe Scheme) Bill 2021 establishes Child Safe Standards as the primary framework that guides child safe practice in organisations in New South Wales. This framework adopts the approach as recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The committee identified that the bill provides for new circumstances in which the Children's Guardian may disclose information obtained in monitoring and enforcing compliance of child safe organisations with the Child Safe Standards. Specifically, the Children's Guardian may disclose information to an interstate or Federal agency with similar functions to those it exercises under the Children's Guardian Act 2019 if the information is relevant to the exercise of an interstate or Federal law or an undertaking being carried out jointly between New South Wales and another State or Territory or the Commonwealth.
The committee noted that those provisions may impact on an individual's right to privacy as the type of information that may be disclosed is not specified by the bill and there is no requirement that the Children's Guardian seek consent from or notify individuals who may be affected. However, the committee acknowledged that information sharing is limited to government agencies that have similar functions relating to child safety. The committee also acknowledged that the provision aims to facilitate cooperation between State, Territory and Commonwealth agencies to identify, prevent and respond to incidents and risks of child abuse. In those circumstances, the committee made no further comment.
The Building Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 makes a number of changes to building, design and electricity legislation, and is aimed at improving consumer confidence and enhancing compliance in those industries. Among the changes, the bill amends the Gas and Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2017 to provide powers of entry to authorised officers of network operators and retailers to enter a premises to carry out work. This includes work such as preliminary investigations for a proposed installation or extension of electricity works as well as reading, testing, maintaining or replacing electricity meters. Authorised officers may also enter for any other purpose as prescribed by the regulations. The committee identified that this power of entry may impact on a person's right to privacy and property by allowing authorised officers to enter a premises without the consent of the owner or resident. The committee noted that the power of entry is limited to the purposes of carrying out certain electricity works on the premises.
The committee also acknowledged that the bill provides some safeguards on the use of this power of entry by requiring that it occur during daylight hours, except where there is an emergency, and by use of an existing opening in the fence if possible. However, under the provisions, authorised officers may still damage a premises, although as little as possible, and enter a premises through a "new" opening that must be closed after the need for entry has ended. In these circumstances, the committee referred the provision to the Parliament for its consideration of whether it impacts on a person's right to privacy and property.
I turn to a statutory instrument examined in this week's digest. The Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Amendment (Miscellaneous) Regulation 2021 permits a correctional officer to require an inmate to undergo a breath test without a suspicion that they have consumed an intoxicant. The committee noted that this extends the circumstances in which this search power may be used by correctional officers and may impact on an inmate's right to personal physical integrity. The committee did acknowledge that the increased power may assist in dealing with substance abuse among inmates, and may be considered necessary in some circumstances. However, the regulation does not include additional safeguards to mitigate risks arising from the broadened power. The committee referred the provisions to Parliament to consider whether they unduly trespass on personal rights and liberties, and whether they are reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
I acknowledge the contributions of two committee members who have been discharged recently from the committee, the Hon. Trevor Khan, MLC, from the other place, and Wendy Lindsay, the member for East Hills. I welcome new members, the Hon. Sam Farraway, MLC, and the newly elected member for Upper Hunter, Dave Layzell. I wish them luck in joining the committee and hope they enjoy the work that we undertake. In considering their forthcoming contributions to the committee, we will no doubt feel the loss quite keenly of Elaine Schofield, who is the Director, Scrutiny and Engagement, and is soon to retire. We have one more meeting with her before she leaves us at the end of July.
The entire committee thanks Elaine for her contribution. She has been a steadfast member of the parliamentary team that works in committees. She shows incredible skill and knowledge, particularly in the area of scrutiny itself, and in the work that the committee undertakes. Her contribution, guidance and support will be missed by all committee members, but most particularly by me. When I was first elected and appointed chair of the committee, I leaned on Elaine quite heavily in the early days to fully understand the work that the committee does. She will be missed and I am sure her shoes will be very hard to fill. The committee sends its best wishes to her on her sea change and tree change to Port Macquarie. We know she will love it, but we will miss her. I commend the digest to the House.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):
I will now leave the chair. The House will resume at 2.15 p.m.