Australia: Government Bulletin - 5 February 2014

Last Updated: 10 February 2014

Last week, the New South Wales government passed two significant laws for the State. Both laws were assented to on 31 January 2014 and each has received significant media attention and public reaction.

The first is what's known as the "One Punch Law" (or the Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Act 2014 (NSW)). The One Punch Law imposes a mandatory minimum 8 year jail sentence on assaults causing death whilst intoxicated. Other related reforms include the imposition of mandatory 1:30am lock outs which will commence on 24 February after an announcement by the Premier today.

The second is the Mining Amendment (ICAC Operations Jasper and Acacia) Act 2014 (NSW) (MA Act). The MA Act cancels the mining licences for the Mount Penny, Doyles Creek and Glendon Brook mines, following the ICAC Operations Jasper and Acacia.

The reaction to the One Punch Law has been wide-ranging and includes: it will be a deterrent of alcohol and/or drug fuelled violence, it is a knee jerk reaction which goes too far, it denies people their civil liberties and denies judicial discretion when sentencing. There are other more complex questions, such as whether the One Punch Law really is a deterrent if the perpetrator is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and would the One Punch Law apply if the perpetrator punched the victim lightly and normally would not cause harm, but the victim died due to pre-existing medical factors, unknown to the perpetrator.

The MA Act has been subject to similarly widespread views, including that it is proactive and seeks to ensure that the tainted processes highlighted in Operations Jasper and Acacia have no continuing impact and it restores the State to a similar position to that if the mining licences were not issued. On the other hand, there is also a view that the MA Act overrides the property rights and compensation rights of shareholders and the mining companies, who say they are innocent and were not involved in any wrongdoing, whilst not affecting those who were found to be corrupt.

It will be interesting to see over the next few months, whether the One Punch Law indeed reduces alcohol and drug related assaults and whether those whose rights have been affected by the MA Act will initiate any challenge to the MA Act or seek other orders.

Upcoming events

Government Lawyers half day conference – 26 February 2014
Registrations are now open for our inaugural Government Lawyers half day conference to be held in Sydney on 26 February 2014. Click here to register. We do hope you will be able to join us to hear from our talented and varied program of speakers.

To start a conversation about Government Bulletin or issues of interest to NSW government lawyers, join the LinkedIn group NSW Government Lawyers by clicking on this link. Membership is open to lawyers employed in the public sector.

In the media

One punch assault laws pass parliament

A mandatory minimum eight year jail sentence for so-called one punch assaults will be in force from this weekend after Parliament today passed new laws to combat drug and alcohol-fuelled violence, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said today. (30 January 2014) More...

Mandatory sentencing for alcohol violence could overcrowd prisons
NSW prisons are close to capacity, and lack the 5 per cent ''ideal buffer'' that the prisons chief has said is needed to avoid ''hot bedding'' and increased assaults. As the NSW government prepares to pass laws for nine mandatory prison sentences for violent offences involving alcohol, expected to swell prison numbers (02 February 2014)

Corrupt mining licences cancelled

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell today announced Parliament has passed legislation to cancel the exploration licences for Doyles Creek, Mt Penny and Glendon Brook that were the subject of corruption findings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (30 January 2014)

NSW courts continue to lead the nation
NSW Local Courts have been the most efficient in the nation for the sixth year running, Attorney General Greg Smith SC said today. The Productivity Commission's Report on Government Services 2014 found 2.4 per cent of Local Court criminal matters and just 0.4 per cent of civil matters were older than 12 months (29 January 2014) [PDF, 92 kb]

New Super Tribunal officially opened
Attorney General Greg Smith SC today officially opened the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), declaring it would improve access to justice, providing a single entry point for tribunal services. NCAT will also review decisions by government agencies about licences for taxi drivers, security guards, real estate agents and others (29 January 2014) [PDF, 114kb]

New boss for building industry watchdog
The former Deputy CEO of Service NSW Steve Griffin has been appointed as the head of Queensland's new building industry watchdog, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) (30 January 2014) New boss for building industry watchdog

In practice and courts

NSW Inquiries receiving submissions

Inquiry into recommendations of the ICAC and matters arising from the ICAC report entitled "Reducing the Opportunities and Incentives for Corruption into the State's Management of Coal Resources", closes 14 March.
This inquiry will focus on:

  • the Codes of Conduct for Members of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly;
  • the interest disclosure regime for Members of Parliament;
  • the role and need for a parliamentary investigator; and
  • any other related matter.

Inquiry into Sentencing of child sexual assault offenders, closes 28 February.

This is an inquiry by the Joint Select Committee, which was established to inquire into and report on whether current sentencing options for perpetrators of child sexual assault remain effective, and whether greater consistency in sentencing and improving public confidence in the judicial system could be achieved through alternative sentencing options.

Published – articles, papers, reports

Investigation into false certifications of heavy vehicle competency-based assessments by a Roads and Maritime Services-accredited assessor
Author: NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
The Commission finds Christopher Binos exercised his public official functions as an RMS-accredited heavy vehicle competency assessor to make false entries in applicants' learner's log books to show that he had assessed them as competent to drive heavy vehicles, in accordance with RMS requirements, so they could apply to the RMS for heavy vehicle driver licences (released 24 January 2014) Investigation report



Proclamations commencing Acts
Jury Amendment Act 2010 No 55(2014-12) — published LW 31 January 2014
This proclamation appoints 31 January 2014 as the day on which the uncommenced provisions of the Jury Amendment Act 2010 commence.

Regulations and other miscellaneous instruments
Administrative Arrangements Order 2014(2014-11) — published LW 29 January 2014
This Order amends the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (GSE), establishing public service agencies, defines Ministers to whom public service agencies are responsible and abolishes principal departments under the former Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002 transferring employees to equivalent departments under the GSE.

Bills passed by both Houses of Parliament
Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Bill 2014
Mining Amendment (ICAC Operations Jasper and Acacia) Bill 2014

Bills assented to

Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Act 2014 No 2 — Assented to 31 January 2014
This Act amends the Crimes Act 1900, the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, and other legislation relating to assaults, intoxication and to other matters.

Mining Amendment (ICAC Operations Jasper and Acacia) Act 2014 No 1 — Assented to 31 January 2014
In light of the investigations and proceedings of ICAC in Operation Jasper and Operation Acacia, this Act was enacted to restore public confidence in the allocation of the State's valuable mineral resources, promote integrity in public administration above all other considerations and to place the State in the closest position it would have been in, had the licenses not been granted.
The Act cancels the relevant mining licences, ensures that the tainted processes have no continuing impact and ensures that no person (whether or not personally implicated in any wrongdoing) derives any further indirect or direct financial benefit from the tainted process.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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