Liberals ditch 20 Bills in legislation backflip

Herald Sun: Liberals ditch 20 Bills in legislation backflip. Annika Smethurst, James Campbell. 13 October 2014

The State Government is set to dump more than 20 pieces of legislation it had committed to deliver, including a Bill to strengthen child protection, and laws it promised as part of the Government’s response to the child abuse inquiry.

With only three sitting days left before the election, the Government will enter the final sitting week with more than 40 pieces of outstanding legislation on the notice paper of both houses.

The Government hopes to pass more than 10 Bills this week, but will be limited to two days of debate.

In the last sitting week of 2010 the Brumby Government had seven Bills on the list to be debated.

Among the legislation set to be dumped is a Bill which paves the way for the old Melbourne Market site to be handed over to the construction company building the East West Link tollway, which could further delay the project.

Laws to ban synthetic drugs and a Bill to improve the conduct of councillors — spruiked by the government as some of the most significant reforms to local government in 20 years — will also be binned.

And in a bizarre move, more legislation will be introduced on Tuesday to the already bulging legislative agenda.

Government spokesman Mark Lee said the government would bring forward “priority Bills” and other legislation would be reintroduced if the Government is re-elected.

For the past two years the Napthine Government has struggled to shift outstanding Bills from the legislative queue, relying on balance-of-power MP Geoff Shaw and Labor to pass legislation.

The Coalition also required support from Mr Shaw and Labor to guarantee its legislative business program was approved each sitting week, meaning the government was often unable to force a vote on legislation in the Lower House.

Other promised laws expected to be dumped at the end of the week include a Bill designed to overhaul healthcare complaints as recommended by an Expert Review Panel in 2012 and legislation to cap the fees paid to lawyers who run TAC common law claims.

Many of the other pieces of scrapped legislation would reduce regulation and red tape — a 2010 election commitment.

Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody urged the Government to prioritise laws which would bolster protection for consumers from dodgy or insolvent builders.

The Bill is not currently listed for debate this week.

“Consumer advocates have put significant time and resources in to help shape a fair and effective Bill, but if Parliament doesn’t pass it in this final sitting week it will all have been for nothing,” Mr Brody said.

The Government’s tight schedule means legislation listed for debate, including a Bill which would erase the criminal records of people convicted of committing historic homosexual acts and laws enabling medical cannabis trials could also be at risk.

Manager of Opposition Business Jacinta Allan said it was “fanciful” that the Government would be able to get more than three or four Bills through this week and dumping the legislation was an insult to everyone involved.

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