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The Identical Nature of the Bills

The PRESIDENT (15:42): Before I put the question, the Hon. Mr Parnell raised a question regarding the identical nature of the bills. In my capacity as President I did turn my mind to that issue when the bill was introduced, and determined that no action was required.

On 6 June 2018, the Hon. Mr Parnell introduced the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy (Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing) Amendment Bill (No. 13). Following debate the council voted to negative the second reading of this bill on 25 July 2018. The bill received from the House of Assembly contains ostensibly the same objects as the bill negatived at the second reading.

I have given significant consideration as to the application of standing order 124 and the same question rule, and have taken advice from the Clerk as well as parliamentary counsel. Standing order 124 states:

No Question shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question or amendment which during the same Session has been resolved in the affirmative or negative, unless the resolution of the Council on such question or amendment shall have been first read and rescinded. This Standing Order shall not be suspended.

While the two bills aim to achieve the same thing, that is, to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in designated areas identified in clause 3, a difference in the definition of prescribed period has the effect of altering the time at which the moratorium ends. The Hon. Mr Parnell’s bill prescribed a period for the moratorium where it would begin on the commencement of the section and end on the definite date of 17 March 2028. The bill received from the House of Assembly proposes that the moratorium begin on the commencement of that section and end on the 10th anniversary of the commencement of the section.

By definition, a moratorium is a period of delay or temporary prohibition on an activity and the period for which the moratorium applies is a matter of substance in considering whether it should be applied. Given that the commencement date for the moratorium could not be known at the time of the second reading, and by prescribing a specific end date to the moratorium, the Hon. Mr Parnell’s bill presents a scheme that would have resulted in the moratorium being in place for a shorter duration than that proposed by the House of Assembly bill, had it eventually been assented to.

The House of Assembly bill is clear that the moratorium will be in place for 10 years, should it receive royal assent. The difference in the duration of the moratorium is of substance and its effect on all stakeholders may be profound. I therefore rule that the two bills do not propose the same question.

Bill read a second time.

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