NSW PARLIAMENT LIVE: Mardi Gras, hemp, guns and other stuff
UPDATE: Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak says the NSW Firearms Registry has gone mad with power and is systematically chipping away at gun owners' right to the presumption of innocence.
The Legislative Councillor outlined one case study during his private member's statement this afternoon.
"My office recently received details from one firearm owner who in August 2014 was charged by the NSW Police with a Commonwealth offence," he said.
"The firearm owner pleaded not guilty and in November 2014, the charge was dismissed and withdrawn in the Local Court."
The gun owner was then charged under state laws using the identical fact sheet from the Commonwealth charges.
The NSW Firearms Registry revoked his licence and he surrendered his weapons.
Mr Borsak said the notice of revocation read: "Whilst I note that the allegations are still before the court, I am satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that offences have occurred".
"What an arrogant and outrageous statement to make from the Firearms Registry," Mr Borsak said.
In June last year, the gun owner requested a review of the decision but was turned down.
He lodged an appeal to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in September.
Then he received a call from local police saying they had received an order from the Firearms Registry to destroy his weapons, despite the appeal still being before NCAT.
In late December, the charges against him were again dismissed and withdrawn.
"Now, any fair-minded individual might think that this would be the end of the matter and his licence should be reinstated and firearms returned," Mr Borsak said.
Instead, the man was told the court's dismissal made no difference to the Firearms Registry's decision.
"This is just one example of the litany of cases I have received from firearms owners about the abuse of powers and the abusive and vexatious actions by the NSW Firearms Registry," Mr Borsak said.
"Is it any wonder that firearms owners and farmers in this state are fed up with the Firearms Registry's unfettered and systematic abuse of power."
That last statement is worth noting, as the party plans to rebrand itself the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party as soon as it gets the NSW Electoral Commission's green light.
NOTE: The Shooters and Fishers have now said they support the Greens motion to legalise hemp production for food, despite not turning up or voting in today's debate.
"We support food-grade and industrial #hemp farming, esp. as the water requirements are low," they confirmed on Twitter.
3.43pm: Govt shuts down Labor's health scare
The Liberal-Nationals are not always at loggerheads with the ABC. Especially when the public broadcaster is on their side.
An upper house Labor motion to condemn the NSW Government for apparent cuts to health spending and services has been wholeheartedly rejected.
Deputy Government Whip Ben Franklin quoted Opposition Leader Luke Foley's campaign launch speech last year, when he claimed the Baird Government had cut $3 billion from the NSW health budget.
Then Mr Franklin did something out of character for a Lib-Nat... he put credence in the ABC.
"A quick ABC Fact Check revealed that he was using an announcement by Jillian Skinner way back in 2012 that over four years, local health districts would be required to find efficiency savings," he said.
"They forgot to do their homework, those opposite, or were deliberately misleading the people of NSW.
"Not only was this efficiency saving to be retained by the Health Department, but the measure itself was initiated by the former government.
"The government are effectively taking money out of the inefficient back-of-house services and putting it on the front line.
"ABC's Fact Check verdict was this… 'Experts told Fact Check that efficiency savings that are reinvested back in health cannot be regarded as cuts."
The report continued to say health spending had increased by $3.2 billion since Labor's last budget and $2.3 billion since the measures were announced in 2012.
2.58pm: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers a no-show for hemp food debate
The Greens have lambasted the soon-to-be Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party for failing to turn up for a debate on the legalisation of hemp production for food.
Shooters and Fishers upper house members Robert Borsak and Robert Brown did not show up for the discussions or cast a vote.
Just yesterday, the party announced it had applied to the NSW Electoral Commission to include "Farmers" in its name because "farmers, like shooters and fishers, have been largely neglected and oppressed by the major parties and the Greens".
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham had a few things to say about their absence.
"It's pretty slack," he said.
"They've missed an opportunity - the first motion before the house to talk about agricultural issues since their rebranding.
"I think they didn't know what to do.
"They didn't want to support a Greens motion, so they didn't turn up."
1.52.pm: Hemp food motion passes lower house
A Greens motion to legalise the hemp food industry in New South Wales has been passed by the Legislative Council despite government opposition.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham called for parliament to recognise NSW was missing out on a burgeoning industry that could bring huge benefits.
"In NSW it is already legal, under licence from the DPI, to grow industrial hemp," he said.
"But we have a situation whereby that hemp can only be harvested for its fibre component.
"And that is just not good enough."
Mr Buckingham said world hemp seed production in 2010 was estimated to be 67,000 tonnes with China accounting for 70% of world production, followed by Canada and France.
"The Canadian Government estimates hemp seed prices received by producers in 2010 ranged from (in Canadian dollars) $1433 per tonne to $2205 per tonne," he added.
"That is an absolute bonanza."
The hemp industry in Australia is only currently worth $13 million but would quadruple in a year if food production was allowed.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has twice recommended its legalisation, in 2012 and 2015, noting that the low amount of psychoactive constituent THC meant it could not get consumers high or trigger false positives on saliva drug tests.
"You could smoke or eat many kilograms of hemp and you would never get high," Mr Buckingham said.
"The cane farmers are very keen to get going on this."
Nationals MP Richard Colless said the government opposed the motion because it was already "working proactively in this space".
But Mr Buckingham said bureaucracy was weighing the process was down.
The motion was passed with 17 votes in the affirmative and 16 in the negative.
The issue will come back before the Council of Australian Governments for debate, where Queensland and New South Wales have typically been the sticks in the mud stopping other states from allowing it to go ahead.
Fears about roadside drug testing have largely been responsible for the states' reluctance to legalise hemp food production and consumption.
10.55am: NSW Parliament apologises for historical homophobia
NEW South Wales Parliament has apologised to Mardi Gras founders the "78ers" nearly 38 years after they were attacked and humiliated for standing up for gay rights.
A crowd of people, some wearing rainbow coloured T-shirts and sporting banners saying "Pride", filled the Legislative Assembly's gallery this morning.
They heard Coogee Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith speak of his own experiences growing up as a gay man.
"For the mistreatment you suffered that evening, I apologise and I say sorry,"
"As a member of the parliament which dragged its feet in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, I apologise and say sorry.
"And as a proud gay man and member of this parliament offering this apology, I say thank you.
"The actions you took on June 24, 1978, have been vindicated."
More than 1000 people joined the march through Sydney's streets on June 24, 1978.
The protest included only a single float - a far cry from today's spectacle, which attracted 35,000 overseas visitors last year.
Police arrested 53 people during the march, whose names, addresses and professions were then published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir yesterday apologised on behalf of the newspaper.
"The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day. We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused," he said.
"It would never happen today."