The Wyatt Benevolent Institution Incorporated (Objects) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

I wish to thank all those who have made a contribution to this debate. It is most pleasant to hear of the high regard across the chamber for The Wyatt Benevolent Institution Incorporated. It is a body that clearly has a high level of respect and appreciation across the board, not just in this parliament but of course in the community, which would attest to the extraordinary breadth of contribution that has been made for support in the community during the lifetime of this trust. I thank members for that and for an indication from the member for Badcoe of the opposition's support of the bill.

I just wish to make one comment before I move to refer the matter to a select committee, on the basis that the bill is a bill to amend a private act, which was established to provide for the perpetuity of this entity. The private act was assented to on 12 December 1935. We have a bill to amend that. A bill to amend a private act, on the face of it, would have good reason to be treated as a hybrid bill and therefore have the extra process that our standing orders demand of the scrutiny of such legislation.

I say that in the context of that being the broad parameter. What we are doing in this bill, however, is amending the charter of this entity, essentially to move away from the restriction that this trust currently affords distribution under to a more limited class, particularly to benefit the persons who are termed 'above the labouring class' or 'belong to a class above that of a labourer', to anyone in the community, and we are moving away from the need to determine whether a prospective recipient is 'of good moral character and conduct'.

There is equally an argument that in fact the effect of this bill is indeed to provide a primary and chief objective to promote the interests of the broader community, not The Wyatt Benevolent Institution. However, it is a matter for determination of this house, and we have a certain process that our standing orders require if we do do that.

I am advised that when the parliament determined the amendment to the Lady Kintore Cottages Act back in 2014, at that time legal advice had been obtained to suggest that that bill was not a hybrid bill; however, on the other hand I am advised that the house decided, notwithstanding that, that the bill be treated as a hybrid bill, and it was therefore the will of the house to refer it to a committee. I am immensely grateful to the staff of the parliament—what is your official position David?

The CLERK: Deputy Clerk.

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Aren't you the keeper of the rod or something as well?

The CLERK: No.

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: No? I thought you had some other grand title; sorry—to the Deputy Clerk. He probably deserves a much more grand title because he does such wonderful work. I am immensely grateful to him and his indication of two things: firstly, some work has been done to undertake the assessment of this bill being a hybrid bill; and, secondly, his commitment to look into some other areas of reform, particularly our universities, which, as members may know, have their statutory base by acts of this parliament. I do appreciate that.

As small comfort to the house, I think it is fair to say that we have also had the benefit of someone who has been a very valuable aid to this parliament in the past—that is, Mr Richard Dennis, who was the former parliamentary counsel for many years. He now sits as a director of the Wyatt Benevolent Institution, and I am sure that he is a very valuable asset to them, and I understand that he was also the author of the letter of request to the parliament to make the amendments consistent with the contents of the bill we are discussing.

It is apparently his view that this could be treated as a hybrid bill and, with that weighty support, I assume it may be on that basis that there is an acceptance that, whilst the act deals with a certain class and the primary and chief object (if we use that sort of phraseology) is to promote the interests of the WBI, it could well be argued that in fact broadening the base upon which someone might be eligible for a benefit under this entity has a primary chief objective to the broader community. Be that as it may, I doubtless will have some further advice from the Deputy Clerk, and obviously we will try to make sure that we have some consistency.

Members may be aware that there are very many of these private acts and, indeed, entities that were established to basically set the structure around many of our educational institutions, churches, charities and trusts. Just so that members do not think there is going to be an explosion of these, the fact is that in the last hundred years they have very much diminished because the practice of coming to the parliament to seek the umbrella of a statute is a fashion that has passed.

Probably the reason that is most likely is that the work of the parliament in dealing with public legislation has certainly expanded. Secondly, by virtue of the establishment of corporations law, associations law and the like, we have set up the structural umbrella within which many of these entities, churches, schools, trusts and the like, can set up and have all the protections, legal sanctions and entitlements via those structures and not have the inconvenience of coming back themselves and begging the indulgence of the parliament to change their own rules.

The autonomy and the protection of these entities now have a different crucible, and long may that reign. Nevertheless, we have the legacy of them, and of course we are more than happy to deal with them. I am happy to indicate in due course, if it has not already been conveyed to the parliament, the names of a potential membership of a hybrid select committee. I will do that whenever you suggest I do so.

Bill read a second time.