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TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE
CHAIR OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON COVID-19
SENATOR FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan have agreed to Labor’s proposal for a working group to get Federal Parliament back to work.
Proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Morrison Government should not be a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic – particularly as it engages in the biggest spending program in Australian history.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in Victoria and parts of NSW present new challenges for the ongoing operation of Parliament. We agree that the health and safety of Australians should always be the top priority.
But the cancellation of Parliament should always be a last resort.
It must always be the aim to hold Parliament in person in Canberra wherever possible so the government can be held to account and democracy can continue to operate as normally as possible.
With more than a month between now and the next scheduled sittings of 24 August, we have the time and the opportunity to establish protocols that would allow Parliament to sit safely.
It is important this work be approached in a cooperative and bipartisan manner, informed by the best health advice.
That’s why the working group will involve the Presiding Officers, the Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, and Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. The Chief Medical Officers of the Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory will provide advice.
Parliament has already achieved the very difficult task of holding in-person sittings during this pandemic.
The current situation presents new and complex challenges but these challenges should not be seen as insurmountable.
While Australians are adjusting the way they do their work or run their business to be COVID safe, it is fair that they expect their Parliament to keep working in their interests during this crisis.
WEDNESDAY, 22 JULY 2020