Despite COVIDSafe Plans, masks, social distancing and vaccinations, both New South Wales and Victorian Parliaments remain suspended.
Are politicians not essential? Surely good governance is! What is it called when a state is run by one side of politics with no accountability or questioning?
Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria, Tim Quilty, has condemned the Andrews Government’s closing down of Parliament.
Mr Quilty believes the government used health directions as a reason to close down the current sitting and prevent the asking of questions from MPs concerned about the damaging effects of lockdown.
Mr Quilty said the government was attempting to evade accountability and transparency.
“The leader of the government in the Upper House has made assurances that their legislative agenda will not be slowed and that we will make up the lost weeks.
“I am not concerned with the government’s legislative agenda, I am concerned with the function of Parliament as an oversight body.”
Mr Quilty said the government is withholding vital information which would justify – or condemn – lockdowns.
“This government has hidden human rights assessments from the public,” Mr Quilty said.
“You’ve hidden information you claim exists to support these lockdowns decisions.
“You have hidden the advice used to justify the closure of the Parliament, instead just sending us a short letter saying we should not meet, from an unknown bureaucrat, acting in a role as head of a committee nobody has ever heard of.
“This government has abused the public trust for months, and any goodwill we had towards them regarding the management of the pandemic has dried up long ago,” Mr Quilty said.
In NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has scuttled the scheduled sitting of the Legislative Council instructing ministers and other government members not to turn up.
This was despite a COVIDSafe Plan that had been developed over the last seven weeks through weekly meetings of the Legislative Council Whips (including government members) and crossbench members and is informed by advice from HIBBS immunologists and occupational hygienists.
Leader of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, Robert Borsak, said, “With this COVIDSafe Plan, the NSW Parliament will be the safest workplace in the state!
“It will be much safer for members to attend Parliament than doing their grocery shopping at the supermarket.”
This was the COVIDSafe Plan for Parliament:
- Parliament will be closed to the public and operating with a skeleton staff;
- comprehensive health screening before entry to Parliament including a compulsory Rapid Antigen Test which is 99.3 per cent accurate;
- all staff and Members physically present in the precinct to be fully vaccinated;
- minimum quorum of Members present to address urgent items of business – this can be achieved with 8 Members plus the President, 2 clerks at the table, 1 ministerial advisor, and 2 Hansard (total 14 people in chamber);
- enabling Members to participate remotely via Webex from either their parliamentary offices or their homes across NSW;
- sitting hours to take place between 10am and 6pm only including a break every two hours;
- rapid clean of the chamber every two hours with a full clean at the end of each sitting day;
- upgrade to the ventilation system to enable eight exchanges of fresh air per hour in the Council Chamber; and
- change to Council procedures to ensure social distancing and wearing of masks at all times.
Who knew that democracy was such risky business!
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 9 September 2021.