Greens move to re-start NSW Parliament with online sittings


The Greens NSW have drafted fresh laws that will allow the NSW Parliament to hold the first ever wholly on-line sittings of any Parliament in Australia.  It does this by amendments to the NSW Constitution that will allow MPs to attend and vote in Parliament through audio visual links.

The Bill to be introduced by Greens MP David Shoebridge amends the Constitution Act 1902 to enable members of Parliament to attend meetings of Houses of Parliament remotely for the purposes of voting and quorum. If passed it will allow Parliament to sit during this and any future crisis without requiring the physical gathering of MPs.

These provisions of the NSW Constitution can be amended by simple majority vote of each House of Parliament. They do not require a referendum.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said:

"Australians have been working from home for over a year, children are remote learning, life has moved online - it's time to get the NSW Parliament back to work.

"We're more than 18 months into this pandemic and we still don't have a solution to allow the NSW Parliament to sit safely.

"If anything the pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for more government oversight, not less. The ongoing functioning of Parliament is vital for democracy - without this change we can't amend or make new laws or hold the government to account.

"We have already missed weeks of Parliament due to a constitutional block that never foresaw this pandemic - let's get this done," Mr Shoebridge said.

The Greens intend to move the Bill during a pared-back sitting of the Legislative Council scheduled for 7 September. That sitting is currently being planned to have a minimum number of MPs present and a detailed Covid safety plan.


The Bill amends the NSW Constitution Act 1902 to allow for members of parliament to participate and vote using an audio or audio visual link. It amends two provisions in the Constitution that currently require members to be physically present to vote and for the purposes of a quorum.

It achieves this by inserting a new s 3(2) to define that for the purposes of a quorum or a vote in Parliament a Member of Parliament is taken to be present if they attend remotely using an audio or audio visual link or another method of communication, in accordance with-
(a)  the standing rules and orders of the House, or
(b)  a resolution or sessional order of the House.

This is a simple change that will allow Parliament to continue to operate during this and any future health crisis, while ensuring members are able to comply with health orders and maximise the safety of MPs and Parliamentary staff.

The change creates a model that would allow the ongoing function of the Parliament in this and any future pandemic or crisis. It also gives each House of Parliament the flexibility to decide how the remote access will occur. This flexibility allows for changes in the future as technological change enhances our ability for remote access.

It is drafted so that it does not limit the capacity of either House to have any of its other functions performed remotely in accordance with existing custom and practice, such as online committee hearings.

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