Victorian Parliament must continue to sit, should adopt Federal model


The Victorian Greens have said it is vital that Victorian Parliament continue to sit in some form during current and future COVID outbreaks, and have called for Victoria to adopt the same procedures used in Federal Parliament.

The Greens have today written to the President of the Legislative Council and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, asking them to consider setting up a similar model to Federal Parliament so that democracy in Victoria can continue to function during the pandemic.

The Federal Parliament has a hybrid model where members can participate remotely speaking to Bills, providing members statements and adjournments, and participating in Question Time.

Voting occurs with only the people physically present, utilising significant pairing arrangements across the chambers to ensure the result reflects the will of each chamber.

This system would require the will of all political parties and independent members to participate in a pairing system, however, the Greens believe it is worth reaching an agreement on.

Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said that while the Greens respected the advice of the Chief Health Officer, they believed there were still ways to make the sitting of Parliament COVID-safe.

She added that after having over a year to consider models of trying to make this work, it was disappointing the government had yet to land on a solution.

There are matters that the Parliament must consider urgently, such as providing protections for those hit hard by recent lockdowns, including renters, and the government must also make itself available for parliamentary scrutiny.

If the pairing system for voting requires more time to operationalise before next week, Parliament could temporarily convene a sitting schedule that sees members meet online to do Question Time and second reading speeches for Bills, and postpone the votes on those matters until we meet in person.

Quotes attributable to Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC:

“It beggars belief that one year and six lockdowns later, the government hasn’t found a way for us to continue sitting in a COVID-safe way.

“Until Parliament sits again, we won’t be able to pass urgent legislation to protect and support those hit hardest by these lockdowns, and the government avoids  parliamentary scrutiny during an unprecedented time, when it matters most.

“That’s why Victorian Parliament should adopt the hybrid model used in Federal Parliament, where things like speeches and questions can be delivered online, and voting can occur in person using a pairing system.

“Now is the time for all members of the parliament to come together and agree on a way Parliament can meet safely that will minimise risk to MPs and staff. We can’t let democracy become a casualty of this pandemic.”