House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Questions to the Speaker

Covid-19

3:11 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I agree with him very strongly. There are certainly many people in the building who have risen to the challenges presented by the current pandemic here in Parliament House, with the aim of keeping the parliament going and keeping the building occupants healthy, and that's been very important. They have ensured that the hundreds of people needing to work from home as well are able to do so. I certainly agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the cleaners have been doing an outstanding job. It's very visible to us, of course. I agree with him, as I said, very strongly. Given I've been asked the question, I'd like to take this opportunity to also talk about some of those who a lot of us don't see, those who aren't so visible, who have been working long hours behind the scenes. This will give you an appreciation of the great team effort from all of the staff within the building. There are those working on the COVID-19 Taskforce that comprises a mix of DPS staff from security, library, HR, communications, governance and property. Of course, there are those staff who I mentioned earlier in the week who volunteered to work at the Services Australia satellite centre here in Parliament House, processing forms for the millions of people so badly affected. They're doing that right now. The accommodation team has been assisting with social-distancing movements throughout the building and actually helping set up the Services Australia satellite centre.

The ICT team have been assisting with setting up thousands of users to work remotely and with the ICT set-up at the Services Australia satellite centre that I've mentioned. Just to give members an appreciation—and I'm glad to have received this question—between 1 March and 30 April ICT, which is known to all of us as 2020, fielded in excess of 13,500 phone calls and hundreds of emails and walk-ins. They have done a great job as well. What members won't know so much is that the catering team have been flexibly adapting to the restrictions and hygiene and have been assisting St Vincent de Paul to feed the homeless and those at risk in the ACT region.

I can assure the Leader of the Opposition and the House that, when the dust settles, absolutely there will be proper recognition. It is something of course that I will communicate to the President of the Senate, but it will be something we'll all do together as the houses.

In conclusion, I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work that DPS has done more generally in keeping building occupants informed of the changes that had to be made in response to the pandemic. In just over 2½ months there have been 21 circulars distributed covering COVID-19 preparedness, access restrictions, catering changes, extended services that are being provided, remote working access, remote access to IT and social-distancing measures. I thought I'd mention that and thank them for the work that has been done. I thank the Leader of the Opposition.

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