Monday, 23 March 2020
Statement by the Speaker
I wish to draw the attention of honourable members to the special arrangements for the operation of the chamber. The most obvious is the changed sitting arrangements, which you will have already noticed. The increased spacing in the chamber means that members won't be sitting in their normal seats. Please sit only in the seat or the space allocated to you with your name. These allocations have been arranged so that you are sufficiently far apart.
You will also note additional seats placed outside the benches. These seats are reserved for members and are considered to be within the area of members' seats for the purposes of any divisions that may be called. Ministers and shadow ministers on the front bench may come to the dispatch box to speak. Other ministers and shadow ministers in the rows behind frontbenchers are asked to remain at their allocated temporary seats to speak. During divisions, the tellers will operate from the Hansard table.
There will also be reduced services from attendants. Water will not be provided by attendants but is available in the bottles at the rear of the chamber. Members can obtain their own water and are requested to dispose of the empty bottles in one of the bins. Members will also be allowed to bring their own water into the chamber. The attendants will only take documents to and from members of the frontbench, in order to minimise closer contact and the handling of papers.
There are bottles of hand sanitizer at a number of locations within and around the chamber. You will also note that several of the doors to the chamber are open. This is to reduce the need for members to touch the door handles. The doors, however, will be closed during divisions. The handles will also be regularly cleaned during the day.
I'm very conscious of the need to limit the total number of people in the chamber at any one time. For this reason, occupants of the advisers boxes will be required to leave during divisions. When divisions are called, the attendants will hold the doors open but will then remain outside the chamber when the doors are locked. The press gallery is restricted to a maximum of only four photographers plus Auspic at any one time, with one registered photographer allowed to remain during the division. The press gallery is closed to all other media representatives. However, the media may, at any time through the course of the sitting, use the second-floor enclosed galleries that are normally reserved for school visits.
I thank members for their cooperation and forbearance during this difficult and extraordinary time.