House debates

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Questions to the Speaker

COVID-19: Parliament House

3:19 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a question to the Speaker. Like a number of members of this chamber, I quarantined for a fortnight to be here for this sitting. I don't recommend it. I know that my Victorian colleagues watching on videopresence today would have dearly loved to have been here today, but personal circumstances did not allow them to spend a month away from their families in order to attend today. I must say that we have noted the comments of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the health minister and the acting immigration minister recognising the incredible efforts of Victoria in fighting this second wave of COVID-19 and, more particularly, the equivalence that they now draw between New South Wales and Victoria about the health situation in these respective states. Given this and in this context, I ask if you could provide the House with an update on the ability of Victorian members to attend the sitting starting on 9 November, for which under current arrangements members would need to begin quarantining in coming days.

3:24 pm

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

I thank the member for Gellibrand for his question. As I, as the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate have made clear to the House and the Senate together, we have always sought the health advice. We've acted consistently on that advice all the way through. At the moment, it is unchanged. The quarantine period and the travel restrictions are, of course, a decision of the ACT government. In fact, there will be a communication going out very shortly, if not while I'm speaking, about that sitting fortnight, but the restrictions remain unchanged at this point. I have been asked about this by a number of members, as you would expect, and so it's useful to receive the question to communicate it more widely. Obviously, the President of the Senate and I regularly receive advice on what can be done and we have always acted on that advice.

Just in terms of a way to approach this, I noticed the New South Wales Premier earlier in the week—I read it in the newspaper—said at a press conference that her government would look in a couple of weeks at when they might lift the restrictions with respect to Victoria. Obviously that is based on the fact that Victoria's numbers have come down and some of the restrictions have come off. That was at the earliest. I just mention that because the ACT and New South Wales have been operating essentially in parallel, as you'd expect. But certainly, at this point in time, there's been no change. Of course, whenever there is we'll let you know as soon as we possibly can.