Wednesday, 8 April 2020
Statement by the President
Senators, welcome back again—somewhat earlier than expected when I made a similar statement a fortnight ago. I thank you for your, and those not present for their, understanding.
The Senate meets today in accordance with a request made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong, under the order of the Senate of 23 March 2020. I notified senators of the time and date of the meeting on 2 April. I table the correspondence.
Before we commence, can I remind you of the minor procedural adjustments to apply to sittings this week to enable observance of social distancing and other health advice. First, you may speak from a seat that is not your own. Broadcasting has been provided with an informal seating plan based on advice from the parties. In lieu of calling a division, as occurred on 23 March senators can request that their votes or the votes of their parties be recorded. If a division is required, senators may be counted if they are standing behind the bank of seats on the relevant side of the chamber. If the Senate is required to resolve into Committee of the Whole, that committee may be chaired from the President's chair. The doors to the chamber will remain open throughout proceedings. Divisions will be counted with the doors unlocked, with the usual rule that senators may not enter the chamber or move from the seats they have taken or the place they are standing once tellers are appointed. With the concurrence of the Senate, it is so ordered.
Finally, work continues on the ability of the Senate to meet otherwise than in accordance with the existing procedures, including the consideration of electronic and remote participation. I am not yet in a position to provide any firm advice on such arrangements at this stage. If they are required they will be considered by the Procedure Committee, as ordered by the Senate on 23 March.