Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Statement by the President
Senators, welcome back again—this time hopefully for more than a single day. The Senate meets today in accordance with the 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 8 April. I notified senators of the time and date of the meeting on 28 April, and I table the correspondence.
On this occasion there are more senators in attendance than our previous two single-day sittings. As well as reminding all of minor procedural adjustments, some further changes have been made reflecting social-distancing requirements and other health advice. I urge all senators to familiarise themselves with the statement from the Speaker and myself, circulated yesterday, regarding the operations and facilities of the building.
As is obvious from looking around the chamber, seating arrangements have been changed to facilitate the greater number of senators attending. Seating plans will change during the course of the week in accordance with requests of the whips. Senators will continue to be able to speak from any seat to ensure distancing requirements are maintained. I ask senators to be flexible about their seating arrangements to facilitate others needing the call.
Those senators seated in the non-traditional seats against the walls of the chamber will also be able to speak from either of the lecterns placed behind the government and opposition whips. If a senator in one of those seats wishes to seek the attention of the chair for the call or to raise a point of order, I ask them to simply rise in their place and seek the attention of the chair, who will call them to a microphone to speak. I also ask senators and chairs to allow for a little extra time in calling senators to speak, to allow Broadcasting to facilitate these flexible arrangements.
Again, in lieu of calling a division, 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, but I ask them to ensure whips have a clear view of those seated in the non-traditional seats as well. Divisions will be counted with the doors unlocked, with the usual rule that senators may not move from the seats they have taken or the places they are standing once tellers are appointed. If the Senate is required to resolve into the Committee of the Whole, the committee will be chaired from the President's chair. The doors to the chamber will remain open throughout proceedings.
With the concurrence of the Senate, it is so ordered that this is to apply for all sittings of the Senate until otherwise advised.