With COVID-19 cases surging across Sydney and defence forces being deployed in the city, NSW Parliament put out a brief statement last week saying MPs will not sit in the month of August ‘owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in NSW’.
It reads, ‘The Presiding Officers are mindful of the public interest and the safety and health of all people who attend Parliament House’.
The Echo asked local NSW MP Tamara Smith (Greens) why Zoom, or other options weren’t explored instead, given it is now 18 months into the pandemic; and whether MPs were still on full pay while not sitting in August?
Ms Smith told The Echo, ‘It is unacceptable that in this day and age, the parliament is unable to resume in a virtual capacity during the greater Sydney lockdown’.
‘The Federal Parliament was able to offer hybrid parliamentary sittings since the middle of last year, yet the NSW Parliament are saying that it would take a further 12 more months from now for the kinds of back end changes needed to support virtual parliamentary sittings’.
Virtual Budget estimates
She says the Greens have made a ‘number of submissions to the LNP on how to hold virtual Budget estimates scheduled for next week, but they have not been taken up’.
‘Given the unprecedented police, budgetary and emergency powers of the LNP during lockdowns, I think we should be very concerned that there is no democratic oversight for at least another four weeks.
‘The time to start preparing for virtual parliament was nearly 18 months ago and the LNP in NSW have done nothing towards that end’.
When asked to clarify that MPs were still to be paid in full while not sitting in August, Ms Smith replied, ‘Yes, although for lower house MPs, we all continue to run our offices and staff in our electorates’.
For COVID-19 grants, loans and financial assistance, visit www.service.nsw.gov.au.