Parliament introduces virtual meeting rules


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 25 August, 2020


Parliament introduces virtual meeting rules

Federal parliament has introduced new rules to allow members to contribute remotely in a reduced capacity via videoconferencing over the next two weeks for those MPs unable to travel due to COVID-19.

The new rules will be open to members who can satisfy the Speaker that they can't attend in person because the pandemic had made it "essentially impossible, unreasonably impracticable, or would give rise to an unreasonable risk for the Member to physically attend".

Members appearing remotely will be required to use an official parliamentary video facility located in a parliamentary or an electorate office.

This will allow them to contribute to debates and ask questions during Question Time, but they will be unable to vote during divisions, be counted for quorums, move amendments or second motions.

In addition, members will be required to give advanced notice of wanting to talk rather than simply standing to be recognised.

Other rules include a ban on virtual backgrounds, pictures, political posters or paraphernalia besides Hansard books, and requirements to adhere to the chamber's dress code.

MPs and Senators still travelling to Parliament during the period must adhere to their own rules, with Victorian MPs and Senators required to undertake a two-week quarantine before travelling to Canberra.

Those arriving from Sydney or Newcastle must also agree not to visit Canberra shops, hospitals and other public areas during their stay.

All parliamentarians have also been asked not to bring staff unless deemed strictly necessary, and to follow guidelines for avoiding face-to-face meetings with external visitors and congregating in groups.

In a Conversation article, University of South Australia Senior Lecturer of Law Sarah Moulds said the circumstances represent an opportunity for Parliament to rethink its operating model and adopt greater use of telepresence technology.

Other nations have been experimenting with virtual parliaments for some time, and their experience can inform these efforts, Moulds wrote.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/r-o-x-o-r

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