I have received medical advice from the acting Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Paul Kelly, regarding the upcoming sitting of Parliament.
The acting CMO has advised that there is significant risk associated with a meeting of Parliament in the context of the increased community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the trends in New South Wales.
He advises that, despite proposed mitigation measures, the risks posed by a parliamentary sitting are significantly higher and unlikely to be resolved in the next month.
The acting CMO’s advice is that: “The entry of a high-risk group of individuals could jeopardise the health situation in the ACT and place residents at unnecessary risk of infection. In addition, the health risk to Members and Senators and their staff from other jurisdictions is a material concern. It is my medical advice that, despite proposed mitigation measures, these risks would be significantly higher in the context of a parliamentary sitting period due to the number of persons travelling from Victoria and the inevitable mixing with ACT residents, Members, Senators, staff and visitors within Parliament House.”
The Government cannot ignore the risk to parliamentarians, their staff, the staff within the Parliament, and the broader community of the ACT that holding a parliamentary sitting would create.
In addition, it is not feasible nor desirable to hold a sitting of Parliament that would exclude parliamentarians from a single state. Our Commonwealth Parliament should have representatives from all members of our federation and it is the duty of Parliamentarians to attend parliament, if it is scheduled.
I have consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate and provided them with a copy of the advice. I have written to the Speaker to request that the sitting fortnight commencing August 4th 2020 not be held. This would mean Parliament will next meet on August 24th 2020. I have written to the Leader of the Government in the Senate to write to the President in similar terms.