Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 18 March 2020
Our Government is committed to ensuring that through this coronavirus crisis we protect not only Australians’ health, but secure their jobs and livelihoods.
We want to ensure Australia can bounce back strongly when this crisis has passed. That is why it is important that the Government’s economic stimulus measures pass the Parliament next week.
Following discussions with the Leader of the Opposition, we have agreed that it is critical that Parliament meet in order to provide this support to Australians as well as to consider other urgent legislation.
Given the current circumstances, this sitting week will be different. We need to be conscious of protecting parliamentarians and their communities.
The Parliament will meet only to consider the legislation that will enact the stimulus package and any other immediate business.
Further, the Government will arrange with the Opposition for both the House of Representatives and the Senate to minimise the requirement for members and senators to attend.
For the full days that the Parliament sits, there will be a Question Time on the basis that only the required Ministers, members and senators attend the chambers to reduce the number of members and senators in each chamber.
The arrangement that has been agreed to includes:
- In the House of Representatives and the Senate, there will be pair arrangements between the Government and Opposition Whips. All crossbench and independent Members and Senators will be able to attend, should they want to. In the House there will be 30 pairs. In the Senate, arrangements will be finalised in consultation with the Opposition and the Senate crossbench in coming days.
- Pairs will be determined in the normal ways, in particular considering parliamentarians’ welfare. If a parliamentarian is sick or self-isolating or consideration needs to be given to the welfare conditions of their communities, pairs will be made. Government and Opposition whips will also work to minimise the number of members and senators from remote areas or who have the longest travel requirements.
- Members and senators should bring only essential staff with them for the sitting period following the advice of the Speaker and President issued yesterday.
These arrangements allow for Parliament to sit, giving the chambers quorums and to consider the urgent stimulus package and other immediate business.
Ahead of next week, the Government has been working to finalise drafts of relevant legislation. This will be finalised to allow sufficient time for the Opposition to be briefed on the measures, and to consider them prior to debate.
If the legislation is passed by the Senate unamended and does not require further consideration by the House, then the House and Senate will be adjourned after all necessary business is finalised.
The Government will provide updates on the arrangements for the Budget sitting period closer to the time, which will be informed by relevant advice.
It is important that our Parliament meet next week to consider these important matters. We are committed to providing the support to Australians that they need during this crisis.