The NSW government has marked October 12 on its calendar as the date to resume in-person parliamentary sittings but a group of Labor and crossbench MPs showed up to work anyway.
On 10 September Damien Tudehope, leader of the house in the legislative council, announced that no government minister or parliamentary secretary would be permitted to sit in the NSW upper house.
Citing the ‘clear risks’ of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney and greater NSW, Tudehope said the decision was made to protect the health of those who worked at parliament, including their families. He explained that without a minister or parliamentary secretary in attendance, the business of the house cannot be conducted.
“Instead of putting local communities and the health of parliamentary staff and their families first, Labor and the crossbench joined forces to ensure the Legislative Council has resumed sitting today, even in circumstances where no formal business can be conducted,” Tudehope said.
“This is a political and selfish stunt, a move which only satisfies their own agenda and as a result puts parliamentary staff, their families and our communities at risk of transmitting COVID-19.”
On Tuesday Labor’s shadow police minister Walt Secord told 2GB radio that he believed parliamentarians should front up to do their jobs, just like essential workers were expected to.
“We just think it’s extraordinary,” Secord said.
“The majority of the members of the Legislative Council want to sit – we want to hold the government to account.”
The NSW government says that during the COVID-19 restrictions the parliament has conducted eight budget estimates hearings and three public accountability hearings. Legislative Council members can still ask questions on notice on any weekday, and 24 inquiries are currently open that the government is cooperating with.
Tudehope, who is also the minister for finance and small business, issued a statement on Wednesday calling for Opposition leader Chris Minns to support the government’s position in the interest of health and safety of the state. The legislative cross-party committee agreed to the new parliamentary sitting schedule in September.
5 million people are in lockdown.
2 million people are under strict curfews.
If we’re sending 15 and 16 year olds off to work at Coles and Woolworths, then politicians should be going back to work too.
Accountability isn’t optional, it’s a fundamental part of our democracy.
— Chris Minns (@MinnsChris) September 14, 2021
“Mr Minns should direct the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and all Labor MLCs and their staff to stay at home,” Tudehope said.
“Mr Minns and Labor cannot have one policy for the Legislative Assembly and a different policy for the Legislative Council.”
The state government has pledged that any sitting days that have been lost as a result of the postponement will be made up.