Suspension of standing and sessional orders
12th May 2020
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:20:40): By leave: I stand in concert with the member for Newtown. I agree with many of her points, including provisions of times for Independent members. I appreciate in this particular case that the Government has been trying to apportion times but at this stage it seems to me that it was not necessarily obvious who would be here from each of the parties. The member for Newtown is right: There are 93 members who have been elected to this House and there should be equality for all, no matter what, in the provision of opportunities—other than for Ministers presenting legislation, or speaking to legislation or members of the Opposition who have taken a shadow position.
I have some concerns about that because there was no discussion that I am aware of with the crossbench members in relation to how that was done. I am also mindful of the broad comments made by the member for Keira. I am concerned about the way in which the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales—the oldest Parliament in Australia, of the largest State, the largest jurisdiction in Australia—has been missing in action here, in being able to represent its people in this process.
I understand that the Government had real and legitimate concerns about the possible impact of COVID?19 on the people of New South Wales and took emergency provisions to deal with that. But jurisdictions around the world, whether they are Westminster jurisdictions or other legislative bodies, took provisions to allow for representation of their people and to provide for accountability measures across the board—whether that was through Westminster systems that had public accounts committees that were provided with information or brought to the fore in taking up some of that accountability process, or whether it was others that formed joint standing committees to provide accountability to their parliament and to their people, or whether it was other jurisdictions where parliaments continued to sit.
We would be one of the least accountable, least open jurisdictions in the world today. That is a real concern and it can be addressed. I appreciate—and while it is another matter that is already being passed—we will be reinstating the parliamentary sitting schedule from 2 June. That is a good thing. Part of that provision is at the Speaker's behest, if there is any public health advice against it. I would hope that if there was some concern about that the Speaker would engage with members of Parliament other than the Government—the Opposition and members of the crossbench—to gauge those provisions because each and every one of us has a responsibility to our community.
Most backbenchers, maybe even Government backbenchers, are somewhat curtailed in being able to represent their communities in the way they would like, because information is provided to us mainly through the media. We then provide that to our community and somehow explain what the Government's position is. That is not appropriate. We have an opportunity to correct that from this point forward. We have a new Leader of the House, who I acknowledge, and ask that we work cooperatively together, as the member for Keira said, to address this. This is what the people of New South Wales would expect.
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