Opinion

Parliament is an essential service and should be sitting

John Warhurst
By John Warhurst
Updated July 1 2021 - 4:06pm, first published April 1 2020 - 5:30pm
As wonderful as Parliament House is, we should be able to interpret parliamentary "sittings" in a modern way that allows for virtual votes and debates. Picture: Shutterstock

Australia's parliaments, including the Commonwealth, ACT and NSW parliaments, have decided that they are not an essential service. Governments, oppositions and crossbenchers have agreed to this by paring back sittings to an absolute minimum for the duration of the pandemic. After reacting immediately by cutting back the numbers of members attending, about half in the case of the House of Representatives, they have virtually shut up shop. They are effectively taking what Jonathan O'Dea, the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly, scathingly described as a "democratic break".

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John Warhurst

John Warhurst

Canberra Times columnist

John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University and a regular columnist for The Canberra Times.