MEDIA RELEASE

13 August 2020

 

Tim Quilty proposes changing Parliament rules to allow remote sitting

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty is proposing to change the rules of the Parliament of Victoria to permit some upper house MPs to attend sittings remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the moment Members of Parliament have no option but to attend the Chamber in person but, according to Mr Quilty, the rules should change during the coronavirus emergency.

“The Westminster system, which we use in Victoria, historically forbids Members from being involved in Parliamentary matters unless they are physically in the Chamber,” Mr Quilty said.

“This was originally intended to prevent fraud or coercion – a Member voting on legislation must be seen to be acting under their own free will, and be the actual elected MP rather than an imposter.”

But the coronavirus crisis has changed everything.

“When I went to the last Parliamentary sitting two weeks ago, there was some debate around whether regional MPs should be allowed to attend,” Mr Quilty said.

“Some people were asking why it couldn’t be done remotely like so many other business meetings, while others accused me of selfishness for ignoring the advice of the Chief Health Officer.

“But unless Members of Parliament attend the Chamber, democracy stops.

“There ceases to be any mechanism where elected Members can hold the State Government to account, something we saw last with the repeated evasion of questions by Health Minister Jenny Mikakos over the Government’s handling of this disaster.”

Mr Quilty is proposing a motion to change the rules of Parliament, known as Standing Orders, to permit some Members of the Legislative Council – the Upper House - to attend a sitting via secure video link.

“My motion asks that temporary Standing Orders be put into place which allow virtual attendance and voting on any legislation passing through the Upper House,” Mr Quilty said.

“Technology and security processes are now at a sufficient level where any traditional concerns can be addressed.

“The Federal Parliament is looking into making a similar change, while Parliament in the UK and Europe have made steps towards virtual sittings.

“There is no reason why Victorian Members of Parliament should not be allowed to attend remotely so that they can continue the democratic process while observing advice from medical experts.”

The motion will be put to a vote and, if it passes successfully, means Standing Orders will be temporarily changed.

“I am hopeful that all Members of the Legislative Council will vote in favour of this motion because it is an appropriate solution to the question which we regional Members faced last time,” Mr Quilty said.

“The only reason Labor Members might have to vote against it is to enable the Andrews Government to continue acting with impunity and exercising their absolute power over Victoria under the emergency declaration without check or scrutiny.”

For more information, contact Graham Springett | 0408 208819