Mar 23, 2020


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:13): Can I repeat my call to spread kindness, not coronavirus at this time. This has been, up to this point today, an example of the parliament working as it should—people putting aside partisan interests in order to represent the national interest. We have been able to change standing orders in a way that is certainly unique under the circumstances. The arrangements of and maturity by the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business, for example, in this place in putting together standing orders that ensure we will be able to deal with the major stimulus measures by 5 o’clock and the supply bills by 7.30 show that the parliament is able to work together at this difficult time.

There are some who said that the parliament should not meet. Can I say that, in my view, if we did not meet in this House at this time it would send a terrible message to the rest of the country, to the health workers working in hospitals, to the people working in aged care, to the people working in retail, to the people working in public transport, to the people working in our schools and to the people working in our childcare centres. At a time like this it is absolutely critical that we show national leadership as national leaders in this parliament, whether we sit on the government benches, the opposition benches or the cross-benches. We’ve also been able to ensure that people are able to make a contribution to debate in this parliament. I hope this is a precedent that the government take up after we return, because people have been today and will continue to be this afternoon able to make a contribution. The cross-benches will be speaking after question time. We think it’s important that people be able to put their views on the record. We, of course, don’t support all of the measures in the legislation, but we’re not going to block any measure, because we understand how important it is to get it out.

Can I say also that today in question time—I’ve been here a long time—was one of the times when Chris Bowen, the shadow health minister, asked a question of the Minister for Health and got an answer that changed, effectively, an outcome. I congratulate the health minister on the decision he has made on telehealth. It’s an example of this parliament working as it should: people coming up with ideas, and if an idea is good it should be adopted, regardless of who it comes from. I congratulate the government on that and I congratulate my shadow health minister on the work that he has done.

We have more work to do this afternoon; hopefully, that will lead to a conclusion. There was work that we had to do in the caucus this morning, where we had full participation, either virtually or physically. People were determined to continue to represent their electorates and to engage with people in practical ways, including by helping people who need assistance with shopping, which is an example of something that our electorate officers can do. I thank all of our staff and, indeed, the staff of the parliament on the work that they have done.