Democracy should not be a victim of the pandemic.
We need a health-first approach if we are to have any chance of effectively eliminating community transmission of this virus. The advice of health experts must be heeded.
For a long time now, the Prime Minister has been telling us that his suppression strategy will see repeated outbreaks in different parts of the country for months or years to come. But if this is the case, then his logic today – that Parliament can’t sit because one part of the country is experiencing an outbreak – could see the nation’s Parliament suspended for weeks and months to come.
Not only is it vital for democracy that Parliament keeps meeting, but it is essential to tackling this pandemic. For example, the pressure of Parliament has seen the government extend financial support to excluded communities. When Parliament doesn’t sit, more people get left behind.
Every other organisation has been asked to work out how to function with health-based restrictions and Parliament should be able to as well. It seems 2020 is the year of online meetings and working remotely for everyone except Parliamentarians. It is not beyond our wit to work out how to meet in a manner that complies with health requirements. This should have been a key government priority for the last few months, but it appears they would rather cancel Parliament than work out how to have it sit.
If we continue with the Prime Minister’s current suppression strategy, Parliament may not sit again for months or years, as there may always be an outbreak in some part of the country. It is time to discuss what a strategy to eliminate the virus looks like, for the sake of both for our health and our democracy.
It is disappointing the ‘opposition’ has agreed to cancel Parliament. The Greens do not support this approach. It is time to work out how to keep democracy alive while fighting this virus.