By Jackson Russell
Both of the region’s federal Members of Parliament have decided to stay home as Parliament resumes on August 24 in Canberra.
Victorian MPs and Senators must self-isolate for two weeks either at home before travelling to Canberra, or in Canberra, before being allowed to attend Parliament.
Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell cited limits on MP attendance and limited speaking opportunities as his reason to stay home.
“After careful consideration, due to limits on the number of MPs who can attend Parliament and the government removing many opportunities for MPs to speak and raise issues, I decided it was more productive for me to be here in our community where we continue to help our residents,” Mr Mitchell said.
However, Mr Mitchell said he believed it was still necessary for Parliament to function while Victoria was in lockdown.
“It has never been more important to Victorians to have their voice heard in our Parliament,” he said.
“The government must ensure MPs can still participate and represent their constituents.
“Labor has called on the Morrison Government to ensure MPs who cannot attend can still contribute to debate via videolink.”
Member for Nicholls Damian Drum, whose electorate stretches from Kilmore East north to the Murray River, said he felt he would be able to better serve the community at home.
“Each politician will make their own decision as to how they can best spend their time, but I made the decision that while we’re in stage three, I can still get out and meet people, work with people and perform my job in the community to the best of my ability,” The Nationals member said.
“It’s good we’re bringing the Parliament together… There’s a range of legislation that needs to be dealt with.
“I just think that in the current environment, we are seeing these over-onerous restrictions placed on a range of different people in the community and I think we could do things in a better way.
“Many of the people in my electorate feel like they’re being harshly dealt with because many in the north are in virus-free areas and are being restricted from travelling to virus-free areas and I think that’s unfair.”
While Mr Mitchell said Labor has called for a videolink, Mr Drum said he didn’t feel the technology was ready.
“We would need to ensure the technology was 100 per cent tamper-proof. At the moment, we can’t rely on the technology to give the Australian people the confidence they need,” he said.
“If we still had people in their electorates all around Australia, we would then be at the full mercy of the technology allowing people to put their vote in and that it would be secure.
“We’re certainly hoping these restrictions are relaxed for the October sittings because I feel I’ll need to go to Canberra for the October sittings.”
Mr Mitchell said the cancellation of Parliament should always be a last resort.
“Proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Morrison Government should not be a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic – particularly as it engages in the biggest spending program in Australian history,” he said.
“While Australians are adjusting the way they do their work or run their business to be COVID safe, it is fair that they expect their Parliament to keep working in their interests during this crisis.”