House must go on – adapting to pandemic

A new report

reflects on how practical and procedural changes have allowed the House of Representatives to function effectively during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Chair of the House Procedure Committee Ross Vasta says COVID-19 prompted several changes and adaptations in the House, including the introduction of remote contributions via video link for the first time in the House’s history.

‘This report is designed to record how the House adapted to the unique challenges posed by the pandemic and the procedural and practical changes it made in response,’ Mr Vasta said.

‘We hope the report will be a useful reference for future Members and staff who need to look back to how the House acted in 2020,’ said Milton Dick, the Deputy Chair of the committee.

The House adopted changes to the standing orders and resolutions to vary how the House may meet. It also made use of practical arrangements such as pairing of Members, and different seating plans and division procedures. The inquiry was designed to record these while impressions were still fresh, even as the pandemic continued.

The committee identified principles it saw as key to a successful House response to a critical situation. These included maintaining the ability to meet quorum requirements so the House can play its part in the making and changing of laws, enabling Members to represent their electorates and participate in debate and voting, and providing opportunities for the scrutiny of government.

The committee commends those involved in implementing the arrangements and thanks those who contributed to the inquiry. Further information on the inquiry is available on the committee’s website.

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