Crossbench calls for oversight of COVID-19 response

23 Jul 2020

Posted April 05, 2020

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has joined Crossbench MPs and Senators in calling on the Government to set up two Parliamentary committees to scrutinise the COVID-19 response.

Image below: Copy of the letter sent today to the Federal Government by Crossbench MPs.

The first would be a Joint Select Committee to inquire into the Health Response to the Coronavirus Crisis and the second would be a Joint Select Committee to inquire into the Economic Response to the Coronavirus Crisis.

The suggested membership of each committee would be 11 MPs/Senators, including four from Government parties, three from the ALP, one from the Australian Greens and three from other Crossbench Senators/MPs, with a non-government Chair appointed by each committee.

"Given Parliamentary sittings have been suspended during the coronavirus crisis, the Crossbench and the millions of Australians we represent have been effectively deprived of an important part of our role as Parliamentarians," Rebekha said.

"These committees would allow for scrutiny of government actions and spending.

"Parliament has only been adjourned, not prorogued, which means committees can still function, and they can operate using technology so their members, staff and witnesses can communicate using electronic means while still remaining isolated during the pandemic."

The committees would augment the work of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation. This is a bi-partisan committee that assesses all legislative instruments subject to disallowance, disapproval or affirmative resolution by the Senate.

"The parliamentary disallowance process reviews decisions made by the Executive with respect to proposed rules and regulations that usually accompany new policy announcements," Rebekha said.

"The committee calls on all parliamentarians to be vigilant to ensure that the Parliament does not delegate too much of its legislative power to the executive, particularly where legislation made under this delegated power cannot be reviewed by the Parliament.

"The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation will continue to meet over the coming months even if Parliament is not sitting.

"However, a significant amount of delegated legislation, including the COVID-19 response measures, is not subject to parliamentary disallowance and therefore falls outside of the role of the committee, and is not subject to any parliamentary scrutiny.

"This is why we need two Joint Select Committees to Inquire into the health and economic response to the Coronavirus Crisis."

Rebekha will not be travelling to Canberra next week when Federal Parliament sits to vote on the latest instalment of economic stimulus measures.

"In order to keep the number of people in Parliament House to a minimum to observe social distancing protocols, a request has been made that only 50 MPs and Senators attend.

"There is a preference for attending Members to be within driving distance of Canberra to avoid air travel and minimise border crossings, and for Members who did not attend the last sitting to come to this sitting," Rebekha said.

"Given I attended Parliament a fortnight ago, I believe I can best serve the people of Mayo by staying in South Australia

"I have asked the Government to allow for speeches from MPs interested in making a contribution read into Hansard.

"Senator Rex Patrick will be attending Parliament on behalf of Centre Alliance."

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