With many preparing to head into the Easter long weekend, the Parliament reconvened for a special sitting on Wednesday to pass the JobKeeper package. In addition, the Parliament also considered a number of other COVID-19 measures which will aim to scrutinise the Government’s large expenditure.
With this in mind, here are the highlights of the Parliament’s special sitting.
PRIME MINISTER AND OPPOSITION LEADER SHOW COVID-19 SOLIDARITY
With the House of Representatives assembling at 10 am on Wednesday, the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP and the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, started the day on a note of national solidarity, imploring Australians to look after one another and stay at home over the Easter long weekend.
Mr Morrison’s speech focussed on the need to protect Australia’s sovereignty and the large costs being paid to protect that by supporting workers. In addition, Mr Morrison outlined the Government’s response to the COVID-19 emergency and the positive effects that have resulted in a flattening of the curve.
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese response commended the Government’s package but also expressed the need for oversight in the Government’s response to COVID-19. Mr Albanese went on to congratulate the Government for agreeing to the establishment of a Senate Select Committee tasked with scrutinising the COVID-19 response.
JOBKEEPER PACKAGE PASSED AFTER LONG DELIBERATION
The purpose of the special Parliamentary sitting was fulfilled late on Wednesday, with the Government’s $130 million ‘JobKeeper’ passed by the House of Representatives and Senate.
Despite agreement between the Government and the unions prior to the Bill’s introduction on Wednesday, Labor still debated the legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives. Labor’s amendments would have extended the JobKeeper scheme to casuals who worked for less than 12 months provided that they were kept on the books by their employer.
These amendments were ultimately voted down and the Bill was passed without the support of Labor, 29 votes to 24. Following this, the Bill was passed through the Senate after much deliberation, with Labor and the Crossbench requesting amendments to the package. All of these amendments were voted down by the Coalition and the Bill passed the Senate in its original form.
WHO WAS THERE AT THE SPECIAL SITTING?
With COVID-19 preventing many MPs and Senators from travelling from Canberra, the reduced ‘special’ sitting of Parliament saw 53 members of the House of Representatives and 36 member of the Senate make the trip to Canberra.
These members of Parliament made the trip to Canberra either by driving due to their vicinity to the capital or via special chartered flights to ensure that the MPs and Senators had reduced chances of contracting COVID-19.
Members present in the House of Representatives included:
|COALITION||LABOR||GREENS / CROSSBENCH|
|The Hon Scott Morrison MP||The Hon Anthony Albanese MP||Mr Adam Bandt MP|
|The Hon Michael McCormack MP||The Hon Richard Marles MP||Dr Helen Haines MP|
|The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP||The Hon Chris Bowen MP||Ms Zali Steggall OAM, MP|
|The Hon Greg Hunt MP||The Hon Tony Burke MP|
|The Hon Christian Porter MP||The Hon Linda Burney MP|
|The Hon Stuart Robert MP||The Hon Mark Butler MP|
|The Hon Dan Tehan MP||Dr Jim Chalmers MP|
|The Hon Karen Andrews MP||The Hon Jason Clare MP|
|The Hon Paul Fletcher MP||Ms Sharon Claydon MP|
|The Hon Darren Chester MP||The Hon Julie Collins MP|
|The Hon Sussan Ley MP||Mr Chris Hayes MP|
|The Hon Alan Tudge MP||Mr Stephen Jones MP|
|The Hon Mark Coulton MP||The Hon Catherine King MP|
|The Hon Michael Sukkar MP||Ms Madeleine King MP|
|The Hon Ben Morton MP||The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP|
|The Hon Andrew Gee MP||Mr Rob Mitchell MP|
|Dr Katie Allen MP||The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP|
|Mrs Bridget Archer MP||The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP|
|Mr Damien Drum MP||Ms Joanne Ryan MP|
|Mr Jason Falinski MP||The Hon Bill Shorten MP|
|Ms Nicole Flint MP||Ms Anne Stanley MP|
|Mr Julian Leeser MP|
|Mrs Melissa McIntosh MP|
|Dr Fiona Martin MP|
|Mr Llew O’Brien MP|
|Mr Dave Sharma MP|
|Mr Bert Van Manen MP|
|Mr Tim Wilson MP|
|Mr Trent Zimmerman MP|
In the Senate, there were 36 members present, including:
|COALITION||LABOR||GREENS / CROSSBENCH|
|Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham||Senator Anthony Chisholm||Senator Rex Patrick|
|Senator Slade Brockman||Senator Raff Ciccone||Senator Malcolm Roberts|
|Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash||Senator Katy Gallagher||Senator Rachel Siewert|
|Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck||Senator the Hon Kristina Keneally||Senator Larissa Waters|
|Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann||Senator Kimberley Kitching||Senator Peter Whish-Wilson|
|Senator Perin Davey||Senator Sue Lines|
|Senator the Hon Jonathon Duniam||Senator Jenny McAllister|
|Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells||Senator Tony Sheldon|
|Senator the Hon Jane Hume||Senator Anne Urquhart|
|Senator the Hon James McGrath||Senator Jess Walsh|
|Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie||Senator Murray Watt|
|Senator Jim Molan AO DSC||Senator the Hon Penny Wong|
|Senator the Hon Marise Payne|
|Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC|
|Senator the Hon Anne Ruston|
|Senator the Hon Scott Ryan|
|Senator Paul Scarr|
|Senator the Hon Zed Seselja|
|Senator Dean Smith|
SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED TO SCRUTINISE COVID-19 SPENDING
As part of the special Parliamentary sitting, the Parliament, without the support of the Coalition, established a Senate Select Committee which will be tasked with scrutinising the expenditure related to the COVID-19 response. The Committee is to be chaired by Labor Senator, Senator Katy Gallagher who is also the Shadow Minister for Finance, Shadow Minister for the Public Service and the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.
The Committee will consist of three senior Senators, including Senator Gallagher, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Kristina Keneally and Shadow Minister for Norther Australia, Senator Murray Watt, Greens Senator, Senator Rachel Siewert, Independent Senator, Senator Jacqui Lambie, Nationals Senator, Senator Perin Davey and Liberal Senator, Senator James Paterson.
This Committee follows the release of the revised sitting calendar during the last Parliamentary sitting, in which the Parliament is scheduled to not sit for a five-month period. Labor has made it clear that it wants Parliament to continue sitting so that the Government can be held to account for the measures it is taking to respond to COVID-19.