Parliament House will introduce strict new requirements from next Monday (2 August) as parliamentarians prepare to return after the winter break.
The workforce swells to around 5000 people each day during sitting weeks as MPs and Senators travel with their staff from all over the country, but concerns have been raised about so many people travelling to the ACT and the possibility of a super spreader event if an outbreak occurs.
To help manage risk, parliamentarians have been told to only bring essential staff to Canberra. It is expected only staff in ministerial, shadow ministerial and whips offices, and party spokespeople will be travelling.
The Speaker’s office said the number of parliamentarians physically present in the chamber would be significantly reduced from next week while parliamentary departmental staff will be reduced by around 60 per cent.
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Parliamentarians who cannot physically attend Canberra will be able to participate via video link as the Prime Minister did during the last sitting period as he quarantined after returning from the G7 Summit in England.
The public will not be able to access Parliament House, and members of the federal press gallery have been asked to minimise staff and non-essential visitors.
Physical distancing, masks in mixed areas within the building and the use of the Check In CBR app at all food venues will also come into effect.
Gatherings in high traffic areas are being discouraged.
“The measures are as strict as possible and align with previous arrangements implemented in early 2020 to minimise non-essential activity at [Parliament House] while still enabling sittings to proceed,” a statement from the Speaker’s office said.
“The following temporary and precautionary changes have been made to operations at Australian Parliament House in order to ensure the Commonwealth Parliament can continue its essential work while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”
The Speaker’s office has also requested that committee hearings be held via teleconference, and witnesses only appear if it is essential.
Former parliamentarians, elected members from other jurisdictions, volunteers and sponsored pass holders will not be able to access the building when the new restrictions are in place.
The restrictions will remain in place until Friday, 3 September.