‘Keep yourself to yourself’: Health Minister warns parliamentarians, staff against partying in ACT

Dominic Giannini 22 July 2021
Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith is concerned parliament’s return could become a super-spreader event. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has told people travelling to the ACT for parliament to “keep yourself to yourself as much as possible” and avoid partying while in Canberra.

The workforce in Parliament House swells to around 5000 people each day during sitting weeks, and MPs and Senators travel with their staff from all over the country.

There is concern that the upcoming sitting weeks, which recommence on 3 August after the winter break, could become a superspreader event with people travelling back to every Australian jurisdiction.

READ MORE: More Pfizer jabs become available, Queensland remains open to ACT

Ms Stephen-Smith said people from Greater Sydney who want to attend parliament should already be in the ACT undertaking their quarantine period.

There is confusion about COVID-19 rules with directions and health measures from multiple sources, including the ACT’s Chief Health Officer, the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer, Parliamentary Officers and individual political parties.

But Ms Stephen-Smith said all incoming parliamentarians and their staff would need to abide by the ACT’s restrictions.

“If your jurisdiction, your LGA is subject to stay at home orders, you should be abiding by those. If they are subject to quarantine, you should be abiding by those,” she said.

“Everybody here has a level of responsibility. My message to MPs, to Senators and to their staff is if you are coming to the ACT, please keep yourself to yourself as much as possible.

“Maintain your physical distance from people you do not work directly in an office with, and please do not go out partying in the ACT. Minimise the risk as much as possible.”

Political parties would also be cognisant of their responsibilities and should be sending messages to their staff to avoid going out in groups, socialising and gathering for events, she said.

READ ALSO: It’s taken a decade, but I’m no longer embarrassed to have stayed in Canberra

Ms Stephen-Smith also took a jab at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for holding a press conference without a mask yesterday (22 July) despite being subject to some restrictions after ACT Health granted him an exemption to travel to Canberra.

“I have to say, I probably would not have chosen, if I was the Prime Minister, to have a press conference without a mask on,” she said.

“I am aware that the Prime Minister got specific advice from the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer about the various activities that he was going to undertake under the exemption from quarantine, and that did include specific advice about the conduct of press conferences.

“[But] in this situation, he is the person in quarantine, so it was great that everyone else was wearing a mask … and I am sure there was a reasonable amount of distance from those journalists asking questions.”

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