No special rules: Fortnight quarantine for Victorians to attend Federal Parliament
All Victorian federal MPs and senators, including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt, will be forced into 14-days of self-quarantine from Saturday if they want to attend federal parliament later this month.
Health authorities have decided no federal representatives can travel to the Australian Capital Territory for the August 24 fortnight of parliamentary sittings without first undertaking two weeks without either leaving their home or hotel room.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arrives wearing a mask for his address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Friday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
The federal opposition will push for Victorian MPs who choose not to travel to Canberra to speak in parliament via videolink, however they will not be given voting rights.
The decision has privately frustrated many MPs, including cabinet ministers, who had been prepared to undertake strict social distancing practices, including wearing masks, travelling alone, driving hire cars and eating, sleeping and showering in their offices.
Mr Hunt, who has been at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, said there would be "no special rules, no exemption for me" and he planned to quarantine in Canberra beginning on Saturday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Labor did not dispute the medical advice but it clearly means many Victorian MPs, particularly those with caring or family responsibilities, will not be able to attend.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese wants MPS to be able to address parliament via videolink.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
"The government must therefore ensure those MPs can still participate – and represent their constituents - by giving speeches, and asking and answering questions," Mr Albanese said.
"It has never been more important for Victorians to have their say in our Parliament. Given the medical advice, allowing Victorian MPs to contribute to debate via videolink will ensure the Victorian people can continue to have their voices heard."
A working group was formed last month to establish ways for parliament to reconvene after the outbreak in Victoria and several state border closures forced the Morrison government to cancel the scheduled August sitting fortnight.
Mr Albanese said it was "disappointing" Mr Morrison sought his own medical advice before a parliamentary working group had an opportunity to determine whether other protocols may have been possible.
In a joint statement on Thursday, Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan - also both Victorians - said Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sent advice from the Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, advising them of the requirements.
Professor Kelly said any Victorian senators, MPs or accompanying staff member represented "a significant risk" to ACT residents considering the coronavirus crisis in the state.
"It also presents a significant risk for Members and Senators and their staff from other jurisdictions, with the possibility of seeding into other jurisdictions," the letter reads.
"It also presents a risk to those who are themselves vulnerable, those at increased risk if infected with COVID-19."
His advice is that Victorian politicians hoping to attend the sitting week in person should quarantine for two weeks - either in Canberra, or in their own home in Melbourne providing all members of the household also quarantine.
Members and Senators would then undertake a test on day 12 of quarantine and await clearance before leaving.
Mr Smith and Senator Ryan said they would have "more to say" about operations of parliament prior to its resumption.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra