Constitution Amendment (Virtual Attendance) Bill 2021

Constitution Amendment (Virtual Attendance) Bill 2021

(Debate, 31 March 2022, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I speak briefly in support of The Greens Constitution Amendment (Virtual Attendance) Bill 2022 and thank them for bringing the legislation to this place. I acknowledge the work of Mr David Shoebridge in drafting the legislation with his Greens colleagues. We know that David will soon be leaving this place. Let us hope that he is able to leave this place modernising it and that he brings the same approach to the Federal Parliament should he be successful, and I personally hope that he will be. This power should only be used very rarely in emergency situations, and that is the test that is in the legislation. It is envisaged that this will be a new way in which Parliament would sit, but a rare way that Parliament would sit in extreme emergencies.

Indeed, yesterday during debate on the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, the Attorney General alluded to the fact that that legislation may be needed at times to protect Parliament, implying that there would be times in which it would be unsafe for members to attend Parliament. In those circumstances—what was alluded to as a potential coup—it would be important for us to be able to sit remotely. The Presiding Officers serve at the pleasure of the House, they are elected representatives of the House and history shows that they often have the trust of the House. We would expect the Presiding Officers to be able to make that decision appropriately. I thank The Greens for bringing the bill to the House. This is a power that can only be used very rarely and over the past two years we have seen circumstances where it would have been helpful, for the passage of laws or providing governments with emergency powers, for the Parliament to sit remotely. The bill has my support.

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