Australian PM Told Virus Risk to Parliament Sitting

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 18, 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to cancel the next sitting of the federal Parliament due to worries over the spread of COVID-19 in Victoria and New S0uth Wales.

The escalating spread of the coronavirus in Victoria and worrying trends in NSW have prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to seek the cancellation of the planned sitting of the federal parliament early next month.

Acting on the advice of acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, Morrison has written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to request that the sitting fortnight commencing August 4 not be held.

Kelly has said holding a sitting of Parliament would pose a “significant risk” to MPs and senators and their staff, as well as parliamentary staff and the broader ACT community.
Morrison says the government cannot ignore such advice.

“It is not feasible nor desirable to hold a sitting of parliament that would exclude parliamentarians from a single state,” Morrison said in a statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, authorities are cautiously awaiting the latest update on the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

Victoria recorded 428 more cases on Friday, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, while three people died, taking the national toll to 116.

There are 122 people hospitalised in Victoria, including 31 in intensive care.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton painted a bleak picture of the state’s “disappointing and concerning” new case numbers.

“We have not turned the corner here,” he said in Melbourne on Friday.

“Tragically, there will be several who will require intensive care support and a number of people will die.”

Health experts are calling for restrictions in the state to be tightened to level four.

Federal Victorian Liberal MP Tim Wilson said if the trend in infections continued, it would present real challenges.

“We need to be mindful that a lot of the outbreaks are¬†occurring in targeted communities, and so blanket policies may not be the most effective ones,” he told ABC television.

“It might be targeted ones to targeted communities that may be more sustainable.”

NSW recorded eight new coronavirus cases on Friday, with 42 cases now linked to the Crossroads Hotel in southwest Sydney.

The state has 101 active cases with one person in intensive care.

NSW will tighten restrictions next week, with a 10-person booking cap at pubs, restaurants, and cafes.

Weddings will be capped at 150 people and guests must be seated at all times.

The federal government is putting the finishing touches to an Economic and Fiscal Update to be released on Thursday, ahead of a full budget on October 6.

The update will include details of what the JobKeeper wage subsidy and enhanced JobSeeker dole payment, both introduced to cushion the economic impact of COVID-19, will look like beyond September.

Morrison said the next phase of support will still be a national program but better targeted to where it is needed most.

Colin Brinsden