Joint statement by the Presiding Officers on building operations at the Australian Parliament House

Issue date: Monday, 26 July 2021

Following our ongoing discussions and correspondence with Commonwealth health officials and agencies including the Chief Medical Officer, the following temporary and precautionary changes have been made to operations at Australian Parliament House (APH) in order to ensure the Commonwealth Parliament can continue its essential work while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The measures are as strict as possible and align with previous arrangements implemented in early 2020 to minimise non-essential activity at APH while still enabling sittings to proceed. 

These arrangements will come into effect on Monday 2 August 2021 and will remain in place until Friday 3 September inclusive.

APH will be closed to the general public; this includes the galleries in each chamber. Parliamentary proceedings may still be followed through the Live Minutes and Dynamic Red, and through the APH website.

The numbers of members and senators attending sittings in person will be substantially reduced, coordinated by party whips. Remote participation for those unable to attend will be facilitated and supported. We expect that many will participate remotely during this period. 

Parliamentarians have been requested to only bring essential staff to Canberra and Parliament House. We expect that this will be limited to ministerial, shadow ministerial, party spokesperson and whips’ staff.

The numbers of parliamentary departmental staff will be reduced by approximately 60% with as many regular staff working remotely where possible. Parliamentary departments will co-ordinate these arrangements directly with their employees.

All external departments and agencies should minimise attendance of public servants unless on essential business.

Members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery are also asked to minimise presence of staff and avoid non-essential attendance of escorted visitors.

Members and senators and their staff should only sign-in those persons needing to conduct essential business and sponsors should ensure their visitors leave the building immediately following the conclusion of their business.

While it is formally a matter for each parliamentary committee to consider, we recommend that Senate, House and joint committee hearings should continue to use video or teleconference facilities.

Committee hearings held in APH during the next parliamentary sitting week will not be open to the public. Arrangements will be made for witnesses to appear in person only if essential.  Committee proceedings may be viewed through the APH website.

School group bookings and all event bookings will be cancelled or postponed.

Access restrictions will be applied to some pass-holder categories to minimise non-essential visits to the building. There will only be access for members, senators, parliamentary service staff and media passholders.

The following categories of passholder will not be able to access the building:

  • Former parliamentarians
  • Elected members of other legislatures
  • Volunteers and
  • Sponsored pass holders.

Physical distancing in the building, including the chambers and other meeting rooms, will return. The use of the Check-in CBR app will be extended to all food and beverage venues staying open under the takeaway only restriction.

Those in Parliament House are asked not to attend any events on the Approved Assembly Area (the grass area beyond the forecourt).

The fitness centre and pool will be closed, along with the sports fields. Regular team sports will be cancelled.

COVID-safe marshals will encourage physical distancing and the wearing of face masks in mixed areas of the building, and gathering in high traffic areas will be discouraged.

The strict measures will be outlined in greater detail in circulars for building occupants. 

At all times senators, members and staff should follow the advice of health authorities, and specifically the orders of ACT Health when outside the building and regarding the need to seek medical advice and treatment. 

As there are jurisdictional differences in the response to COVID-19, it is important to familiarise yourself with the current ACT Government advice.

Other up-to-date official information and advice is available from ACT Health and the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Australian states and territories have applied their own travel restrictions, including in some cases closing state borders.

As the situation continues to evolve, building occupants will be kept informed of any change regarding the operations of Parliament House. The Department of Parliamentary Services will continue to provide regular updates regarding appropriate health measures via Information Circulars.

Discussions between Presiding Officers and health authorities regarding additional measures and requirements for those travelling to the ACT and returning to their home jurisdiction are ongoing.