COVID-19 Statement by the Presiding Officers regarding sittings of Parliament and Senate Estimates 19 to 30 October 2020

Joint statement from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith MP and the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan

15 October 2020

The following arrangements will be put in place regarding operations and activities at Australian Parliament House (APH) for the upcoming parliamentary sitting period comprising the House of Representatives and Senate Budget Estimates hearings. These arrangements are the result of consultations between Presiding Officers, Parliamentary Departments and the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and are in accordance with the ACT Government’s COVID-19 Easing of Restrictions Roadmap.

Access to Parliament House

APH will again close to the general public for the parliamentary sitting period - Monday 19 October to Friday 30 October 2020.

Proceedings in the House of Representatives may still be followed through the Live Minutes, and both the House and Senate Estimates hearings can be viewed via the APH website.

Arrangements previously in place regarding the operation of the House of Representatives in a COVID-safe manner will continue. Specific arrangements have been put in place for Senate Estimates hearings. Further information for witnesses and officials is available from the Senate Committee Secretariats.

We take this opportunity to remind all parliamentarians, occupants and those attending the building for essential business:

  • masks should be worn in areas of the building where people are circulating;
  • if feeling unwell, do not attend APH; and
  • if unwell while attending APH, seek a COVID test. If a building occupant, report all suspected and confirmed cases to your nominated APH contact point.

The following categories of passholder will lose automatic access to the private areas of the building:

  • former parliamentarians;
  • elected members of other legislatures;
  • volunteers; and
  • sponsored pass holders.

Only persons needing to conduct essential business should be signed in and sponsors should ensure their visitors leave the building immediately following the conclusion of their business.

Members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery will also be asked to avoid sponsoring non-essential attendance of escorted media visitors.

Building Operations

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

All school group bookings will be cancelled or postponed.

No events will be held in the function spaces of the building.

The operation of common building facilities will be in accordance with the ACT Government’s easing of restrictions and includes physically distanced tables and chairs in all catering facilities including the Staff Dining Room, Members and Guests Dining Room and Aussies; and additional chairs and tables in all outdoor areas.

All meetings, whether parliamentary committee or party, must adhere to physical distancing guidelines if they cannot be conducted by video or teleconference.

The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) will continue to apply the measures adopted earlier this year including:

  • physical distancing markers on floors at security screening points and food outlets;
  • hand sanitiser stations;
  • hygiene reminder signs;
  • additional cleaning of high traffic touch points such as door handles and lift buttons;
  • maximum occupancy signs in lifts and committee rooms; and
  • all DPS food outlets will be cashless.

Masks

While the wearing of face masks is not mandatory in the ACT, it is strongly recommended in those areas of the building where people circulate and where physical distancing is not possible, particularly by those at increased risk of COVID-19. Face mask kits will be available at building entrances and the level 1 cloak room.

Senate Estimates

Additional COVID Safe measures will be in place for Senate Estimates. Only essential Departmental officials are to attend APH. Arrival will be via the public carpark and main front entrance.

COVID Marshals will escort officials through to committee rooms.

Physical distancing is to be maintained at all times and maximum occupancy limits for all rooms will be monitored. Additional cleaning of committee rooms, waiting rooms and high touch points will be implemented.

Conduct of parliamentarians and essential staff travelling from interstate

The staff of Members and Senators should not travel to Canberra unless it is considered absolutely essential.

At all times Senators, Members and staff should follow the advice of health authorities regarding the need to seek medical advice and treatment. Up-to-date official information is available at ACT Health. Please do not travel to Canberra if you are unwell.

When attending APH, parliamentarians and staff should avoid congregating in groups. Social gatherings are strongly discouraged.

All travellers should check the ACT Health website regarding restrictions on those who have visited designated areas. ACT travel advice can be found at www.covid19.act.gov.au/community/travel. Compliance with these requirements is compulsory. As advice evolves to meet new circumstances it is the responsibility of all travellers to regularly check this information and ensure compliance.

For those parliamentarians from areas free of community transmission or who have undertaken quarantine arrangements, strict compliance with ACT orders and physical distancing should be followed. All persons visiting the ACT should make themselves familiar with the latest health advice applying in the ACT jurisdiction at ACT Health FAQs restrictions.

Health and Recreation Centre

Opening Hours:
6:15am and 8:00pm Monday to Thursday
6:15am to 7:00pm Friday.

Parliamentarians only between 6:15am and 9:00am each day.

Arrangements are in accordance with the ACT Government’s easing of restrictions and include restricted instructor-led classes, supervised use of weights and other equipment, pool, squash courts and tennis courts.

Numbers are limited by current ACT restrictions and advance bookings are required.

The ovals will not be open for bookings for contact sports such as touch football.

The DPS will continue to provide regular updates as required regarding the operations of APH to building occupants over the sitting weeks following ongoing consultation with health authorities.

Occupants of the building are recommended to download and activate the COVIDSafe App. The App can be downloaded from App Stores.

ends