Parliament passes coronavirus bills

The Parliament met on Monday 23 March for an unusual one day sitting.

Mar 23, 2020

The focus of the day was on considering laws relating to Australia’s response to COVID-19, including ways to assist businesses to survive during the pandemic. 

The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other members of parliament made speeches about the challenges facing Australia throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and how Australia can rise to meet those challenges. The Prime Minister claimed the pandemic will ‘put us all to the test, as at no time since the Second World War.’

This sitting of Parliament was unusual for a number of reasons:

  • Far fewer members of parliament were present than usual. 90 of the 151 members of the House of Representatives attended, and 26 of the 76 senators attended. It is the job of the party whips to manage absences, and to work with other parties to ensure that everyone is properly represented during votes.
  • The Corona Virus Economic Response Package Omnibus Bill 2020, and a number of related bills, which contained urgent measures to assist Australian businesses, passed the House of Representatives and Senate in a single day. This is rare and usually only happens during emergencies when both the government and opposition agree that Parliament needs to act urgently. Bills are normally considered by Parliament for weeks, or even months.
  • The Parliament sat for only one day, instead of its usual sitting fortnight.  It also decided that it will next sit on Tuesday 11 August. This will mean the usual Budget sittings in May will not take place, but will be deferred to October.