On Monday 24 August Senator Larissa Waters became the first senator to contribute to a parliamentary debate via video link. Senator Waters, a senator for Queensland, addressed the Senate from Brisbane through newly installed video technology. She spoke in support of a bill to ensure that the Northern Territory has at least two electorates.
Both the Senate and House of Representatives are now using video technology to allow parliamentarians to engage remotely with Parliament. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the ability for many members of parliament and their staff to attend meetings.
Can members of parliament fully participate in meetings via video?
No. Members can make speeches during debates, and ask questions during Question Time, but they are not able to vote. However, the parties ensure that the outcomes of votes in the chamber are not affected by members’ absences through a system called pairing. Pairing is when a party arranges for a member to be absent from a vote to balance out a member of a different party who is unable to attend that vote. Since each party is down a vote, the result of the vote is not affected.
Has the Parliament used video technology before this?
Parliamentary committees have used audio and video technology to allow members of parliament, experts, interest groups and the community to participate in committee hearings for many years. This is the first time that the senators and members have been able to use technology in place of physically attending a parliamentary sitting.