Green light for Vic MPs to sit remotely

Victoria's MPs will be able to sit online under a new motion passed by the upper house.
Victoria's MPs will be able to sit online under a new motion passed by the upper house.

More than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian parliament's upper house has passed a motion allowing MPs to sit online.

The Legislative Council on Wednesday passed a motion allowing MPs to participate in question time and deliver speeches from home if they are unwell, have contracted COVID-19 or are forced to self-isolate.

They will not be able to vote remotely, however a successful Greens amendment will allow an MP's position to be recorded in Hansard.

It comes after two sitting weeks were deferred in August due to the state's latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Parliament has since returned with decreased hours and fewer MPs present because only one house can sit at a time.

Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam said the move was a "huge step in the right direction".

"The upper house has finally moved one step closer to the 21st century after most other workplaces have found a way to work online over the past 18 months," she said in a statement.

"This reform will help prevent parliament being cancelled again ... It will also help make parliament more family-friendly by allowing new parents to participate remotely."

Ms Ratnam said for the new hybrid sitting model to be as effective as possible, the upper house must also introduce a pairing system that includes crossbench MPs.

"That's still the missing piece of the puzzle. Both Labor and the Libs essentially do this now, yet the crossbench are denied the same opportunity," she said.

In Canberra, federal politicians are unable to vote remotely but can participate in question time, speak to bills and provide members statements. Both houses can sit at the same time.

Australian Associated Press