UNC Senator, Anil Roberts, has taken issue with the new rules adopted by the House, as it relates to the number of Members being allowed into Parliament.
On Friday, Speaker of the House, Bridgid Annisette-George, announced that due to the lack of information surrounding how many MP’s have been fully vaccinated, the number allowed in the Chamber will now be reduced from 26 (14 government members and 12 opposition) to 14 (8 government members and 6 opposition.)
Annisette-George said: “I wish to assure honourable members that as more data becomes available on the numbers of vaccinated members, there will be an ongoing evaluation of risks with a view to adopting a path to normalcy.”
However, Roberts said “The covid19 protocols in this building (the Red House) do not make sense. All that they do is thwart the one thing that we can do, which is give information so the media and the population could ask, and we have been curtailed.”
He told media, “Keeping senators and parliamentarians out of the building does not make sense, because the building is huge, there is social separation, plexiglass, testing, we are all masked. But the Government has thwarted all our rights, including the speaking time of the Opposition.”
He noted, “The constitutional arrangement that we have is that the Government will have its way. So the only thing we can do is talk. Previous speakers have said that the Opposition will have its say because the Government will have its way.”
Senate president, Christine Kangaloo also read similar regulations during the First Session on Friday, stating that decisions were taken to protect members and staff from COVID-19.
This included limiting Government’s bench to eight members, the Opposition’s bench to three members and the Independent bench to four members. Media and members of the public are no longer allowed in the public gallery.