What’s good for the frontline Aussie worker is definitely not good for the prime minister of the nation, or so it seems, as Hawaii 5-0 Scott Morrison announced on 18 July that he’d be shutting down federal parliament for the first two sitting weeks of August.
Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly advised the PM that due to “the increased community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the trends in New South Wales” flying a bunch of politicians and their helpers into Canberra is too risky.
“It is not feasible nor desirable to hold a sitting of parliament that would exclude parliamentarians from a single state,” Morrison said in a press release, as he second guessed questions about why all sitting members bar Victorians can’t turn up to work.
However, he didn’t address the question as to why – with millions of Australians working from home right now and contacting their colleagues via online conferencing applications – Victorian MPs can’t work remotely, while the rest of the gang turn up to work.
Nothing essential here
From the beginning of the pandemic, there has been something fishy about the now-approval-rating-peaking prime minister’s haphazard approach to what he termed “essential workers”: people still required to front up to work during the national shutdown.
Nurses, supermarket workers, pharmacists, and delivery drivers being classed as essential made sense. But the fact that teachers were initially lumped in there and then sent to work with rooms full of children – who were miraculously deemed immune to the virus – didn’t seem to scream logic.
And then the PM went and shut down parliament on 23 March, signalling that, unlike postal workers, those who draft and enact the laws of the land aren’t essential.
It was initially planned that the chambers wouldn’t reconvene until mid-August, however towards the end of May, some emergency sitting days were held to pass legislation that couldn’t wait until after the pandemic. And by mid-June it seemed that Canberra was back to business as usual.
Meanwhile, as federal MPs were sent home, Morrison established the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC), which is a body stacked with fossil fuel proponents charged with advising the government on how to steer the country out of a post-pandemic recession.
And when a NCCC report was “leaked” to the press at the end of May, it became apparent that the corporate advisory body – that could manage to convene during the crisis – was putting together a gas-fuelled recovery model, as fossil fuel expansion is exactly what’s needed with changing climate.
What the hell is Zoom?
But, the last time Morrison shutdown parliament, it was the early days of the pandemic. Most of the millions who went home to work had never done so before, but they’ve adapted. And the many that do remain at home, as being non-essential in the bodily capacity, are now able to work remotely.
So, a lot of Australians are wondering why both the Liberals and the Nationals and the ever-compliant Labor Party can’t get themselves together and work out how to use this conferencing program called Zoom that a lot of us had never heard of prior the COVID-19 lockdown.
It certainly begs the question as to whether the PM just wants a mid-pandemic rest, similar to that trip to Hawaii during the bushfire crisis, or whether he might be planning another corporate coup, where his fossil fuel backers are given further reign to redesign the economy under cover of COVID.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.