MPs say they are being deprived of their role to represent Australians

LEFT OUT: Crossbench MPs Rebekha Sharkie, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Helen Haines. Picture: MARK JESSER
LEFT OUT: Crossbench MPs Rebekha Sharkie, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Helen Haines. Picture: MARK JESSER

Members of the Federal Parliament's crossbench are feeling left out when it comes to decision-making on the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's negotiations on what measures are needed have involved the National Cabinet, and then the Opposition when it comes time to pass the measures in parliament.

In a letter signed by six House of Representatives MPs and two senators from the crossbench, Mr Morrison has been asked to establish committees looking at coronavirus that includes those from across the political spectrum.

"To date, discussions about oversight of the government's stimulus package, and about whether and how Parliament will sit, have been conducted between the government and the opposition," the letter stated.

"Given Parliament sittings have been suspended during the coronavirus crisis, the crossbench and the millions of Australians we represent have been effectively deprived of an important part of our role as Parliamentarians."

MORE CORONAVIRUS NEWS:

What they want is two committees: one to conduct an inquiry into the health response to coronavirus and another into the economic response.

Under the proposal, the committees would be made up of 11 MPs and senators including four from the Coalition, three from Labor, one from the Greens and three others from the crossbench.

The joint letter was signed by Adam Bandt, Helen Haines, Bob Katter, Rebekha Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie, Zali Steggall and senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.

It was addressed to Mr Morrison, Leader of the House of Representatives Christian Porter and Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann.

"Given the significant amounts of money being spent and the importance of effectively dealing with the coronavirus crisis and looking after all parts of the Australian population, including those represented by us, we ask you to use next week's sittings to establish two Parliamentary oversight committees," the letter stated.

Parliament is due to sit on Wednesday to deal with urgent issues such as passing legislation for people to get access to the $1500 per fortnight job keeper payments.

Dr Haines, the Indi MP, has submitted a notice of motion she also wants debated - to establish a committee that will review measures taken by the government to address the health impacts of COVID-19, and the operation of the National Cabinet and Chief Medical Officer, among others.

The motion recommends the 11 MPs and senators selected have experience in fields such as medicine, nursing, allied health or science and research, and have the power to hold public hearings and call witnesses.

Dr Haines has already written another letter to Mr Morrison calling for more PPE in regional areas, financial assistance grants for councils to be increased and brought forward, more support for bushfire-affected communities, and for him to urgently consider how to accelerate cash payments to vulnerable people.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie will be one of those not in Canberra on Wednesday, saying it was better for those who can drive to Parliament to attend the sitting with reduced numbers, rather than have her get on a plane from South Australia.

She said the proposed new committees were important because the government's coronavirus response had been announced without any parliamentary scrutiny.

"The committee calls on all parliamentarians to be vigilant to ensure that the Parliament does not delegate too much of its legislative power to the executive, particularly where legislation made under this delegated power cannot be reviewed by the Parliament," she said.

Clark MP Mr Wilkie has previously said the government should protect what he called a volatile Australian stock market from "foreign corporate raiders".

"I am calling on the government to ensure that the Foreign Investment Review Board looks closely at all potential overseas purchases of Australian companies to make sure that any sale is not an opportunistic seizure by foreigners at odds with the long term social and economic interest of Australians," he said.

This story MPs say they are being deprived of their role to represent Australians first appeared on The Canberra Times.