Eleven Victorian MPs to quarantine in ACT as virtual parliament explored

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Acting Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly after Friday's national cabinet meeting. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Acting Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly after Friday's national cabinet meeting. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The NSW decision to block people in Victoria with permits to travel to Canberra from driving across the state's border will add another complication as MPs rush to the capital to start their quarantine ahead of the parliamentary sitting week on August 24.

At 6pm on Friday night, 11 of the 50 Victorian representatives had registered their intent to do two weeks' quarantine in the ACT, with many major party backbenchers believed to be staying home, due to the measures that would separate them from their families for a month.

NSW hardened its border with little notice this week, and the ACT government is attempting to institute a system of transit permits.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he understood the challenge faced by Victorian MPs, but the situation had changed so much in Victoria that two weeks of quarantine was necessary for safety.

"I understand the frustration," he said, responding to reports some MPs were unhappy about the requirement to do two weeks' quarantine, adding that the government was exploring options for members to participate virtually.

"I'm sure all members of Parliament will understand their responsibilities here.

"I'm pleased that the advice has been that there's an option to do that quarantine in Victoria before heading up to Canberra. But that also has some strict arrangements around it and I'm sure that will be adhered to."

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While there won't be an option for MPs outside of Canberra to vote, plans are afoot for video-conferencing options to contribute to debate.

"One of the points that the Leader of the Opposition and I very much agree on, and that is that if you're voting in the Parliament then you've got to be here," he said.

Mr Morrison said providing means for MPs to ask questions and participate in debates by other means was sensible and options were being explored, but they might not be ready by August 24.

"We have no objection to moving to participation by those means including, if it were necessary, if I had to be isolated for whatever reason, I would hope to participate in question time and to be able to do that. If I had to do it remotely, fine."

Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the two-week quarantine was necessary for the safety of ACT residents and the whole of Australia. Even though cases in Sydney were increasing, he said MPs from the NSW capital didn't need to isolate as it hadn't been deemed a hotspot by the ACT government.

An ACT Health spokesman said there are currently no plans to declare Sydney a hotspot.

"However, we are closely monitoring the situation," the spokesman said.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to the Prime Minister and the leaders of the other parties to outline the expectations for MPs who will quarantine for two weeks.

This story Eleven Victorian MPs to quarantine in ACT as virtual parliament explored first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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