The smiling faces of pregnant federal MPs Marielle Smith, Alicia Payne and Anika Wells while they Facetimed colleague Kate Thwaites – who is also pregnant – during the last sitting week in Canberra was heartwarming. Their presence, online connection and camaraderie sends a strong message about how our federal Parliament is changing.
The four MPs were part of a trial sitting week in response to COVID-19, which enabled members to contribute to debates, questions and committees in person and virtually, whether in Canberra or not. This model also presents an opportunity for Parliament to be more flexible, raise the standard of Question Time and help the environment.
Technology has long added value to our democracy and parliamentary interactions. Right now, our faith in parliamentary representation needs a boost more than ever and this new model could do just that.
It holds the promise of a thriving modern parliament and is a big improvement on parliament’s initial response to the pandemic, which was a drastically curtailed number of sitting days, with a restricted number of MPs in the chamber. This had negative implications for our democracy.