Demand for Parliamentary debate

Friday January 14, 2022

Published by The Border Watch


By Peter Gandolfi


EXCLUSIVE THE pressure on our ailing health system, lack of public communication and the impact on businesses due to Covid-19, has resulted in the majority of the State's MP's signing a petition calling on the Premier to recall Parliament before the State election. Mount Gambier Independent Troy Bell is one of 25 out of 47 politicians in Parliament's Lower House who have signed the petition. Critical of the State Government's handling of the re-opening of the State, the 25 MPs want Parliament to resume prior to the State election due in March. The MP's want the Premier to recall Parliament to sit on February 8, 9 and 10. The petition, titled "Parliament must sit again", was signed by Labor and independent members of Parliament, and it's covering letter states that: "We are deeply concerned that the Government has not adequately planned for the new variants in its Covid reopening plans." "Families and individuals are fearful for their safety and confused by unclear messages," the letter to the Premier said. "Businesses are facing extraordinary economic hardship. "Retail and stock distribution chains are facing worker shortages. "Allied health professionals, including ambulance officers, general practitioners, chemist, nurses and community care providers, are under unacceptable pressure. "The circumstances now facing our State require Parliament to sit to assist in managing the Covid-19 crisis and to provide parliamentary oversight. The letter to the Premier also states that: "Certain members who have requested an urgent briefing have had no response". In support of the petition, Mr Bell said he had concerns about how the State Government has handled its response to Omicron. CONTINUED PAGE 2 Demand for Parliamentary debate FROM PAGE 1 "My big concern is around schools returning and the likelihood that schools will not have the support they need to keep teachers, support staff and students safe during a peak period for Omicron," Mr Bell said. "There's a whole range of things we should be looking at to make sure we give our kids the best protection that we can. "The environment has changed. "We are going to have the perfect storm of teachers and students in confined spaces of the classrooms. "Looking at the case numbers, I think we are going to come into a second wave of Covid and it's going to hit right at the time school is going back." Mr Bell said his biggest criticism has been the communication to the public by the State Government and SA Health. "As independents, we have been asking for briefings on the Covid response and we passed legislation to ensure that briefings would occur but until today we have had only one briefing," he said. "What infuriates me is that as Independents we hold the balance of power and we committed to SA Health that whatever resources they wanted we would ensure the government delivered and we were told repeatedly that they had everything under control with enough resources and I don't believe that to be the case - it's very frustrating." Mr Bell said: "We need to recall Parliament to hold the government to account and question it over it's handling of the Covid -19 response so far." Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas, who has also signed the petition, said the Parliament has an important function to play when it comes to public policy oversight. "It's particularly true when we live in a time when Government is utilising extraordinary powers that are largely unprecedented in our lifetimes," Mr Malinauskas said. "If the Government is going to deploy extraordinary authority of power - that needs to be scrutinised - that is the job of the Parliament." Mr Malinauskas said the State Government had not prepared the State well for the border openings. "Failing to plan is a plan to fail and that's exactly what has occurred in this instance," he said. Premier Steven Marshall was contacted for comment.