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Combining Old with New – Our Parliament in Action During the Pandemic

Less than 12 months ago abrupt change was impossible, remote work unpopular. Kicking and screaming, have been forced into embracing change and technology that has long been readily available to us. As Andrew Wear, author of Solved said, “we need to prod and poke the accepted wisdom”. The answers were all there, we just couldn’t see them until we were forced to look for them.

Of course the elected members of the Victorian Parliament are no different. They have also had to find ways of converting homes into offices and classrooms. Numbers allowed in the Legislative Assembly have been reduced to 20 and barriers have been erected. The result, perhaps unintended, has made for a far more courteous question time. Regional members have been allowed to attend virtually. Now, more than ever, we are being forced to change and adapt in the blink of an eye. Many are taking the opportunity to consider permanent changes to the way they work, where they work and even where they live. Should the same considerations be made to the Victorian Parliaments Westminster system and legislation? Does it need to be adapted, modified and made safer for current and future Victorians? Should legislation on Aboriginal Treaty have been passed by now? Is question time still valuable in its current form in the digital age? Should electronic petitions be accepted and given more weight? Should elected members be allowed to vote on bills virtually?

Perhaps parallels can be made with the current challenge of refurbishing the heritage listed Parliament House building. For several years now, the long, complicated task of turning a 164 year old building into one that is safe, practical and future proof has been undertaken. As you walk the corridors (even virtually) the evidence of the struggle between old and new are everywhere. The design of the immaculate dome and it’s stained glass windows are abruptly interrupted by the sight of a smoke detector and wifi antenna. A beautifully tiled stone floor has been cut and demolished to make way for a set of elevators and fire escapes. An 1850’s building is suddenly being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, adapted, modernised and made safe. Shouldn’t this have all happened a long time ago?

 

Jerram Wurlod, 2020 Program Participant



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