Right now, as a member of the NSW lower house I have one mechanism to ask questions of government ministers - by having a Legislative Council colleague ask for me under the rules of their house.
Standing Orders in NSW Legislative Assembly allow its members to submit questions on sitting days only, and we are limited to nine per sitting week.
Also during those sitting weeks we have Question Time, can raise issues for debate, and deliver Private Members Statements on matters of importance.
Once each sitting week the opposition can set a topic for a Public Interest Debate.
This is all well and good - when the Parliament is sitting.
The NSW Parliament has not sat since June 24. On that day only the bare minimum of MPs were in the building as necessary budget-related legislation needed to be passed.
We have now missed four sitting weeks.
From the opposition and crossbench, this is not through lack of wanting to be there. We have all fiercely advocated for the Parliament to return.
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There is no health advice to say the Parliament shouldn't sit. In fact, the precedent for Parliament to sit during lockdowns was set last year when urgent legislation needed to be passed.
Yet, the government refuses to attend before October 12.
In the Legislative Council the opposition and the crossbench combined hold more than half the seats. They attended for their scheduled sitting on September 14.
The government labelled this a "political and selfish stunt", a hypocritical judgement considering the government sent in their own backbenchers to have the sitting cancelled by invoking a standing order that prevents proceedings if a minister is not in attendance.
These actions from elected representatives come at time when there is no longer a guarantee that a minister will front media at 11am every day.
With regional areas being treated as an afterthought, an inequitable vaccine allocation, COVID-related hospitalisations peaking, an ambulance system collapsing, and more questions than answers in the roadmap out of lockdown, it is not just important that the government fronts up to explain and be held accountable for their decisions - it is essential.
Every day we ask nurses to tend to the unwell, bus drivers to take the wheel, and supermarket workers to stock shelves.
They don't get to pick and choose when they show up, and the government shouldn't either.
Tim Crakanthorp MP is the Member for Newcastle
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