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Premier rejects call by majority of MPs to recall parliament

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Parliamentary Speaker Dan Cregan says a call by a majority of MPs to recall parliament should be “respected and acted on”, as Premier Steven Marshall rejected the push for an emergency sitting to debate the Government’s  COVID crisis management.

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In a letter released late yesterday by Cregan, who quit the Liberal Party last year before seizing the Speakership, 25 MPs demand Marshall recall parliament to “provide parliamentary oversight” for the current Omicron outbreak – although the nature of the oversight is not specified.

The letter is signed by the state’s 19 Labor MPs and all six crossbenchers – including former Liberals Sam Duluk, Troy Bell, Liberal exile Fraser Ellis and Cregan himself.

It comes weeks after the power to recall parliament was returned to the Government, after it briefly rested with the Speaker after a shortlived procedural change enacted when Cregan was elevated to the chair.

“When the House of Assembly adjourned for five months it did so on the basis that the COVID-19 re-opening in South Australia would be well-managed without parliamentary oversight, including the management of any new variants,” the letter reads.

“We are deeply concerned that the Government has not adequately planned for new variants in its COVID-19 reopening arrangements.

“Families and individuals are fearful for their safety and confused by unclear messages [while] businesses are facing extraordinary economic hardship… retail and stock distribution chains are facing worker shortages [and] frontline staff and allied health professionals… are under unacceptable pressure.

“The circumstances now facing our state require the House of Assembly to sit to assist in managing the COVID-19 crisis and to provide parliamentary oversight.”

The missive states that “a majority of members of the House” now wish to sit on February 8,9 and 10, adding that “certain members who have requested an urgent briefing have also had no response to those requests”.

Cregan adds that as Speaker, he is “satisfied that the public interest requires the House to meet again at an earlier time and I would welcome your concurrence with that view”.

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However, Marshall did not concur, telling InDaily during his daily COVID update yesterday: “No, we’re only a few weeks away now from going into caretaker mode [ahead of the March election, and] my focus is on listening to the experts and keeping SA safe.”

“That will be my focus, and there will be no recall of parliament prior to the election,” the Premier said.

The Legislative Council is already scheduled to sit for a week next month, but legislation can only pass if both houses are sitting.

In a statement, Cregan said: “We are facing a very significant health crisis and small business is on its knees.”

“The strong public expectation is that MPs work as hard as they can and that must include parliamentary sittings,” he said.

“A request from a majority of parliamentarians to recall parliament, especially when emergency powers are being exercised by the executive, should always be respected and acted on.”

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