Yesterday, Dr Ramona Muttacumaru, the Acting Executive Director, COVID-19 Strategy and Policy, COVID 19 Response Division of the Victorian Department, wrote to the Presiding Officers of the Victorian Parliament bluntly stating “all parliamentary business, including sittings of both houses, should not be conducted in person”.
It was not a request. It was an order — and is, arguably, a contempt of parliament.
What’s a contempt of parliament? Here’s how the bible of Westminister democracies, Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, defines it:
Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results, may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.
The Flat White Team are observers, not lawyers, but humbly suggest this is a matter more appropriately trained minds — or better-resourced media organisations — should pursue. Is Muttacumaru in contempt? Was the letter a frolic of her own? Was it iniated or approved by other parties?
Labor’s numbers will block any ruling that might damage their political interests, but all these questions are worth putting.
For those with an interest in the subject, more information on contempt and the Victorian Parliament is available in this paper.
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