Federal Parliament To Devote Entire First Day Back To Bushfire Condolence Speeches
Returning after a long summer break, Australia's federal politicians will give over their first day back exclusively to condolence motions honouring bushfire victims and responders.
When parliament resumes next Tuesday, February 4 -- the first day back at Canberra's Parliament House since December 5 last year -- a bipartisan motion of condolence will be the only formal business considered by federal politicians.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese said they have agreed on the plans, as "a mark of respect".
"The first sitting day of the Parliament this year will be dedicated to honouring and thanking all those who have so bravely and selflessly served through the ongoing bushfire crisis, in particular, those who have lost their lives," Morrison said on Monday.
"Sadly we have lost too many Australians to this disaster and the Parliament will rightly acknowledge all those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered injuries or lost their homes or suffered in any way as a result of the recent bushfires."
Morrison, who had been criticised for his initial response to the bushfire crisis and his decision to take a family holiday to Hawaii, said he will "move a motion of condolence on behalf of all Members of Parliament."
"This motion will also acknowledge the service of all those who have served to protect our communities and those who have provided incredible generosity to those who have been touched by the fires," the Prime Minister said.
"These fires have been devastating but through these terrible times we have also witnessed the Australian spirit on display with an outpouring of love, support, courage and generosity."
"As a mark of respect, the motion of condolence will be the only formal business considered by the Parliament on our first day, with all members given the opportunity to speak."
Albanese said the initial proposal was his and added he was "pleased" the government had agreed.
He shared a letter he wrote to Morrison on January 10, outlining a plan to "pay tribute" to bushfire victims, volunteer firefighters, Defence Force personnel and emergency workers.
"Members would then be invited to speak before the Parliament is adjourned for the day," Albanese's letter read. The letter also offered the opposition's support to "expedite appropriate legislation" through the parliament, if needed to better support disaster payments or other assistance.
On Monday, Morrison further announced plans for a special event at Parliament House for fire victims, which would include representatives from the NSW Rural Fire Service and Victoria's Country Fire Authority.
"It is fitting that the Parliament reflects the deep gratitude felt by all Australians," he said.
It comes after the NSW government announced a state memorial service would be held for bushfire victims at Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena on February 23.
"We will pay tribute to the brave firefighters who lost their own lives protecting the lives and properties of others,” Berejiklian said last week.
“I know that many members of the public, the RFS, and emergency services personnel will want to come together as families and communities work their way through this unbelievable loss."
More information about the service -- and a separate event to thank volunteer firefighters and emergency workers -- will be announced "shortly", the NSW government said.