Learning from COVID-19

The COVID-19 emergency has presented all of us with challenges, but it also provides some learning experiences for students that can be incorporated into the teaching of Civics and Citizenship and Legal Studies.

In the video presented on this page, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Colin Brooks MP, talks about the role of Parliament to create and scrutinise legislation, and how this process has been adapted to the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are also suggested discussion questions, links to relevant media articles and pages to help assist understanding of this issue.

This content has been developed to meet the curriculum requirements of VCE Legal Studies, however, it could be adapted for other levels.

 

In this resource

  1. Media links
  2. Questions asked in the interview
  3. Discussion points
  4. Other resources
  5. Curriculum links
  6. Adaptations for other learning levels

 

 

Media links

Shrunken Vic Parliament passes COVID laws
Benita Kolovos, 7 News, 23 April 2020

Victoria's new laws to deal with coronavirus pandemic, including bail changes, trials by judge only
Richard Willingham and Danny Tran, ABC, 21 April 2020

COVID-19 becomes law; government to give itself sweeping new powers
Noel Towell, The Age, 20 April 2020

Parliament expected to pass $24.5 billion relief package
Shannon Deery, Alex White, Kieran Rooney, Tom Minear, Herald Sun, 23 April 2020

 

Questions asked in the interview

The following questions are addressed in the video above, the italic text in brackets corresponds to the included chapter markers.

  • What is happening at the Parliament amidst the coronavirus pandemic? (Parliament during the pandemic)
  • What is the role of the Parliament during a crisis? (The role of Parliament in a crisis)
  • How is legislation usually created, how long does it usually take and how has that process been adapted in this crisis? (The legislative process)
  • Why did we need to create new legislation during the crisis? (Crisis legislation)
  • What is the Parliament’s usual scrutiny role with bills and how did that change because of COVID-19? (Scrutiny in a crisis)
  • With these changes, how has Parliament managed to maintain the rigor of the parliamentary process and the scrutiny of the Executive on behalf of the public? (Maintaining parliamentary process)
  • What was the atmosphere like when MPs were brought into parliament to legislate on a global pandemic? (Working in parliament)
  • What are some of thing things you as Speaker and/ or the Parliament have learnt in the response to this crisis? (Lessons from the crisis)

 

Discussion points

  • Briefly describe the main function of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
  • What are two of the main roles of parliament mentioned by the Speaker in the video?
  • What is the role of the media? Is the media’s role different during a time of crisis?
  • Discuss the connection between parliament’s role during a crisis and the role of laws in achieving social cohesion and protecting the rights of individuals.
  • Even though all the political parties and independent members agreed to a shortened legislative process, what political pressures might have affected the bill’s passage through parliament?
  • Why was it necessary to introduce new laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What do you think about parliament's ability to respond to the need for law reform in this instance?
  • Do you feel that there was enough opportunity for scrutiny during this process? Explain your answer.
  • Describe one role of committees in the parliamentary process.
  • Name two ways individuals can the influence the legislative process and a pro and con of each.
  • Explain the steps parliament took to remain representative while adhering to social distancing measures.
  • What is one lesson you have learnt during this time?

 

Other resources

 

Curriculum links

 Unit 1: Guilt and Liability, AOS 1: Legal Foundations, Outcome 1:

  • the role of individuals, laws and the legal system in achieving social cohesion and protecting the rights of individuals
  • characteristics of an effective law, such as it reflects society’s values; is enforceable; is known; is clear and understood; and is stable
  • sources of law such as common law and statute law

 

 Unit 4: The People and the Law, AOS 1: The people and the Australian Constitution

  • the roles of the Crown and the Houses of Parliament (Victorian and Commonwealth) in law-making
  • the division of constitutional law-making powers of the state and Commonwealth parliaments


Key skills

  • compare the constitutional law-making powers of the state and Commonwealth parliaments, using examples

 

Unit 4: The People and the Law, AOS 2: The People, the Parliament and the Courts

  • reasons for law reform
  • factors that affect the ability of parliament to make law, including:
  • the roles of the houses of parliament
  • the representative nature of parliament
  • political pressures
  • restrictions on the law-making powers of parliament
  • the role of one parliamentary committee or one Royal Commission, and its ability to influence law reform

 
Key skills

  • discuss the means by which individuals can influence law reform, using examples

 

Adaptations for other learning levels

 Levels of Government

The Levels of Government provide an important lesson for students and currently the Division of Powers between the States and Commonwealth Parliament is demonstrated day-by-day in the announcements and decisions made by each level. The formation of the National Cabinet also raises interesting questions about democratic process and scrutiny in times of crisis.

Suggested Activity

One way to explore this is to have students collect media articles which demonstrate the different areas of responsibility for each level and present this information in a creative and informative way.

Relevant Links

 

Campaigning

The fast-paced political responses necessary in an emergency can leave students feeling baffled and powerless in the wake of change. You can talk to students about why we have representatives who make decisions for us and how they can contact these people. It is important to impress upon students that there are lots of ways to engage with this issue and many others, such as petitions and reaching out to decision makers.

Relevant links

 

We are currently developing several new programs for online learning, to be available in term two. If you are interested in taking part in one of these programs, including the opportunity for students to participate in online presentations and discussions with people from parliament, please email us at educationinfo@parliament.vic.gov.au.