Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (18 August) . . Page.. 3832..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
I believe that members should not have to work for more than 10 hours. Mr Speaker, I am being distracted by all the noise in the chamber.
MR SPEAKER: Order! There are too many audible conversations. Ms MacDonald has the call.
MS MacDONALD: If members were allowed an hour for lunch it would mean that the Assembly would adjourn at about 8 pm. Based on that figure, since the recommencement of the sitting of the Assembly this year, it has sat past 8 pm on 16 occasions and past 10 pm on 15 occasions. From February until today that equates to the Assembly sitting past 10 pm at night on more than half the sitting days. Last night was no exception, with an adjournment time of 10.15 pm. Late sittings in the ACT Assembly are not new but they have become more common, especially in the past 12 months. In 2001-from 13 February to 13 December-the Assembly sat 11 times past 8 pm and eight times past 10 pm, with the latest being 12.22 am on 15 June.
In 2002-from 19 February to 12 December-the Assembly sat seven times past 8 pm and five times past 10 pm, with the latest time being 11.41 pm on 21 August and 11 December. In 2003, however, the Assembly sat 11 times past 8 pm and nine times past 10 pm, the latest being 1.11 am on 24 June. As I said earlier, the Assembly had already sat 16 times past 8 pm, including 15 times past 10 pm this year-from 10 February until 17 August-with the latest time being 1.42 am on 14 May.
These hours are completely unrealistic and untenable. Essentially, they equate to members and their staff working up to 16-hour days and more, just in this place. Arriving home at 1.30 am and then having to come back to work by 9.00 the same morning is not a sustainable option for anyone. But that is increasingly becoming the norm for members and staff. The remaining five sitting days of the Assembly are likely to follow that pattern. Partners and children are well and truly asleep by that time. What little quality time is left in the morning is affected by sleep deprivation and stress.
I think it would be safe to say that some staff and members in this place see their children only for a few hours over a three-day sitting period. Because they are rushed and stressed that is not quality time at all. It has been proved that these types of working hours and conditions place an enormous strain on relationships and family networks. Extensive studies have been conducted on the effects on families of these sorts of long working hours. Dr Barbara Pocock, Associate Professor in the Department of Social Inquiry, who has conducted several inquiries into this issue, has revealed that overworked parents and partners often feel guilty and stressed about not spending quality time with family members.
A report entitled, The effect of long hours on family and community life, which was released in August 2001 by Dr Pocock, identified a close relationship between long hours and feeling overworked. The report found that feeling overworked was associated with significant personal and work effects. The more overworked people feel, the more work-life conflicts they experience. The less successful they feel in relationships with their spouses or partners, children and friends, the more likely they are to neglect themselves and the more likely they are to lose sleep because of their work. Those feeling overworked also experience worse health effects and are less able to cope with everyday life events.