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Mr Moore: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that comment should be directed through the Chair rather than to individuals, although I am happy with the spirit of what Ms McRae is saying.
MS McRAE: I would very much like to include the Speaker in my comments, and I hope to change his mind most of all. I will look the other way, Mr Moore.
The argument that hardly anyone ever attended has to be taken very seriously, because our perceptions seem to differ very markedly. Who will ever forget the large crowds that booked in to hear the termination of pregnancy debate? Who will forget the high level of interest in the Animal Welfare Bill and the debate on the new adoption Bills? They were all in the old building and were deliberately put on at night so that people could come and see us in action. In this building, similarly, we saw many a representation, both outside and inside, on a Tuesday night with the high level of interest in the abortion Bill. I remember members going out and talking to people who were outside and inviting them to come in. That was a very significant issue which was shared with the general public.
From my point of view - and certainly I had the best view of who came into and went out of the chamber on a Tuesday night - I made some assessment of that interest. Many people came just for a short while. I know, because I would nod at them. Many of them were people whom I had met at various community meetings and invited in to see the Assembly at work. Often, they would only call in to say hello, and go. Sometimes they would come into my office first, and I would tell them what was going on; then they would drop by. Very rarely would people sit there for three hours. I accept that that is not the intent of a Tuesday night sitting.
Over the three years I had guide groups come through and I had scout groups come through. My local scout group now, as part of their badge attainment, attend the Assembly. They have built that in. Of course, Tuesday nights suit that activity extremely well. Scout groups cannot take flextime and come during the day. As well, it was a very important event for the children who were to partake in the Youth Parliament. They were invited to come in and see us at work so that, as a prelude to their activity in the Youth Parliament, they had a clear and easy time to come in, see the Assembly at work and get an idea of what was to come. Again, they did not sit there for three hours, as we all had to - lucky things! - but they did come, and it is of extreme importance.
The argument about the cost has to be very carefully evaluated. Even the numbers we were given today pertain only to Tuesday night. They do not include the cost of the sessional attendants who would be employed on a Tuesday morning. We are not looking at the full analysis of the cost. The cost matter is not one that can be taken lightly. We cannot say, “It is going to cost extra money. Get rid of it”. We have to evaluate the other arguments first. Most of all, we have to be sure that we are clear on the numbers we are arguing about. If we do not sit on Tuesday night, we will sit on Tuesday morning. So, what is the differential cost?