Canberra Times . . Page.. 214 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I did not suggest that Ms McRae had not tried to bring people to the house; I said that she had not tried to advertise in the Canberra Times, as she is now suggesting.
MR OSBORNE (11.55): I have had a long discussion with Mr Berry about this and I have also had a long discussion with Mr Hird. Initially, I felt that perhaps I should give it a lot more thought. I have heard the word “family” mentioned a couple of times here today. For the last 10 years, my wife and family have come second. I promised before I was elected that that would never happen again and that my wife and my children would come first. I have a three-year-old and a 10-month-old at home, and my wife is pregnant. Although I have not seen a Tuesday night sitting, apart from the other night, I have seen my home on a Tuesday night - and it is a madhouse. I am reminded of the promise I made to my wife that I would put her first. Any opportunity that I have to get home a lot earlier I will support. I said to Mr Berry that I would listen to the debate and then make up my mind. I will be supporting Mr Moore's motion.
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (11.56): Mr Speaker, I have been listening with great interest to this debate, and I must say that I have found the arguments put forward by Ms McRae, the previous Speaker, extremely persuasive. However, there is one particular issue that I want to mention, and that is the use by Mr Humphries of Mr Berry's family in the course of debate. The clear intention by Mr Humphries - and it was a poisonous intention - was to imply that the attendance of Mrs Berry at the Assembly was in some way of lesser value than the attendance of another member of the public. That was the poisonous intent, and it was accurately inferred on this side of the house. That is why I believe that, as a general rule, members should refrain from any mention of other members' families and staff, particularly by name. It is an unparliamentary practice, and I expect better, particularly from the current Attorney-General. It is most unparliamentary. It was said with poisonous intent, and that was how it was interpreted, accurately.
I want also to comment generally on the debate, Mr Speaker. In my view, this Assembly does have a duty and an obligation to open up its proceedings to the people that we serve. It is quite clear that that means giving those people an opportunity to be present in the Assembly when laws which will affect them are being passed. That is a fundamental part of participatory democracy. To deny them any opportunity to participate in that way, I think, is a very grave reflection on this whole Assembly. It is the case, Mr Speaker, that members of the public have attended this Assembly in large numbers. I would ask you to compare the numbers of the public who have been present at the Tuesday evening sittings with the numbers who have been present at any other sittings during the day. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind - and I have been in this parliament for six years - that there have been greater numbers at the Tuesday evening sittings than at any other time.
Mr Speaker, I am aware that many of the debates that have been of particular interest to the public have been specifically scheduled so that they could be present. By doing away with that time at which it is easier for most members of the public to attend, I can conclude only that it is this Government's intention to hide from the public, in just the same way as it put off any sitting of this Assembly for week after week after week. In just the same way as the Government has sought to limit the number of sitting days of this Assembly, so it is seeking to limit the hours at which the public may