Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 198 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
It is a credit to you, Mr Speaker, that we have brought this Assembly, more than any other Assembly - this was the Third Assembly, I suggest - closer to the community, and this Assembly will also follow on through the education officer. We saw students from the Canberra Grammar School here today. We saw other dignitaries here today, and they come from time to time. The proceedings of the parliament are advertised and the matters for debate are advertised; so anyone with any interest knows - - -
Mr Berry: But do not come after hours.
MR HIRD: Why have you brought the motion on if they do not come after hours?
Mr Berry: No; I say - - -
MR HIRD: I rest my case. This is the best practice in this chamber to get the best results. To that end I would also like to draw your attention - and if Mr Corbell wants me to table it I will - to the sitting pattern of the Third Assembly. If we go through that sitting pattern and look at the number of sittings in the Third Assembly we find there were 118 sitting days. Surprise, surprise! The night sittings total 62. How do we arrive at that? We arrive at that by using a simple procedure which we are exercising right now - that is, standing orders. I refer to standing order 34. I submit to members, through you, Mr Speaker, that this is a nonsense, that this is only Mr Berry grandstanding and wanting to spend more money of the taxpayer which we do not have. We have to be very conscious of that financial resource. I urge you not to support this motion.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (5.54): I have been a member of this Assembly and all other Assemblies, albeit for about two years I was out of the Second Assembly. I can recall in the First Assembly - there may even be references to this in Hansard - that we actually kept a record of how many people turned up on Tuesday nights. In terms of principle, I would have absolutely no problems with Tuesday night sittings. If they were properly attended and served the purpose for which we brought them in to start with in the First Assembly, it would be a very good idea. The fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that very few people really avail themselves of the opportunity to come.
What I have noticed over the course of the Assembly since it started in May 1989 is that if there are issues that interest people, whenever they are dealt with, be it daytime or night-time, we will get a good roll-up; there will be a lot of people in the public gallery. In terms of certain big issues, the public gallery will be absolutely packed. That has occurred in the past. I can recall a couple of night sittings within probably the first 12 months of self-government when the public gallery was reasonably full, but that was because of the issue. I can recall other times when there was literally no-one there at all. I do not think the time of the day matters a huge amount, because any time there is something really controversial on that affects a lot of people they will turn up and they will listen, regardless of what time of the day it is. That is just a fact which we have noticed.