Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2004) . . Page.. 108 ..
members and staff in this building or people in other high demand occupations. Our retail industry, for example, seems to have moved closer to a seven-day, 24-hour service in the past few years. Similarly, community sector employees only achieve family friendly work hours by taking on what are effectively full-time jobs at fairly low rates of pay for part-time hours.
We cannot be sure that this change in hours will result in more family friendly work practices, particularly for those members and staff who need to cover a lot of the business in the Assembly. For instance, I may stop sitting here but I may have to get up early in the morning to prepare for tomorrow’s Assembly. It may also result in unreasonably truncated debate and insufficient scrutiny of legislation and other business in the Assembly.
While I am happy to support this motion, I do not think we should serve out the full four-year term without considering how well the new family friendly approach has worked. I want to keep an eye on it and confirm whether the arrangements are working. Consequently, I will be asking the Administration and Procedures Committee to evaluate this change in standing orders and report to the Assembly by mid-2006—that is, June 2006.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.01): The opposition will be opposing this motion. Before I go into a lot of substantive detail in relation to it, I point out that it is not dissimilar to a situation in another small parliament, Tasmania. My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, was told only yesterday, I think, by a member of the Tasmanian parliament that it is not working down there.
One of the big problems with this, and I hear people talk about family friendly environments and that, is that I do not think that the Assembly, by the very nature of the job it does, can ever be a completely family friendly environment. In the past, there has been a real need to sit late—not all that often but often enough—to ensure that legislation was passed. Also in the past we have had the mad rush to finalise bills before the end of the year or before the end of an Assembly term. That just shows if we are doing our job properly there is a significant volume of work there. I think this motion would really restrict it and I think it will come home to bite the government in the not too distant future, in their simply not having enough time to get through the Assembly what they want to get through.
Let us look at the proposal. Every second Friday, and this is my understanding of it, we pick up three hours by sitting on Friday morning. All right. That is fine, as far as it goes, but we only sit—what is it? We have a 13 or 14-week sitting pattern for next year, so 42 or 45 days. In fact, I cannot think of a time that the Assembly sat more than about 45 days in any one year. So it is not a hell of a lot of days we actually sit. If we go on to this, what have we got? We have two hours in the morning on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then, at 2.30 pm, we have question time. That, invariably, takes an hour. Then there are papers to present. Let us aggregate that to around about half an hour—I have seen it go longer, and I think today was a case in point, but let us say there was about half an hour there. That would take us to 4.00 pm.
Quite often we will have an MPI and that takes us out to 5.00 pm. On Tuesday we have one hour for additional business, on Thursday it will be government business and on