Page 109 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 7 December 2004
private members’ day some private members’ business. Even if we do not have an MPI, we are looking at about two hours or so in the afternoon. Even if we do not have papers, we are looking at a maximum of about 4½ hours of actual debate on bills, on Assembly business, on private members’ matters. But more often than not it is going to be less than 4½ hours. It will be somewhere between three and 4½ hours on those three days and then the three hours on Friday. I just do not think that is going to be time enough.
Dr Foskey talks about it being the right idea and that it is family friendly. The other thing about this place and about the job we do, and it is a difficult job, is that it requires us to put in very long hours. All of us, especially those of us who have been around a while, and the new members will find this, if they are doing their job properly, have to go to meetings at night.
I think we are the most approachable Assembly or parliament in the country because we are very much part of the community. We are a small city-state and we are just simply out there more. People bump into us a hell of a lot more than they do members of a bigger parliament—by the very nature of Canberra as it is. There is great demand on our time and members will still find that they are going to be out doing their job at night and on weekends. We have to go home to our families when we can.
One benefit at least—unlike in the federal parliament or parliaments like Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales—is that we get a chance to go home to our families. If you represent the north west of Western Australia or if you are in the federal parliament, unless you are an ACT member, you are not going to get home to your family very often, similarly for those members in New South Wales and some other states where there are significant distances involved. So one benefit is at least we can get home to our families. Yes, I suppose you make adjustments, and we all do, at weekends, because we work weekends.
I do not think this will, in any way, make us more family friendly. The big problem with it though is simple, if you do your maths, and that is the lack of time to do our business—the government to put forward its legislation and the other matters it needs to put forward, and the opposition and the crossbench to put forward the matters we need to put forward and the work we need to do in terms of challenging and keeping the government accountable for what it puts forward. There is simply not enough time allocated in this motion for us to do our job properly. You only need to go back and see what has occurred in previous assemblies for that to become painfully obvious. I mention again the situation in Tasmania where they have tried a similar thing and, we are told, it is not working.
Let us say the government says, ‘Look, the 5 o’clock rule is a silly one. Why don’t we aim to finish at 6?’ That is probably reasonable, and there are a number of days when we will. Maybe the announcement of the 5 o’clock rule is a bit of anachronism. It does not perhaps serve any great purpose and there might be merit in making it 6 o’clock. On occasions we certainly finish on or around 6 o’clock. But there are occasions, and they are necessary, when we will have to go much later than that.
No-one likes to sit to three or four or five in the morning. I remember being in this place during budget sittings when bets were taken as to what time we were going to finish. I remember one year when we finished at 4.51 am—the public service knock off time