Page 267 - Week 01 - Thursday, 29 November 2012

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Of course, these days in relation to the sittings of estimates committees are provided for guidance. They are not part of the formal resolution of this place and are provided for guidance for planning purposes only. Obviously, when the estimates committee meets and when it starts to conduct its hearings is a matter for the committee itself, once it is formed.

With that, I commend the proposed sitting calendar to the Assembly.

MR COE (Ginninderra) (10.48): The opposition are, as has already been flagged, disappointed that we are only sitting for 13 weeks next year. In the past we have said that 14 weeks was inappropriate. To go backwards from that we think is a sorry state of the Assembly and is, in effect, an indication that this government are treating it like a majority government—that this reeks of the days of 2004 to 2008 when the government had the numbers on the floor and simply commanded whatever they wished without due consultation. The fact that we are going down to 13 weeks, the fact that we are taking longer lunches and the fact that Wednesday evening sittings seem to be being abandoned we think is very disappointing. This is indicative of a government that is tired, it is indicative of a government that is arrogant and it is indicative of a government that is treating it like a majority government.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.49): I will be supporting this motion. I think that Mr Coe’s comments do not reflect the true nature of the work of the Assembly. A large amount of business of this place goes on outside the chamber, and I think all members know that. I think that there is a convenient perspective being put by Mr Coe to make a political point rather than a real one.

I actually took the time to look at the ACT Assembly’s annual report for 2011-12 and I note that last year there were a total of 333 meetings of committees. I think all members in this place know that the committees do an enormous amount of work. They do the preparation on the bills and they look at issues in some detail. I think that anybody who says the only work the Assembly does is on the sitting days in each year is simply not reflecting on the true work of the Assembly.

As part of those committee meetings, of course, there are two weeks of estimates hearings. They are certainly very detailed processes of scrutiny, and they are far more extensive than you see in many other parliaments. Next year, of course, we will have annual report hearings as well, because they have been deferred from this year.

I think the comments about longer lunches are simply disingenuous. The Liberal Party well know that through the course of the last term this matter was discussed a number of times in the administration and procedure committee, and there was an acknowledgement across all the political lines that previously the two-hour lunch break had been far more convenient. It allowed members to get out of the building and go to community events during the lunch break. It allowed members to undertake their necessary media commitments, and we all know that they take place at that time of day.

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