Page 4410 - Week 14 - Thursday, 28 November 2013
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (12.06): I move:
That the following days be added to the 2014 sitting calendar:
What the minister originally proposed was the smallest number of sitting days in a non-election year in the history of the Assembly, and I think the admission by moving from 12 to 13 weeks is that even they felt uncomfortable about being seen as perhaps lazy and as not doing the job. Perhaps it is just a government without an agenda. The election years are somewhat different, simply because from August through normally to about November we do not have any sittings because we are out campaigning and then working out who sits in which seat.
It is hard to do a direct comparison with other years, given the annual reports are on financial years, but in 1998-99, there were 40 sitting days; in 1999-2000, there were 41 sitting days; in 2005-06, there were 41 sitting days; in 2010-11, there were 44 sitting days; in 2011-12, there was 42 sitting days. So it is good to see Mr Corbell has come up from the low ebb of 36, which I suspect would have been a sad reflection on the government and their lack of agenda. But we do not think there are enough sitting days. So I have moved an amendment that would insert an extra two weeks, one in March, one in April.
This place is about the scrutiny of the government. This place is about making sure that issues are aired and debated soundly, and this place is about making sure that all the work gets done. And as we saw so often with regard to the notice paper—and we actually had to change the notice paper—matters lapsed because so much was going on. But we never had the time to debate them. Now things are removed as an automatic action simply because the government has not seen fit to bring them back on.
Limiting the number of weeks to 12 would have ensured that that tradition of not doing the work continued. Thirteen weeks, we believe, is insufficient. Fifteen weeks would provide a perfect balance where government could have its agenda, the crossbench and the opposition could have their agenda. We might even look at repealing things. There might be chance for even greater scrutiny of the government by bringing back on the reports that basically ministers speak to, they sit down and the reports are never brought back on. It is a shame that we do not look at some of those reports in more detail. A 15-week sitting program would allow that to happen. I commend my amendment to the house.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (12.09): I will not be supporting Mr Smyth’s amendment. I think that the 13 sitting weeks that have been proposed are reasonably consistent with the last few years. I could not help but be struck by some of the interesting comments Mr Smyth just made about the fact that there has not been enough time to bring things back on. I recall last Assembly that the Liberal Party brought on a whole range of things that they simply never brought back.