Parliamentary Sitting Hours

01 Dec 2011 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Leader of the Government on the subject of parliamentary sitting hours.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 29 September, in this place the Hon. Rob Brokenshire asked a question about sitting hours, suggesting that we sit at 11 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The minister, in her response, said that she had no objection to what the honourable member raised but was looking at efficiencies. My question to the minister is: has she further developed a position on this, and would she at least consider a standing arrangement that we start at 11am on Thursdays?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Status of Women) (14:31): I thank the honourable member for her most important question and, indeed, I have to say that this week we put in place starting times of 10am, and I think the week before it was either 10am or 11am, and I have to commend the house. I have to say that I have been very impressed with the efficient way that this house has managed the priority legislation, particularly the priority government legislation but also the priority private members' business.

I think that the last two weeks have been particularly productive, and the chamber has operated in a very efficient and effective way. I think we have made very good use of that early sitting time. I have been very impressed with that and, given that excellent behaviour, I am certainly more than happy to reflect further on the issue.

However, at the time that I answered this question previously, members might recall that I did raise the issue that this place is known for wasting people's time—filibustering—from time to time. Sometimes there have been examples of disgraceful abuse of our time here or misuse.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: Name them.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: No, I won't name individuals because, in fact, most people sitting opposite me have been involved in that sort of behaviour at one time or other, so it would really be naming everybody opposite me at least. There are a few other culprits in the room as well. I do weigh up these matters. Unfortunately there are too many examples of abuse of parliamentary time—inefficient, ineffective use of very precious parliamentary time. We have seen sittings go on extremely late in the evening, with longwinded debates that have contributed very little to advancing any issue or resulting in any constructive outcome. There are too many of those examples.

I fear it is a bit like my handbag: the larger the handbag I buy, I just fill up whatever space is available. My concern is that, if we routinely increase parliamentary sitting time at the beginning of the day, when that abusive, inefficient behaviour returns, all we will do is start earlier and we will be sitting just as late as we ever have and there will be just as much inefficiency and abuse going on. However, having said that, I must reiterate again how impressed I have been with the way the business of the chamber has run over the last couple of weeks in particular and the very efficient use of time. I will reflect on that.

The PRESIDENT: Very efficient staff of the Legislative Council.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Absolutely. The staff here are incredibly efficient, and their unerring diligence, attention to detail and keeping us on track is something that I will perhaps reflect on a little closer to the end of this session today.