Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (30 November 1989)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (30 November 1989)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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OEBATES - Thursday 30 November 1989 Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought I would take the time to look at some of parliamentary sitting days and sitting hours for similar parliaments in the states of Australia. I will give Lower House figures only and these relate to 1988. The Northern Territory sat for 30 days in 1988, for a total of 272 hours. The Legislative Assembly of Western Australia sat on 48 days for a total of 358 hours. That is a much larger parliament and it sat for 18 more days than this parliament yet the total sitting hours are quite comparable. New South Wales, a very large parliament servicing about half the population of Australia, sat for only 41 days fora total of 328 hours as compared with our 272 hours. The Queensland House sat for 46 days for a total of 468 hours. For a parliament of only 25 members which has only partial self-government to have sat for 272 hours, as compared to the figures that I quoted for larger parliaments, relatively speaking, was a very good performance indeed. We hear honourable members of the opposition say that we should move the adjournment earlier. I know that the member for MacDonnell wishes us to adjourn at ,6 pm. I understand that a letter was received recently from the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that we should adjourn no later than 10 pm. However, what members opposite need to understand is that the parliament meets so that the government can process its business. Of course, it is a forum for debate for all parties, but the priority is that the government must process its business. Time after time, the normal flow of business in this place has been frustrated by the delaying tactics of the opposition. There have been debates that have continued for many hours and it is late afternoon or early evening before we have come to the normal business of the day. . If that means that members of the opposition have to sit here until the wee hours of the morning as a result of delays they have caused and their attempts to frustrate the business of the government, then so be it. They cannot blame the government if they have wasted 5 or 6 normal sitting hours and then complain because, in its desire to complete its business, the government requires the House to sit until the late hours of the evening or indeed the wee hours of the morning. Earlier this afternoon, we heard a complaint from the Leader of the Opposition when he drew attention to the fact that the government had applied the gag. I am quite sure that he is fully aware, as are most other members, that the ,gag is commonly applied by governments in other parliaments around Austra1i~. In fact, in the' House of Representatives, on many occasions, a proposed motion is not even debated. The gag is applied immediately and no debate ensues. For example, when a censure motion is moved by the opposition, the government moves the gag immediately. The motion is put and it is all over. It 'is as simple as that. I do not believe that this government has ever applied the gag in that way in relation to a censure motion. The least time that has been allowed for debate on a censure motion was earlier in these sittings when we allowed one speaker from the opposition and one speaker from the government. In my opinion, that gave ample opportunity for the opposition to put its argument and for the government to rebut it, and that is exactly what occurred. I do not believe that the time of this House should be wasted by the opposition in its attempt to frustrate the business of the government. I do not think that members should have to endure that sort of approach. It is very interesting to note what the Leader of the Opposition said on 21 August 1986. It is recorded in the Parliamentary Record at page 486. In reference to a censure motion, he said: 'The opposition has always used censure motions sparingly. We have always been conscious that it is a serious 8538