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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2303


Mr SINCLAIR(3.22) —The Opposition does not object to these changes . I am pleased that the Leader of the House (Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed with my suggestion that on Tuesdays the giving of notices should remain at the commencement of proceedings. That is as it should be. Equally, I am pleased for the sake of those who have been worried about their Fridays that he has removed some of the uncertainty. I am glad to see that at least he does not consider that we might sit on Mondays as well.

A couple of points need to be made. I hope that in any summing up which the Leader of the House might see fit to give he will tell us whether he is yet at the stage of resolving the uncertainty about the conclusion of this sitting period. A few honourable members would be glad to hear any indication that the sittings may not be according to the present program schedule. It would help their planning if he were to do so. I have no further comment about the details of the alterations.

One observation which I raise and which is increasingly concerning honourable members on this side of the House is that the present sitting hours, I believe, are an abject failure. The Wednesday night arrangement seems to be uncertain for most. Quite a number of honourable members on the coalition side really find it not particularly convenient to have that late dinner adjournment. In fact, the House itself rises at 8 o'clock, which makes planning a little difficult. The fact that this change has been proposed today suggests that really all is not well with that early Wednesday rising. However, I understand that the Leader of the House wants to give it a trial until the end of the year. I hope that by then he will have been able to persuade a few within his Party who still think that it has advantages that the old sitting hours were not all that bad.

It has always been difficult to establish a pattern of sitting times which meets everyone's convenience. The difficulty about Wednesday nights is that the Senate is sitting. While committees meet during the Senate dinner hour-and I know that the Leader of the House has attempted to accommodate the differences between the two chambers-it seems to me that the advantage of that so-called early rising on Wednesdays is highly illusory. In my view, we would be better sitting as we used to after dinner on Wednesdays and adjourning when we customarily do. However, I have always felt that a two-hour dinner break has significant advantages over an hour and a half in that respect. Apart from those comments, the Opposition offers no fundamental objection to the proposal submitted by the Leader of the House.