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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3699


Mr CONQUEST(10.22) —Firstly, I support the recommendation of the retention of the sitting pattern of two weeks on and two weeks off and strongly support the sittings from Monday to Thursday each week. I think we have got to give some consideration to members who represent large electorates and members who are distant from Canberra, particularly those from Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The three-day break will allow members better to represent their electorates and will enable them to have time with their families if they so desire. It is perfectly okay for members whose electorates are close to Canberra. They find it easy to go to their respective homes. Most members have small electorates and find that they are able to justify their existence to the electorate by attending the various functions that are being held.

When we consider the electorates of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for Riverina-Darling (Mr Hicks) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham) we can understand that these members have an arduous task in serving their constituents. On page 67 the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Procedure mentions the health problems of some members. Under the heading `Results' it is stated:

In particular, the group as a whole had high adrenaline levels across the extended working day, suggesting a level of psychological stress and mental fatigue greater than occurred in comparison groups. It was noted that the marked increase in adrenalin levels coincided with the hours during which the House was in session.

I also put to the House that having a three-day break will allow members to have some rest from the arduous tasks they perform in Canberra.

Let me turn now to Question Time. I do not know whether enough deliberation has been devoted to Question Time. I know a separate report is coming in on that matter. I think there should be a discipline put on members and on Ministers; that is, a discipline should be placed on those asking the question and a similar discipline should be placed on Ministers who have to answer. At present, Question Time is just a charade, it is a sham. We sit in the arena and the Christians, who probably know better, are sitting up there in the gallery looking down and wondering what Parliament is all about. I believe it behoves everybody in this House to take note that Question Time has a stated purpose. That purpose should be for people to question and for the Ministers and the Prime Minister to inform the House rather than trying to take the opportunity of scoring political points.

I agree with the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay), who spoke about reading speeches. Honourable members who read speeches do not have the same spontaneity. They do not need to have the same knowledge in regard to the discussion that is taking place. How many times have we seen in this House honourable members grappling with a word they have never seen before? Because somebody back at the office had written the speech for them, they did not know what the subject was about and they did not know the words that they were trying to pass to this House. It is just an academic expose by some research officer that has been handed to them to speak to a Bill.

I agree with the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay). I will not enlarge on what he has just said, particularly in regard to paragraph 62 in his dissenting report. I believe that private members should have the opportunity to bring forward Bills. They should have equal opportunity with everybody else to place before this House matters which are of concern to them and of concern to their electorate and matters which might concern some organisation to which they belong. It appears to me, if we are going to have some selection committee deciding what subject we are going to have, that those in the more remote areas will have less chance of bringing up the subjects of their choice because it may not be the subject that the majority would like to speak on.

I turn now to the matter of second reading speeches being incorporated in Hansard. I agree that this should not be done. After all, at present we are using the electronic media as much as possible so that people in the wider electorate can hear what Bills are being brought forward. How on earth can they follow the debate on a particular subject if they have not heard the Minister's second reading speech? If they are going to understand what is going on, they should have the opportunity of hearing the introduction of Bills and then the debate which follows.

I congratulate the Committee on the work it has done. Although there are some parts with which I cannot agree, in general I feel that the principles that it has espoused are fair. I have brought up the matters on which I have some concern. Once again, I hope all honourable members support the sitting pattern of two weeks on and two weeks off but, in particular, the three-day break so that we only sit from Monday to Thursday each week.

Debate (on motion by Mr Keogh) adjourned.