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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1827


Dr CHARLESWORTH(10.30) —There are two issues I would like to touch on briefly this evening. I have today and on other occasions had the opportunity to read `Warden in the Gallery' in the Canberra Times. If I were not such an amiable fellow I could have been offended by the suggestion that I was the `most languid Member of the House' when one considers that the Concise Oxford Dictionary describes `languid' as `Inert, lacking vigour, indisposed to exertion, spiritless . . . sluggish, and slow-moving . . .'. But when one considers some of the mammoths on the other side of the House I take some exception to that comment.

Coming second in the languid stakes behind me is the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). That is not much of an endorsement either when one considers that the only person who can beat him is Mr 17 per cent, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard). I take umbrage at the suggestion that my demeanour in the House is in some way related to the fact that in the morning my time is taken up with sporting activities. That assertion is without substance and without research and in an endeavour to be glib and smart I think the journalist has just been inaccurate.

This leads me to my second point. When one looks around this House one sees that we have magnificent wooden panelling and elegant carving in the chair in which you sit, Madam Speaker. But the ergonomics of this place, the efficiency at which people can work in this environment are something else. One has only to see the inkwells in the desks to realise that this building is a relic from the past. One only has to try to sit on these seats to appreciate that they are inefficient and poor. One only has to be inundated with paper every day to know that the way in which this place functions is out of date. It is time that we looked at the irrelevancies in this place. Even when I look at the officers in the House and see their fancy dress, I can appreciate that this place is out of date. In an endeavour to preserve the traditions we have put function and efficiency into the back seat.

On coming to Canberra I was one of those who realised immediately that the sitting pattern of this House was inefficient and expensive to the taxpayer of this country. In an endeavour to change that we introduced a two weeks on, two weeks off sitting pattern. Yet we find ourselves here again for the third week in a row. Again in May we will find ourselves here for three weeks in a row. The Procedure Committee looked into the possibility of the sitting pattern. In November, unfortunately, I was unable to speak when the debate on that Procedure Committee report was discussed. It is time that we came into this House to debate the big issues. In order to do that it is appropriate that we have plenary sessions, but I also think it is important that we look at delegating some of the functions and responsibilities of this House without losing some of the parliamentary scrutiny.

When we look at what we have coming up next week we find on the Notice Paper the Egg Industry (Hen Quota) Levy Bill and the Egg Industry (Hen Quota) Levy Collection Bill. Certainly the case is that many of the functions of this House are unnecessary in respect of that sort of legislation. That legislation could be much more easily and efficiently handled somewhere else. The time of honourable members is taken up too much by that sort of legislation. Tonight we had no better example than that between 8 o'clock and 10 o'clock we had four quorums called by members of the Opposition. In every parliamentary session two or three days are lost in quorums and divisions. It is time that we became efficient and got rid of the extravagances that are associated with this place. The functions of the world have changed; the needs of this place have changed; the technology has changed; and the methods by which this Parliament operates must be changed. It is time that this place, instead of being dragged behind, set an example.