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Friday, 3 December 1976
Page: 3229

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) should be commended for taking this opportunity to raise the general question of the need to review sitting hours. The Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System, to which he referred, obviously has a very important job to do. Mr Speaker, since you and I arrived in this place a great number of parliamentary topics have emerged which never existed before. Such massive issues as urban affairs, the environment, education and Aboriginal affairs which were not before regarded as the prerogative of this Parliament are now being considered. It seems to me that in the face of that situation and considering that the business of the Parliament is being run as it has been done since the Parliament commenced in 1901 without any significant changes, we will run out of the capacity to provide for effective parliamentary democracy.

For a period there was an indication of public concern in the sense that there was democracy in the streets or politics in the streets. People were losing their faith in the parliamentary system. They will go on losing it unless we look at ways and means of utilising more effectively the human resources of this Parliament. It is a ridiculous situation when one man can stand up to make a speech, sometimes a bad speechpresent speech excepted from that possibilityand find that all other members are expected to listen, whereas in fact they do not. This system which is operating at the present time is rendered ineffective and almost obsolescent. There is a need for arrangements that will enable parliamentarians to relate to the bureaucrats and other opinion makers and leaders of industry, commerce and trade unions. There is probably a need for this whole parliamentary human conglomeration to have a committee process in the areas of speciality so that the Parliament can gather together just to hear reports and maybe even to allow members to speak in the Parliament after the matter has been dealt with in greater depth outside.

I conclude by saying that the Opposition never objects to extended sittings of the Parliament. It is good to have due notice of them because the interests of constituents are very important. Nobody wants to break commitments. But, more important than anything else, more important than the consideration of an added sitting day, is the obvious need to obtain better results from the total effort contributed to the parliamentary endeavour by members of Parliament.

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