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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12109


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (19:48): Looking at the sitting pattern for 2012 and comparing it with the pattern for 2011, what strikes me is that a government that does not have an agenda does not need to sit. And this government does not need to sit. There were 63 sitting days in 2011 and there are 63 sitting days in 2012. Unfortunately, the sitting pattern gives away what Australians know about this government, which is that it does not have a plan for the future and it does not have an agenda. This government is sitting less on average each year than any other government in the last 20 years in the Australian parliament in a non-election year. Why doesn't it have to sit? There are two reasons. Firstly, it does not have a plan for the future for the Australian people. Secondly, it cannot rely on its numbers in the House to pass legislation to win a procedural vote. In fact, it has lost 25 votes in this parliament in the last 12 months—five times more than the Menzies government lost between 1961 and 1963, when Sir Robert Menzies at least had the decency to say that he would call an election because the Australian people deserved an unambiguous parliament.

There are 366 days next year, because it is leap year. There are 104 weekend days next year and 10 public holidays. There are 252 working days next year, and this government has the House sitting for 63 of them. I know that 63 days out of 252 represents the work ethic of the Australian Labor Party, but I think the Australian people expect a great deal more from their parliament and from their government than 63 working days in this parliament out of 252 days that could be available for the government to sit next year.

The other thing that strikes me about this sitting pattern is the rushed way in which it is being brought into the parliament. This copy comes from the clerks. The clerks are also aghast at the lack of sitting days—I am sure they understand I am only joking, Mr Deputy Speaker—so they very generously laminated this sitting pattern for me. I asked them for a copy of it to show that the House rises on 24 November this year. We rise on 24 November and we do not sit again until 7 February next year. For at least 10 weeks and a few days, the government has no agenda to put to this parliament—no reason to come to the parliament to face question time. The Prime Minister does not want to face question time in this place; that is why she routinely cuts question time off at about 3 o'clock or 10 past 3, when the parliament is asking her questions. For 10 weeks at least over the summer, the parliament is not sitting. It has to be one of the longest breaks in parliamentary history—in two years which are supposedly not election years.

The other thing that strikes me about the schedule for next year is the insistence that it be rushed through the parliament tonight. We all know why—it was leaked out of the Senate, across the parliament today. It was leaked today before it was tabled.

Mr Albanese: I just tabled it!

Mr PYNE: The Leader of the House has so lost control of his own side that he cannot even stop them leaking the schedule of parliamentary sittings. What will be next? I suppose the room service menu of the parliament will be leaked next, or the dining room menu will be leaked. This government is falling apart at the seams; it is leaking from every single hole in the sieve that has become the Labor Party government. We have seen the terrible means by which they have tried to help travelling passengers over the last three days. We saw the Leader of the House struggling to answer questions today in question time, trying to pretend that he had not had any notice that Qantas could possibly ground their aircraft.

So, of course, we have a sitting pattern with only 63 sitting days. Firstly, the government does not have an agenda or a plan for the future. The Australian people are looking for a government made up of adults who know how to make decisions and are not captive to events, hostage to events, directionless, leadershipless and hopeless.

I do not commend the sitting pattern to the House. I can tell you that if there were an Abbott government we would be sitting a great deal more than 63 sitting days out of a possible 252, because we would have a plan and we would have an agenda. To start with, we would be rolling back the carbon tax. Secondly, we would be rolling back the mining tax. And, if the government is foolish enough to pursue mandatory precommitment, I predict that we will roll back the mandatory precommitment and replace it with our own policy to deal with the pokies.

With that, I will not hold up the House any longer. I do not commend the sitting pattern to the House but I will certainly not be calling a division and voting against it.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (19:54):  In conclusion, I make two points. The first point is that the parliament is getting younger—which is a good thing for both sides of the House—and members and senators are more likely to be young parents, whether they be fathers or mothers. And I make no apology for the fact that I have been consciously taking that into consideration over the last two years. School tends to go back after the Australia Day weekend, and I have been asked—indeed, by people on both sides of the House—to see if we could not sit when school returns. That is what I am doing with this proposal before the House. I think that is a good thing.

I note that this will not be opposed by the opposition. This is a sensible sitting schedule. I commend it to the House.

Question agreed to.