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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7818

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (9:46 AM) —by leave—I am not going to speak for long. In relation to Senator Harradine's point, I think that there is either misinformation or confusion about the sitting patterns. Senator Ludwig put it quite accurately in terms of how much time we have sat this year. We have had some very extended hours—although we sat a week later at the beginning of the year and then we missed some time because of CHOGM. We were short-changed at the beginning of the year in terms of sitting days, but we have really had a totally normal pattern in the second half of the year. Next year is a totally normal pattern. It is 20 weeks, with a normal number of estimates days. I made the point yesterday, Senator Harradine, that we are negotiating with the opposition about an extra estimates day in November.

I will circulate the statistics about parliamentary sitting patterns over the previous, say, 20 years so that people can have a look. It ebbs and flows with elections and so forth. But in relation to estimates, in 1997 we had 16 estimates days. In 1998 we had 10 estimates days; that was an election year, so that would explain that. We had 19 in 1999 and 20 in the year 2000—these are actual estimates committee sitting days. In 2001, we had 15. Of course, that was an election year, so that was down a little bit; I think we missed one entire week, from memory, because of the election. This year we have had 18 estimates days. So this year we were about on average, and next year we have scheduled 18 days, and we could easily add another two days to that. So really there has been no diminution of estimates days and, with the spillovers, we have provided for any committee which wants extra time. Up to four committees can sit for an extra whole day, and my recollection of that is that virtually every one of those slots has been taken up every time.

Senator Ludwig —We think you are still short-changing us, to be honest.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —We are negotiating that, as Senator Ludwig knows. I will make sure that all honourable senators can look at the statistics on how often the Senate has sat going back for 20 to 25 years and will also include the number of estimates days, because it is something we should not talk down. I think it is something we talk up. The Senate does sit for a long period of time. I think it does very good work.