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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 387

Dr NELSON (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. In light of the Prime Minister’s proposal to freeze MP salaries for next year, will he, consistent with productivity principles, now commit to being a full-time Prime Minister and guarantee that he and his ministers attend every scheduled parliamentary sitting day and answer questions from the Australian people? Is he also proposing to freeze public service salaries?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —On the question of the sitting days and question times for this parliament, the number of sitting days proposed under this government for 2008 is 82. The Howard government average was 67. As to question times, it is proposed for 2008 under this government to have 67 question times. The Howard government averaged 63 question times.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr RUDD —It is a fact. For government business there is an extra three hours and 25 minutes per week, and for private members business there is an extra one hour and 35 minutes per week—and that is apart from community cabinets. As to the other point which the Leader of the Opposition raised concerning our proposal to exercise modest restraint when it comes to MP salaries, I would like very much to hear what the Leader of the Opposition’s position on that is.

Mr Randall —What about public servants? You didn’t answer the question.

The SPEAKER —I would make the comment, in fairness to everybody concerned, that there was so much hubbub that the final part of the Leader of the Opposition’s question could hardly be heard by anybody, even those of us who are close to him.

Mr RUDD —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I did not hear that part of the question which the honourable member said was about public servants. The measures that I propose purely relate to those of us here—members of parliament. It is time that we ourselves, as the parliamentarians of the nation, gave this as a modest demonstration of restraint in a year in which there are inflationary challenges across the economy.

On a point I raised about private members business, I said before that, under this government, there will be an extra one hour and 35 minutes per week. I am advised by the Leader of the House that is one hour and five minutes extra a week and not one hour and 35 minutes.

Dr Nelson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Prime Minister is not answering the question. The question is: will he return to being here every parliamentary sitting day on a Friday to answer questions from the Australian people?

The SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The Prime Minister has resumed his seat and has finished his response.