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Tuesday, 23 May 1972
Page: 1899


Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - Last week the Opposition asked that this matter be delayed to see how we managed. We seem to have entered the last week or two of the sittings. What is proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) seems to me to be a reasonable attempt to meet the difficulties that we face in this context. I suggest, however, that the Senate must begin to consider whether the hours of sitting generally ought to be changed. I do not think they are reasonable. Last Friday I attended a meeting of one of the Senate select committees. It was apparent from the reactions of all the members of that committee that they were completely exhausted. I think it is the feeling of all honourable senators that the sitting hours do not reflect the amount of work that is being done. The reality is that most of us are coming to the Parliament at 9 o'clock each morning and we are here until midnight. This happens on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays honourable senators return to their respective States to handle electoral work and the business which has arisen in their offices or sometimes sit on various committees. We cannot continue to work hours stretching from 9 o'clock in the morning until midnight.

I would think that we ought to learn from the experiences of other countries. It would be much more satisfactory if we adopted different sitting times. This has nothing to do with the party political approach. One suggestion was made that the Senate should meet from 1.30 p.m. until 7.30 p.m. There may be other suggestions which would be satisfactory. Time would be available in the mornings to conduct committee meetings and the evening could be relatively free. I have no doubt that some matter will interfere with them, but we would not be sitting here until midnight. On occasions there would be committee meetings and other matters would arise. I foreshadow this as a proposal but not by way of an amendment to the motion we are discussing. I think this may be done in the next period of sittings. I think we are overdue for a more sensible spread of sitting hours. Surely we can get together and start to work out some system which will enable us to do our work and to do it reasonably without the physical exhaustion that is necessarily involved in the existing spread of hours. Having said that, I say that I think what the Leader of the Government has proposed is reasonable. I suggest that we accept it.







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