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Libs take aim at long lunch breaks

Date

Noel Towell

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher responds to a question on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher responds to a question on Tuesday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The ACT Labor-Greens government used the first day of debate in the new Assembly to ''nobble'' a key committee and give politicians longer lunch breaks, according to the opposition.

Opposition Leader Zed Seselja was critical of two decisions made on Tuesday's first day of debate, a move to increase the size of five key standing committees and a decision to expand the lunch break on sitting days from 90 minutes to two hours.

The decision on committees, to expand their membership from three members to four, will give the government and opposition equal numbers and allow Labor to block moves it disagrees with.

The ACT Legislative Assembly during Question Time on Tuesday.

The ACT Legislative Assembly during Question Time on Tuesday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The move will also boost the influence of ACT Greens minister Shane Rattenbury, whose casting vote in the chamber may be needed to break deadlocks.

Mr Seselja said he and his party were unhappy at the shake-up of the committees and he believed Labor meant to hobble the Assembly's ability to scrutinise ministerial conduct for the next four years.

''What we've seen on day one is the Labor-Greens coalition acting like a majority government and not like a hung parliament,'' he said. ''They have chosen to impose a committee system which appears to be designed to have less scrutiny, nobbling the most important committee in the public accounts committee.

Opposition leader Zed Seselja chats with Brendan Smyth and Jeremy Hanson during Question Time on Tuesday.

Opposition leader Zed Seselja chats with Brendan Smyth and Jeremy Hanson during Question Time on Tuesday. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

''That seems deliberately designed to prevent the opposition from getting information from the government, from properly scrutinising ministers - we will be blocked at every turn by the Labor members on that committee.''

The Liberals' leader said his party would now reconsider its position on parliamentary co-operation with the government, including the granting of pairs for absent MLAs.

''All of these things will be on the table if there is not some level of co-operation,'' Mr Seselja said.

He said the extension of the lunch break undermined any argument for an expanded legislature.

''I'm surprised, given the strong arguments the Labor Party is making about an expanded Assembly, the first things that they have done is to have a very small number of sitting weeks, 13 sitting weeks, and to have longer lunch breaks,'' he said. ''I don't think that's backing up their case that they need more members.''

But Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the longer break was a necessary move and a return to arrangements that had been in place until 2008.

''We've only had four years when question time started at 2pm and we found practically that it really made it difficult to [do] things in the lunch break - for example, going out to an event,'' she said.

''We will sit for the same amount of hours at the end of the day - this just brings question time back to 2.30pm.

''What we're hearing from the opposition … is that they'd like us to think that they're the hardest working opposition there's ever been in the Assembly, so they're going to speak to motions like this about wanting to work longer, have more sitting weeks.

''But, at the end of the day, when the Assembly is not sitting, the Liberals' car park is empty.''

7 comments

  • I and many people I know regularly have less than 30 minutes for lunch. 90 minutes should give more than adequate time for MLA's to eat some food and prepare for question time. I would think the average Canberran wants the MLA's to be working on important issues on sitting days (seeing there are so few of them) and not taking off to go to events. Even if the Assembly ends up sitting for the same number of hours each day, by staying longer, doesn't it impact on the work life balance of MLA's and cut down on the time that MLA's can spend with their (often young) families?

    Commenter
    James Daniels
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    November 28, 2012, 9:33AM
    • I can't believe the lengths this Labor/Greens govt will go to in order to avoid scrutiny - well actually, I suppose I would also be trying to avoid being held to account with an appalling record such as Katy's

      Commenter
      4 more years.. nooooo!
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 28, 2012, 9:37AM
      • It still irks me that this Government got back in after systematically running down the ACT economy and infrastructure. I have been a life-long labor supporter, but since moving to canberra and putting up with things like gravel roads, paying for shopping bags, higher fuel prices and woefull public transport I have certainly changed my mind. The ACT Labor-Greens need to stop taking their community for granted.

        Commenter
        Jay
        Date and time
        November 28, 2012, 9:45AM
        • I think its good that the system is failing because of Labor. We can then become more like anarchy of Mexico.

          Viva la Labor!

          Commenter
          evanism
          Date and time
          November 28, 2012, 11:22AM
          • *facepalm* it's not about having more times for sandwiches or lattes! This is about having more productivity in the day, and less time sitting around having little arguments in the chamber!!! The actual work happens either in their office or cabinet meetings, sitting time takes away from all of that just for pompous ceremony!

            Commenter
            Ben
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            November 28, 2012, 12:11PM
            • Ben, productivity, what a lot of piffle, longer breaks is less time for our Green Labor Chief Minister and her joined at the hip Mayor to be questioned about their behaviour.
              More time is needed, not less as Mr Rattenbury will have questions thrown at him as a Labor minister and a cross bench assembly minister.

              Commenter
              NITRO GANGSTER
              Location
              ACT
              Date and time
              November 28, 2012, 3:08PM
          • GREEN - LABOR, well you voted for it, how stupid anyone that did not think Labor would be there Sunday morning sniffing a Rat.

            Commenter
            NITRO GANGSTER
            Location
            ACT
            Date and time
            November 28, 2012, 2:29PM
            Comments are now closed

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