26 November 2021

ACT Government rejects calls to increase Assembly sitting days for hyper-local matters

| Lottie Twyford
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Jeremy Hanson

ACT Opposition whip Jeremy Hanson has renewed calls for the Assembly to sit for an additional day every sitting week to deal with hyper-local matters. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The ACT Government has again rejected calls from Opposition whip Jeremy Hanson to increase the Assembly’s number of sitting days.

Mr Hanson has called on the ACT Government to add an additional day to every sitting week so hyper-local issues, such as those usually taken up by local councils in other jurisdictions, could be better addressed.

He is deeply concerned by 2022’s sitting calendar which will see the ACT Government sit for 35 days, which he says is a “historic low” for the Territory.

Earlier this month, Mr Hanson labelled the ACT Government “lazy lefties” in a separate motion calling for similar extensions to the sitting calendar.

But this time his focus is more specific, and he is supported by Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick, who says there’s just not enough community consultation going on.

Mr Hanson’s motion called on the government to sit on Fridays in sitting weeks so matters such as mowing, maintenance, road infrastructure and local planning could be better addressed.

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“One of the most challenging aspects of our government is that it has to deal with matters that elsewhere are taken up by local councils,” he said.

Currently, the Assembly sits on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in sitting weeks.

Mr Hanson said he’s concerned the ACT Government focuses too much on big-picture issues and has forgotten it also needs to manage smaller local issues.

“That’s what people in Canberra are crying out for,” he said.

In the debate in the Assembly, Mr Hanson accused the government of finding hyper-local matters “tedious”.

Ms Carrick said an additional day to address these matters would be a good start.

Fiona Carrick

Woden Community Council president Fiona Carrick supports Jeremy Hanson’s push for an additional Assembly sitting day to deal with hyper-local matters. Photo: File.

“I support the sentiment of creating more time to address local issues,” she said.

However, Ms Carrick believes the governance structure currently in place needs a rethink.

“The purpose of community councils is to hold public meetings and activities to communicate to the Territory the views, expectations and concerns of the community,” she said.

“The question is, what are the arrangements to enable the communication of the views, expectations and concerns of the community?

“We write submissions and letters to the government about planning, developments and many local issues. What happens next? Nothing.”

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The ACT Government rejected Mr Hanson’s calls for an additional sitting day, as it did two weeks ago when he last raised the matter.

Manager for government business Mick Gentleman accused Mr Hanson of schoolboy antics and called his motion a “stunt”, saying the sitting calendar for next year was already agreed upon and was broadly consistent with previous sitting calendars.

Mr Gentleman said if Mr Hanson had been serious about amending the running of the Assembly in 2022, he would have raised the matter with the Administration and Procedure committee.

He said Mr Hanson’s method of raising the matter is lazy, does not follow usual procedures, and has “no substance”.

Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr argued the current sitting calendar and hours allow all MLAs, particularly single mothers, to juggle work life with home life in a manageable way.

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ChrisinTurner8:30 pm 27 Nov 21

Another option would be for MLAs to have their offices in their electorate so they are more accessible. Our Federal MPs are better located and visible than our MLAs.

“Power corrupts!” Lord Acton!

I wonder if he was a Tory. But. he was right!

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