Friday, January 21, 2022

Who decides when Parliament sits and what happens if it doesn’t?

Complaints are emerging about how many days the federal parliament is proposed to sit for in the first half of next year.

The Calendar of Parliamentary Meetings for 2022 has just been released. This includes ten days of meetings in the first three months of the year.

Who decides when the Parliament sits, how often it should sit and what are the consequences of reducing the duration of the sitting?

What does the constitution say?

The Constitution largely leaves the timetable of the sittings of the Parliament to the decision of the Parliament. There are some limits. Firstly, Section 5 requires a sitting of Parliament within 30 days of the appointed day for the return of the election writ after the election.

Second, Section 6 states that the period between two sessions of Parliament should not be 12 months or more. This means that Parliament cannot be “retired” (formally suspended, with the session ending) for a year or more. But it often happens that when Parliament does not sit, it is adjourned only during the session and not during the prorogation. There is no clear constitutional limit on how long or how often Parliament can be adjourned.

However, there is a practical limit. The government cannot spend money unless the Parliament passes a budget bill for its annual business. Therefore the Parliament must sit at least annually to pass the budget. In practice one has to sit down from time to time even to pass laws.

Who decides when Parliament sits?

In the House of Representatives, the government effectively sets the timetable for the meeting. Since 2008, however, that timetable has been formally approved by the House under Standing Order 29. The Senate sets the timetable for its meeting, but for practical reasons, both houses usually sit at the same time, for example, when the Senate is holding an expected hearing.

Since 1994, there are three different sitting periods within a year. There are autumn meetings that run from February to April, budget meetings from May to June and spring meetings that run from August to December. The general pattern is two weeks without meeting followed by two weeks of meeting in Canberra. Usually, Parliament does not sit in January or July.

From 1901 to 2016, the House of Representatives sat for 67 days each year, on average, spread over 20 weeks. The pandemic has recently disrupted the seating pattern and reduced the seating time. Holding an election also reduces the number of sitting days in a year, as the following table shows.

Why doesn’t Parliament sit all the time?

As Parliament sits in Canberra, which is a long way from the homes of most lawmakers, it sits in blocks of two weeks. This means politicians spend time with their voters, so they can properly represent them and meet and support their constituents. It brings them back to the real world by taking them out of the hot-house of Parliament. This also means that they can spend time with their family at home.

But if Parliament rarely sits, doesn’t that mean that politicians rarely work?

People often think that politicians are not working if they are not sitting in the house. But being present and speaking in the House is only a small part of a politician’s job.



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Backbench MPs spend most of their time working with their voters, attending public events, and serving on parliamentary committees, which function even when parliament is not sitting.

Ministers spend most of their time outside Parliament administering their departments and other government agencies, developing policy and legislative proposals, carrying out their statutory functions, and participating in the cabinet.

Whether a politician is lazy or hardworking, it has nothing to do with the timing of the Parliament’s sitting.

Is the timetable for next year’s proposed meeting unusual?

Yes, it seems February and March have fewer proposed meeting days than usual, but it’s hard to judge in recent years due to the COVID-19 disruptions and elections.

The proposed 2022 meeting calendar has seven days for the House of Representatives in February and three days in March. The proposed four days in April, eight in May and eleven days in June would be lost because of the next federal election. That is why people are suggesting that there will be only ten meetings in the first half of 2022.

Next year, only ten meetings are proposed for February and March.
Lucas Koch/You

This is comparable with the last election year of 2019, which saw seven sitting days in February, none in March and only four in April leading up to a May election. However, this is less than the non-election year of 2020, which had eleven days in February and five days in March, before the COVID-19 disruption occurred, and in 2021 when February had eleven days and eight days. . in March.

Overall, it appears that the meeting calendar for 2022 is packed in such a way as to limit parliamentary meeting days in the lead-up to the election, but it is not completely disproportionate to other years, especially when the first half There was an election in of the year

What is the effect of fewer sitting days?

If Parliament sits for fewer days in the first half of the next year, it will reduce the number of opportunities to question the government and raise issues of public importance during Question Hour. This will reduce the chances for the houses to reject delegated legislation, such as any controversial rules made by the government. It would also reduce opportunities for parliamentary committees to present their reports and debate, although the committees may continue to hold hearings and investigate government action when Parliament is adjourned.



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From the perspective of a government with a slim majority and corrupt members, the shorter the sitting days, the lower the risk of its own members voting against it, and the less likely it is to lose out on the bills, as Morrison said in 2019. The government was On the Medevac bill.

It also provides an excuse not to introduce promised bills or to settle controversial cases without resolution before elections.

Finally, the absence of parliamentary meetings sucks the oxygen of campaigning for independents and parliamentary rebels who lose their parliamentary leg in front of the people. One can see why the idea of ​​fewer sitting days would be attractive to the government and opposed by the opposition.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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