So, parliament is going to sit five days a week, says the new Labor government.

The manager of government business, Anthony Albanese, says this unprecedented move is in the interests of greater accountability and scrutiny. But will this really be the case?

The problem is not the number of sitting days nor the hours in which parliament sits so much as the way it operates – as the plaything of the executive. If the government is serious about accountability and scrutiny it has to do more than just extend sittings – otherwise this will mean simply more of the same (which would be even worse than we have at present).

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Will government ministers answer questions at Question Time? Will the number of absurd Dorothy Dixers be reduced? Will the Speaker be impartial? Will adequate time be set aside for crucial debates? Will Private Members’ Bills be encouraged, facilitated and properly debated? Will more conscience votes be allowed?

The real problem with parliament is the dominance of the executive. Any genuine move towards reform would have to cede power to parliament over the executive. Will it do this?

Then there are even wider issues if reform is to be meaningful. For example, a debate on the electoral system and consideration of proportional representation for the House of Reopresentatives. Then maybe a look at removing ministers from the Senate to enable it to be a genuine house of review without intimidation from an intrusive executive.

Over to you, Mr Rudd.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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