During the 2020 Queensland state election campaign, ABC journalist Peter McCutcheon posed the question as to Why the Palaszczuk Government is accused of exploiting coronavirus to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. He pointed out that sitting days seemed low compared to the other states.
Spurred on by this observation, we’ve done a study (click here) of the last 9 years of Australian parliamentary sittings and find the Palaszczuk government:
- holds the record for the least number of sitting days in a year (31 in 2020)
- holds the record for the second and third shortest sitting days in a year as well (33 in 2015 and 34 in 2017)
- sat on average over its entire period in office for only 36 days, compared to the Australian average of 48 days.
- sat less than half the time in 2020 that Western Australia did (31 days versus 64) despite there being a pandemic in both states
- sat 8 days or 21% fewer days than chronically locked-down Victoria in 2020
And on, and on.
There are a number of possible explanations.
The government might say it was constrained by COVID this year but that didn’t stop the other states meeting more frequently.
It might also say 2020 was an election year, so it sat less frequently, but while this might partially explain its sitting record this year it doesn’t explain its overall poor record. There is also a tendency for the number of sitting days to get fewer and fewer as time has gone on.
Another explanation might be that other states have an upper house, and this makes more work. But the whole point of an upper house is checks and balances, and more scrutiny. Lacking an upper house, Queensland needs to spend additional time ensuring legislation is properly scrutinised. Instead of that we’ve seen a number of situations, like the amendments to the Electoral Act where literally hundreds of amendments have been introduced at the last minute.
Queensland Labor abolished Queensland’s upper house in 1922 because it didn’t like scrutiny. The shortness of their sitting schedule strongly suggests nothing has changed in 100 years.