I read (via the ABC) that our new Greens MP Adam Bandt believes that the hallowed institution of Question Time is in danger of becoming a farce:
There is a real risk that we are about to lose one of the key opportunities that Parliament has to hold the executive accountable and to ask ministers to think on their feet.
What really is the fulcrum of Parliament, something the nation tunes in to every day and an opportunity to put ministers on the spot, runs the risk of descending into a scripted farce.
At the moment we have the length of Question Time being determined by what time Play School comes on television.
I can understand and sympathise with Bandt, but this strikes me as being a little naïve. Question Time has almost never been anything but a farce.
Each question from a Government MP is a blank cheque for the relevant minister to burble on about how great they are. Each question from the Opposition is just a rhetorical salvo designed to damage the government’s credibility. It’s been like that since the dawn of time, and our adversarial, two-party system almost guarantees it will stay that way. Independent MPs – including, presumably, Mr Bandt himself – are the only ones even remotely likely to use Question Time as a means of acquiring information and so informing the public. However, they get very few opportunities to do so, and such cool-headed rational discourse appears not to rate very highly in media coverage.
So, when Tony Abbott decides to disrupt Question Time with spurious censure motions over Gillard’s carbon tax, who really cares? Sure, he’s being a supercilious git, but it’s not as if he’s disrupting anything important. I shall elaborate by way of the following diagram: