Question time psychosis

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:

If we can make Question Time not an unmitigated farce (or we can get rid of people likely to care about democracy), then we can worry about Abbott’s choreography.

And for my next wish…

Just as I hoped, we have a hung parliament.

A few days after the event, all I can say is this: Rob Oakeshott, you legend. Oakeshott, one of the three independent kingmakers, has proposed a unity cabient, wherein the two major parties would share power.

Doubtless there is much scepticism to be had over whether this could actually work, but in principle it has great appeal. This was the way the system was always supposed to work. Oakeshott and his colleagues Bob Katter and Tony Windsor are espousing the high-minded ideals of parliamentary democracy, wherein parliament becomes a mechanism of government, not just a rubber stamp for the ruling party.

On the other hand, there is another tempting argument: neither party truly deserves to be in power. As punishment for their vicious, purile and jaw-droppingly narrow-minded political strategising, we should now force them kiss and make up, and more importantly to swallow their poorly-chosen rhetoric. As punishment for their lack of competence and vision, we should force them to pool whatever little talent they do possess and share both the power and the responsibility. No more blaming it on the previous government, or snide armchair governing from the comfort and financial wonderland of opposition.

Of course, there can only be one Prime Minister, but it probably doesn’t matter whether it’s Julia or Tony so long as both are involved, along with their ministers. Stick Adam Bandt in there somewhere for good measure.

But they hate each other, I hear you cry with horrified incredulity. Why yes – that’s largely the point. If they can’t get along, they’ll make each other miserable. I call it a win-win.