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Is reconstructing question time a question of time?

By Dino Cesta - posted Thursday, 4 September 2014

Cynicism is more the norm than the exception when it comes to Australia's political system. The Australian public have a healthy distrust of our politicians and overwhelmingly disenchanted with its political system.

These concerns are for all to see in what is seen as an essential democratic mechanism of the Westminster system - Question Time.

Question Time is considered a key check and balance in Australia's parliamentary and democratic system, in which Ministers of the sitting Government are under scrutiny, are held to account, and ensuring the powers and privileges bestowed upon them are not abused.


As it currently stands, Question Time is failing in its intent. Question Time needs an overhaul if it is to genuinely meet the non-negotiable standards of accountability, integrity, and transparency sorely missing from Australia's current system of government.

With all parties across the political spectrum guilty of perpetuating the current deficiencies, Question Time is effectively a waste of taxpayers' funds, and an inefficient use of parliamentarians' and public servants' precious time.

It is more an exercise in political gamesmanship and grandstanding for the cameras and viewing audience. It is also an exercise in pointing the finger of blame and to humiliate than asking objective and pertinent questions, in Ministers evading or responding to questions without necessarily answering them, or personal point scoring by attacking the man rather than the ball.

The reporting media must also take responsibility in perpetuating the current malaise in Australia's political system, and specifically, Question Time. Political reporters and news channels are more interested in presenting soap operatic news bites of politicians in full flight attacking their political foes, regardless of whether they have dealt with the issue at hand.

Unfortunately, this entertainment of unreality television deflects and obscures Australians' real life challenges, and will not strengthen the foundation of such an integral and central public institution of democracy.

There must be a better way that enhances the effectiveness, accountability, and transparency of the sitting Government and Parliament as a whole. Following are some ideas I place on the 'despatch box' of Australia's Parliament for consideration:


Proposal 1 - The 'Speaker':The role of Speaker is considered a most important office in the House of Parliament, established under the Constitution, and fashioned closely on the United Kingdom's House of Commons.

The Speaker oversees House debates, determines which members may address the House, is responsible for upholding orderliness during debate, ensure Members respectfully adhere to the rules of the House, and reprimand members who disregard the rules.

Unlike the UK approach where the Speaker discards all party loyalties, in Australia the Speaker continues to be a member of their political party, and may still be present at party meetings.

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About the Author

Dino Cesta is a freelance communicator of thoughts, opinions and ideas on politics, economic and social issues and public policy. Cofounder of the non-profit organisation Hand in Hand Arthouse, and the Newcastle Italian Film Festival, Dino graduated with a Bachelor of Economics and Master of Politics and Public Policy. You can follow Dino on View from the Obelisk or Twitter on @dinoc888

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