Friday, February 22, 2008

Question Time Not About Accountability

Yesterday, in a fit of political pique about not having Question Time as part of the new Friday sittings of Federal Parliament, Joe Hockey said:

"We (the Liberal/National Party Coalition) stand for accountability, we
stand for transparency"

Yet a study of Question Time under the former Coalition Government of John Howard by Parameswary Rasiah, University of Western Australia, in 2006 found that

"accountability is a highly unlikely outcome of Question Time"
given that the (Coalition) government used "Dorothy Dixers" for itself, evasion, changing the subject (usually to abuse Opposition members) and a Speaker who retains membership of, and favouritism towards, the Government. Conversely, it is also probably true that the then (Labor) Opposition asked too many questions aimed merely at political point-scoring.

Friday is a new sitting day - there is NO LOSS of existing Question Time, and the Opposition is unsure if it will use the day for its designated purpose - to raise matters of importance to members' constituents: voters who seem unimportant to the Coalition.

Under these circumstances, Joe Hockey's words reek of high hypocracy!

It might well be only media attention and reporting that is maintaining any semblance of accountability and responsibility. They MUST resist any and all criticism from the offices of our political leaders that is aimed at inhibiting "bad news" stories.

Many would agree that similar tactics are used in State Parliament Question Times. Governments, Federal and State, Coalition and Labor, have repeatedly and persistently eroded our democracy, driven by self-interest. It is time for a change in the way Parliamentary Question Time is run.