Standing and Sessional Orders

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise on behalf of the 'Greens political party', as it is noted in this minority report, to speak on this motion. The Greens will be opposing this motion on the basis that when we look at the commitment to get rid of Dorothy Dixers, which I am sure most of us in this place agreed with and which I am sure the general public agreed with too, the provision to then replace them with 2-minute ministers statements in between each question really seems out of place and out of context within question time, which is often a lot of theatre. It is certainly contested. Certainly there is a lot of back and forth.

If we look at what ministers statements are and what they are supposed to be — projects, initiatives and achievements of the government — I would actually be interested in hearing what they are. Certainly if we had, as has been put forward and was put forward in the upper house, ministers statements taking place at the start of the day, before members statements, I think the environment within this chamber would be much more conducive for a minister to actually talk strictly to the new initiative or the new project. I think there has been a bit of allowance for ministers to paint a picture and perhaps paint a bit of context about how they might contrast with the previous government or another policy, and certainly I think that is okay, but I think what we have seen from ministers with this particular sessional order is that initially we did have some ministers looking to stick to the script and stick to the new initiative, but as time has gone on and as question time, of course, gets heated, we have now seen ministers departing from that completely and wanting to take it as an opportunity to attack and to take part in the theatre of question time.

If you are going to now change this sessional order to just simply have ministers speaking on matters that are relevant to their portfolios, what you are essentially doing is — as I think it was stated before — having Dorothy without the Dix. You are essentially having a Dorothy Dixer question without the question, and that is completely against the principle of getting rid of Dorothy Dixer questions.

We oppose this proposal. I do not think it would aid the house. I do not think it would aid question time. I think for a lot of members there is probably a bit of concern about the futility of question time and if it is really being used for what its purpose is. My feeling is if you are going to reduce the rules and have a bit of back and forth, you might look at something like the UK model, which I think works well and does not have too many points of order. I do not see how the current arrangement of having questions from non-government members and ministers then getting up without the Dorothy Dixer questions and just returning fire aids question time, the running of this house or scrutiny. My feeling, as I said before, is that if we took these minister statements out of question time and had them at the start of the day, I would actually be very interested in hearing what the ministers were saying. I would be very interested to hear what the latest updates were, what the latest initiatives and projects were and of course if the minister was able to paint a picture or furnish a contrast with a previous government's policy in a passing manner, as has been permitted by the Speaker, I think that is okay. But with ministers now taking up time to really get on the attack and involve themselves in the theatre, well, I think you would have to deem that this commitment to get rid of Dorothy Dixer questions simply has not been met.