Dorothy Dixers to stay or go? MPs, Clerk urge change for ‘broken’ question time”


The Clerk of the House also urged Parliament to retain Dorothy Dixers – easy questions lobbed up to government ministers by members of their own party.

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However, Ms Thwaites and Ms Murphy said Dorothy Dixers should be abandoned. Their suggestion was to introduce one question from a member of the public once a fortnight to “encourage greater involvement from the public and contribute to showing Parliament is open to the people we represent”.

“It is clear that question time is broken,” Ms Thwaites and Ms Murphy wrote. “The frustration members of our community feel about question time has serious repercussions. It plays into broader concerns around declining trust in government, politics and the institutions of our democracy, including Parliament.”

The first-term MPs also suggested the return of a “constituency question time”. The Turnbull government introduced a version of this program at the end of 2015, in which government backbenchers asked five questions on local matters every question time, but it was quietly discontinued soon after.

Clerk of the House Ms Surtees wrote in her submitted question time was “often a time for political opportunism” that “can become disorderly”, and urged for Parliament to consider granting the speaker more power to evict misbehaving members.

“Having the choice of directing a member to leave for, say, three hours could assist the speaker in managing more serious or repeat offences which, while grave, are not yet in the speaker’s estimation serious enough to warrant a one-day suspension,” Ms Surtees wrote.

The clerk also suggested re-introducing follow-up questions and shortening answer times, while noting the use of mobile phones in the chamber “can also lead to perceptions that members are distracted or uninterested”.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly checks his phone during a Question Time in 2015.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Ross Vasta, the chair of the committee conducting the inquiry, previously recommended having MPs leave mobile phones outside the chamber during question time.



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