CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary

14 October 2006

Professor Paul Williams,
Griffith University

Who stole Question Time?

I noted with interest your recent observations about apparent problems in Queensland's parliamentary system.

My interpretation of your article: Queensland’s parliament has not significantly improved since Joh Bjelke Peterson’s time. Government has a healthy majority and faces an outclassed and bewildered opposition. Almost half of question time is taken up with time wasting ‘Dorothy Dixers’. There have been many changes improving democratic process in Queensland since the 1980s - but question time is not one of them. Question Time is meant to keep governments accountable, but because of increase of party discipline it is exploited by the majority party. There are problems in other states but the abuse of Question Time is worse in Queensland than elsewhere (Williams P. ‘Who stole Question Time’, Courier Mail, 10/10/06).

While there is little doubt, as your article suggested, that political power continues to be abused in relation to Question Time, I submit that your suggestion that this an exception to a rule of 'many changes for the democratic better' since the late 1980s seems somewhat over-optimistic.

Many of the claimed constructive change have involved little more than rhetoric to gain the endorsement of inexperienced commentators. For example, the noisy claims of 'reform' immediately following the demise of Nation Party Governments in the late 1980s were characterized by (a) even greater abuses of power than anything under Bjelke Peterson, and (b) the creation of centralized and politicized administrative machinery which has long proven ineffective and is now increasingly crisis prone (see Queensland's Worst Government?). And claims of improved quality and accountability also seem merely a sham (see Reform of Queensland Institutions - or a Rising Tide of Public Hypocrisy?).


John Craig