I recently had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament (not at the Kiwi taxpayers expense) and witnessed President’s Question Time. It’s very different to what we are used to back home. Each questioner is given 30 seconds to ask their ‘question’, which typically amounts to a statement with a short question at the end. The President then has 30 seconds to respond. The questioner then usually got 1 further supplementary.
The first half hour of question time roamed freely, whereas the second half was devoted to a particular topic, in this case the nuclear situation in Japan. It was a very civilized affair, with no interjections or interruptions (that in part can be attributed to the multitude of languages being used and the need for simultaneous translation). The Speaker played no role other than calling questioners.
My general sense was that the quality of the debate was higher than in a typical NZ parliamentary question time. I wonder how some of our PMs and Ministers would cope with an hour of intense scrutiny like that? It would certainly highlight pretty quickly who is on top of the details of their portfolios and who isn’t. Something worth thinking about?