Red Alert

A different Question Time format?

Posted by on April 16th, 2011

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?


7 Responses to “A different Question Time format?”

  1. Phil Lyth says:

    Why not suggest this to the Standing Orders Committee? Not to late to have input, and trial doing this in 2012. If it works out better than NZQT, it could become permanent.

    (There is a convention that Parliament’s rules are reviewed and amended before every election, to take effect after the election. That means there should be no bias.)

    In NZ context, could replace general debate. Or, instead of NZQT one day a week. For NZ, I’d suggest one hour, four Ministers, 15 min each. Two Ministers nominated by opposition parties, two put up by Govt, at least one to be a top-three Minister.

  2. Stan says:

    Any change that forces Key et al to actually answer questions honestly would be a huge improvement. It amazes me how they are allowed to get away with blatant mistruths or to actually not answer the questions at all. They appear to hold question time, and parliament in contempt, and the Speaker’s rulings facilitate this, through letting ministers off because of the way questions are framed. Makes a nonsense of the whole process.

  3. Spud says:

    Our one is so much more fun! :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D !
    Besides this is asking too much of some members :-)
    I do think we could improve our question time by allowing brief cheers and boos from the viewing gallery! Also hoots and music for both the PM and Leader of Opp’s entries! :P

  4. Dorothy says:

    the bad behaviour at QT in NZ is very off-putting to most voters. If I were speaker, I wouldn’t tolerate it!

  5. Hear, hear Dorothy!

    You and your Labour colleagues could improve question time right now without any rule changes. You could start by at least waiting for a minister to say something you don’t like before you heckle them.

    It looks extremely childish when you demand answers from a minister at the same time as shouting them down when they get up to do so.

  6. stever says:

    And not allowing questions or answers to be read out, i.e. to have members actually ask their questions and give their answers more “honestly” (though I guess some things will be rehearsed) would be far, far better than the current farce of reading out a question and having the answer read back!

  7. Spud says:

    @Stever – would hooting help? :P