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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1702


Mr SINCLAIR —Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to speak to a point of procedure. Perhaps I should explain--


Mr SPEAKER —The right honourable member is seeking a very broad indulgence. If he explains the point of procedure. I will listen to him.


Mr SINCLAIR —Mr Speaker, you will recall that on 8 September last you made a statement to this House regarding the average number of questions asked each day and offered some figures to the House suggesting that in the 1982 Budget session an average of 14.8 questions were asked, and in the Autumn session 1983 an average of 14.3 questions were asked. While yesterday might well be considered an aberration for other reasons--


Mr Dawkins —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Could the Deputy Leader of the Country Party indicate what he is leading to?


Mr SINCLAIR —I am.


Mr SPEAKER —I have briefly given him indulgence to explain. He has rasied a point of procedure with me.


Mr Ian Cameron —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. We are known as the National Party, not the Country Party.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I call the right honourable member for New England.


Mr SINCLAIR —The point I wish to raise is that the Opposition is concerned that an adequate opportunity should be given in this place for a reasonable number of questions and for Question Time not to be abused. I raise the matter at this time because of the change in our Standing Orders which makes it difficult to raise it during Question Time. There are only two brief points that I wanted to address. During Question Time yesterday there were at least two answers to questions that might properly have been addressed by statements to this House. Without identifying them, they were matters which were of significance and matters which on other occasions-they reflected government policy-would not have been addressed during Question Time, but by way of statements to this House. Mr Speaker, you no doubt would have read with some interest in the Sun Herald of 9 October the following comments by a senior Canberra journalist:

Oldtimers in Canberra reckon that Question Time under Hawke is at it lowest ebb since broadcasting of the event began in the 1940s. Never have the familiar Dorothy Dixers asked by Government members been more blatant--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Leader of the National Party has raised questions of procedure. He is now getting into a debate on the matter he has raised.


Mr SINCLAIR —I am raising it by way of a quotation. But I think they are matters that this Parliament should hear.


Mr SPEAKER —I think the honourable member should put forward his own views on procedures, not those of the media.


Mr SINCLAIR —They might be even stronger than those in the quotation I have just offered. I believe that Question Time has been abused. I suggest to you, sir, that it would be appropriate if to the maximum you keep both questions and answers to a minimum and that when answers are given which should properly be given as statements to this House, that should be so done.


Mr SPEAKER —I respond to the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the National Party. I indicated earlier that I hoped that questions would be succinct and that answers would be to the point. However, if honourable members turn to the relevant pages of House of Representatives Practice-I think page 500 is the most relevant-they will see that there are no Standing Orders which enable me to cut down on the length of an answer. It can be done only by persuasion. Similarly, one must remember that with regard to questions the habit has grown for a question to contain more than one question. I hope that the House will take note of the request and that questions will be succinct and answers similarly so.


Mr Scholes —Mr Speaker--


Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Defence is seeking my indulgence to speak.