Member for Hinkler Paul Neville told APN Newsdesk political debate was failing “the great matters of state”.
Member for Hinkler Paul Neville told APN Newsdesk political debate was failing “the great matters of state”.

Neville calls Question Time 'puppet show' full of 'children'

THE parliamentary debate of Question Time has been reduced to a public slanging match and "shadow puppet show", a retiring Queensland MP said on Tuesday.

A day after giving his valedictory speech in parliament, Member for Hinkler Paul Neville told APN Newsdesk political debate was failing "the great matters of state".

Mr Neville appealed to all politicians to improve the level of public debate.

Quoting Sir Thomas More: "When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos".

After two decades in federal politics, Mr Neville said he had seen a progressive decline in the standard of debate and civility.

He said Question Time had fallen to "little more than a shadow puppet show", likening the public debate to "a group of school children stamping their feet in the playground".

While he said neither side of politics was free of blame in the decline of civility but the rise of "Dorothy Dixers", pointed attacks on both sides of the House had obscured the real purpose of debate.

"Question Time was originally proposed as a way for MPs to simply elicit information from the ministers about issues important to the nation and their constituents," he said.

"That has progressively been replaced by 'Dixers' and questions not aimed at eliciting any information, but simply to score a political point.

"There was a time when you might get seven or even eight genuine policy questions, and answers, but today the collection of a range of political issues means no or few questions of any substance are asked."

Mr Neville said he did not place the blame simply with the difficulties of a hung parliament, instead that over a series of recent parliaments, the quality of debate had declined.

"There will always be a question or answer where a politician might insert a slight to the other side, but we shouldn't just be asking loaded gun questions every day," he said.

His comments were also reflected in a speech late on Monday night by independent MP Rob Oakeshott.

Mr Oakeshott spoke of MPs who were "so wedded to their party of choice that they opt to hate their parliament if their party doesn't control it".

"Since when has disrespecting a parliament, rather then respecting a parliament, been an act of loyalty?" he said.

"Since when is disrespecting the office of prime minister, rather than respecting the office of prime minister, seen as an act of loyalty?"

Despite the rhetoric of many politicians outside of the parliament, Mr Oakeshott said much good work had been achieved, particularly from the backbenches.

"The parliament should be a house that welcomes all ideas and does not fear a debate or a vote on the most contentious of ideas," he said.

"It is a dead a dull den of executive command and control if we give up the important voice of the backbencher, and it will further separate government from the people if this avenue of the people is lost."

However, the independent was also not without his regrets of the level of debate, saying too many "have fallen into this lazy world of spit and venom" at the expense of investing in "the institutions that are the foundations of our democracy".

"Thankfully, now that we have made it full-term, our parliamentary democracy has shown itself to be stronger than all," he said.


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