Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Make Question Time permanent

The House is sitting today, but unusually there's no Question Time. The reason? The government called urgency yesterday to ram through some highly dubious changes to the Public Works act, meaning that Question Time doesn't happen. The normal practice in these circumstances is for the government to seek leave for it to be held, but instead of doing that, they tried to hold it hostage to force the opposition to stop speaking out against its bill. Naturally, the opposition refused. The net result: today's questions will not be asked, and Ministers will not be accountable to the public today.

This is not acceptable. Question Time is the primary day to day accountability mechanism in our democracy, and it is important that it not be able to be held hostage by the government like this. Fortunately, the fix is easy: a simple tweak to Standing Orders to ensure that it happens regardless of urgency. The question is whether National will agree to that, or whether they support government unaccountability.