If you tune in to federal parliament’s daily question time ritual during sitting weeks you are more likely to see many elected members buried in their mobile phone rather than intently listening to an answer from a minister.
In an inquiry into reforming question time, two Labor MPs – Peta Murphy and Kate Thwaites – are calling for mobile phones to be banned.
Labor senator Deborah O’Neill, albeit from the other house, agrees.
She believes viewers are left wondering, is question time of so little value even members themselves do not pay attention to what is being said?.
“I think that’s what people are saying. They don’t think it’s important enough to pay attention when they’re sitting in the chamber, why should we be paying attention to this?” Senator O’Neill told ABC television on Saturday.
Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly acknowledges it does look bad.
But he says today’s mobile phones and iPads are the equivalent of yesterday’s big pile of notes.
“Often it looks a bit bad when everyone’s got a mobile phone in their hand and looking at their mobile phone … but if they had a folder of notes, it would be the same thing,” told ABC television.
However, he thinks there is an argument to look at some of the procedures in question time, especially when it comes to Dorothy Dixers – a planted question asked of a government minister from a backbencher from their own political party.
“I know it advantages the government of the day … I actually think there’s a bit of an argument to look at refining those so-called Dorothy Dixers – ‘Can the minister tell us how wonderful he is and how bad the policies are of the opposition?’,” he quipped.