Sky News with Laura Jayes - 26 August 2021

SUBJECTS: Question Time Reform, Rowan Ramsey’s Question Time Error

LAURA JAYES, HOST:  Milton Dick, thanks so much for your time, we're talking to you today because you have done a bipartisan review into Question Time with Ross Vasta. This has been tabled in the Parliament and you want to see changes to stop things like that from happening. Any progress?

MILTON DICK MP, MEMBER FOR OXLEY:  Well, so far, it's sitting, I understand, on Minister Dutton's desk as the Leader of the House, but I think yesterday demonstrated, Laura, that after eight years the Government's even struggling to even get the questions right, let alone the answers. And yesterday was in full display of what, I guess, the Australian community are frustrated about - that they're seeing really Question Time as a bit of a sideshow for the Government. Obviously the Opposition want to prosecute a number of serious issues that the Australian people want us to follow, but yesterday they demonstrated that Question Time is neither spontaneous, or in this case the questions can't even be read out correctly.

JAYES:  Well, that is true but I would say it is not unique to the Government or indeed even this term of Parliament, this has been happening for decades and I would suggest, even at the beginning of the Parliament, the beginning of Federation. So what do you want changed? No more Dorothy Dixers? Actual questions without notice?

DICK:  Well one of the things that Parliament's been working on, in a bipartisan way, is to reform Question Time, and how it can become possibly ‘answer time’ for the Australian public. So, getting rid of those Dorothea Dixers is so the Government just can't ask questions of themselves for a big pat on the back. Also reforming the Question Time so that Scott Morrison will actually answer questions.

Recommendation four that we've put up - of eleven point recommendations, this is a bipartisan report Laura - will demand that Scott Morrison actually answer the questions, rather than flicking them off to a minister. I think it's the only parliament, certainly in Australia or one of the few in the world that the Prime Minister doesn't actually have to answer the question. We've got some serious issues to deal with here.

But also reforming Question Time in terms of making it more responsive, in terms of getting the answers that Australian people want.

JAYES:  Maybe you need some journalists in there. What do you think?

DICK:  I wouldn't go that far, but I'd certainly, certainly say that the Australian public, and where we've done the survey we got thousands of responses, and 95% of responses said they, that they don't think Question Time is working. So I don't think that's any surprise to your listeners or viewers today, but it's really important that we get this right, because of the serious issues that, you know, we want to focus on, and the Australian people want us to focus on as well. And, you know, the responses, everything from, you know, the kindergarten antics to the Government, ducking and waving, and I think it's about time that we looked at this review, and hopefully the Government will take the considerations on board.

JAYES:  Sure, sure, but Labor does play a role in the Question Time, and it's not just one side, we want fierce debate. Question Time provides a bit of theater but do you think Labor goes too far sometimes?

DICK:  Well, you got to really look at the questions that we're asking which are serious issues around the Quarantine, the vaccine rollout.

JAYES:  Sure, but you know the stuff I'm talking about Milton Dick.

DICK:  Yeah, but you know at the end of the day the Opposition uses Question Time perhaps differently to the way that the Government does, and our job is to ask the questions, obviously the Government aren't prepared for that, they perhaps don't want to answer.

But I think both sides of politics have invested in this bipartisan report. It's sitting with the Government, there are practical recommendations to lift the standards of Parliament and we heard from a range of experts and a range of Australians that want us to raise the standards and that's across both sides of politics. But from where I'm sitting at the moment, I'm looking forward to reform and I'm hopeful that the Government, and Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison will hear what Australians want, and lift the standards.

JAYES:  Okay, Milton Dick, thanks so much for your time.