The daily train wreck that is Question Time

As I write, Federal Parliament Question Time is burbling in the background. Treasurer Scott Morrison (ScoMo to hipster reporters) sounds as though he’s about to blow a gasket as his voice gets louder, higher, screeching and the amount of times he says “Mr Speaker” soars off the scale.

“Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker, those opposite Mr Speaker don’t want Australians to have air Mr Speaker while those on this side of the House Mr Speaker know only too well the advantages of air, Mr Speaker …”

On the other side of the House, the Opposition’s manager of vusiness, Tony “Jeez I’m Really Angry” Burke, raises a point of order, Mr Speaker, alleging that ScoMo had rudely distributed air unfairly to Coalition electorates, Mr Speaker.

Aaaah, why do I watch it? I have for years. Back when I was a working reporter and editor, and now that I have more time to myself. I think it’s because I’m the sort of bloke who’d watch a yabby race in the slight hope of a major crash or clash.

Question Time is a daily train wreck. It uncovers no hidden truths. It does not advance anyone’s understanding of anything. It is watched by few and is therefore a flop even in political advertising terms. It costs taxpayers many millions of dollars.

Most MPs themselves say they hate it and don’t like being forced to be there. It makes them all look stupid, either stupid lackeys asking pre-arranged Dorothy Dix questions, or stupid people parroting 17 versions of the same question for a full, cringe-worthy hour.

They yell and scream and live down to the nation’s expectations daily in some bizarre self-delusion that it’s advancing their side of a non-existent national debate.

And yet … I think I watch it because of its subtle messages about either a government under extreme pressure or an opposition which has no idea of developing innovative policy. It could be vice versa.

This week has been a clear example of how stupid Question Time has become.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, it opened with statements from both sides of the House on the sad losses of Fairfax journalist Michael Gordon, and of former Liberal Party treasurer, Ron Walker.

Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader spoke warmly – and presumably truthfully – of the admiration they had for these men. Even though they either attacked both side of politics, or came from the other mob entirely. The House of Representative sat quietly listening to their gentlemanly comments of mutual loss and mutual admiration. The speeches crossed the party divides, and at the end, almost every man and women in Parliament acknowledged their admiration with a wall of “Hear, hear.”

Then, within seconds of the speaker opening questions without notice, normal, mind-numbing nay-saying, slanging, shouted interjections and wild-eyed claims of “Oh, no I didn’t.” – “Oh, yes you did.”

Did, didn’t, get nicked, no you get nicked, you HATE air! Working Australians suffer 27.5 per cent less air than millionaires. Do not, OECD figures show we have more air per capita than the US … on and on until 3pm when normal programming is resumed. Later, the TV news bulletins tell us who won the contest of that day, and that there are now calls for a Royal Commission into equitable air access. AirGate is declared.

Mrs Whacked doesn’t like me watching Question Time. She rolls her eyes and tells the corgis that it’s time for a post-prandial nap at the other end of the house. Where the air seems, if not sweater or cleaner, at least a bit quieter.

WAYNE GREGSON