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FOR – Business - Sessional orders - Change the priority of crossbench questions during Question Time

The majority voted in favour of a motion introduced by Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel (Independent) to amend the sessional orders so that crossbenchers (minor party and independent MPs) receive priority to ask questions at an earlier time during Question Time. Sessional orders are temporary procedural rules of parliament that expire when parliament is prorogued (suspended by the Governor-General) or dissolved (dispersed for new elections), allowing MPs to try out new rules before deciding whether to make them permanent.

Previously, crossbenchers received priority for questions to ministers on the 5th, 13th and 21st questions of Question Time, as agreed to at the start of the 47th Parliament. This motion changed that rule so that crossbenchers get priority on the 5th, 13th and 17th questions instead. Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel (Independent), the mover of the motion, argued that:

As I said in moving urgency, the intention of the sessional orders agreed at the beginning of the 47th Parliament was to provide the crossbench with three questions in question time. It has not worked. In five of the seven question times since the 47th Parliament began, the crossbench has only been able to ask two questions and not the agreed three.

There appears to have been the deliberate use of points of order to waste time to deny the crossbench the 21st question. For members of the crossbench, asking questions without notice is a key tool to hold government to account. Such tactical approaches to reducing the agreed number of questions is cynical and thwarts the agreement between the government, crossbench and, indeed, the opposition on questions. The agreement is not being treated with good faith by the opposition.

This amendment is designed to restore the original intention of the sessional order that would be in line with the numbers in the House—the government, opposition, Greens and crossbench. This may seem like a small numerical change, but, if we are to be truly representative, it'll make a big difference for the communities that this crossbench represent. All of us on this crossbench may wish for greater reform of question time, but this is a start. I commend this motion to the House.

Motion text

That all words in paragraph (a) of sessional order 65A be omitted and the following words substituted:

"(a) During Question Time, priority shall be given to a crossbench Member seeking the call on the fifth, thirteenth and seventeenth questions."

Original sessional order 65a(a)

65a Opportunities for crossbench Members

Consistent with the principle that the call should alternate between government and non-government Members and to enable crossbench Members to receive the call in accordance with the crossbench proportion of the non-government membership of the House:

(a) During Question Time, priority shall be given to a crossbench Member seeking the call on the fifth, thirteenth and twenty-first questions.

Summary

Date and time: 3:59 PM on 2022-09-05
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 89
Total number of "no" votes: 54
Total number of abstentions: 8

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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