The Liberal Party came up with one third of questions asked during Question Time—a finding that raises broader concerns about the efficiency of this parliamentary forum.
Question Time is primarily a time allocated for the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine their work.
However, is not always used for its primary purpose, with government backbenchers posing questions to ministers in order to highlight policies and achievements—these questions are pre-prepared and are popularly known as Dorothy Dixers.
As part of the House:Divided project, UniPollWatch analysed almost 3500 questions asked during the current parliamentary term (from November 12, 2013 until January 1, 2016), and found that Dorothy Dixers were common.
However, the Liberal Party has not asked as many own-party questions as the 2010-2013 Labor government, who asked 47% of questions during their term in government.
In the current parliament, Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson was the most frequent Liberal Party member to ask questions during Question Time, with 47 questions. While most of these would be considered ‘Dorothy Dixers’, she also used this forum to raise electorate issues.
The remaining top five ‘Dorothy Dixers’ were Karen McNamara, Nola Marino, Fiona Scott and Ewen Jones.
The most frequently addressed issues by the Liberal Party through questions were related to foreign affairs and trade, budget, the economy, carbon pricing, the aviation industry, and defence and border security.
Analysis of the Question Time data, collected by Bond University students, also sheds some light on the kind of MPs likely to ask Dorothy Dixers. These MPs were less likely to be absent from parliament, were more engaged in committee work, less likely to give ministerial statements and were less active on Twitter than other MPs.
Dorothy Dixer questioners were in office for fewer terms and thus less experienced in politics than other MPs, although there was no age correlation.