Pat Conroy has topped the list of most active participants in Question Time by a substantial margin, clocking up a total of 762 questions.
The next most active questioner— opposition leader Bill Shorten—posed 581 questions, followed by Member for Wills Kelvin Thomson (202), Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen (188) and deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek (149).
Conroy, the Labor member for Charlton, presented most of his questions in writing and many of the queries were about government spending.
For example, he asked about the amount spent on alcoholic drinks, staff vacations, corporate credit cards, stolen equipment, post budget celebrations, mobile phones and tablets, and even koalas.
His queries haven’t always been popular with the Liberal Party.
In November 2013, Conroy asked the then-Minister of Social Services Kevin Andrews about fiscal policy.
Conroy asks: “Is the minister aware that in my electorate of Charlton there are 8,132 families and 14,120 children receiving the schoolkids bonus? Can the minister explain to all these families why it is his government's priority to cut $1,200 a year in support for average hardworking Australian families while giving further tax breaks to some of the largest corporations in the world?”
Andrews ended with the response: “Do not come in here and ask stupid questions.”
Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson was the only Liberal Party member in the top 20 questioners—while many of her questions would be considered ‘Dorothy Dixers’ (opportunities for the government to promote their own work and policies), she also used the forum to advocate for electorate-specific issues.
Independent MP for Indi Cathy McGowan, Kennedy MP Bob Katter and Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt were the other non-Labor MPs to make the top 20 for questions asked.
The biggest respondents to questions asked in parliament were: former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (1508 questions), Industry Minister Christopher Pyne (340), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (322), Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (281) and Treasurer Scott Morrison (278).
Analysis of involvement in Question Time against other factors like gender, age and level of experience revealed no significant differences; a new backbencher was as likely to participate as an experienced MP. However, those who did participate more were also more likely to speak on matters of public importance.