Jordan Rivkin

About Jordan Rivkin

Jordan Rivkin is a freelance writer, psychology student and animal-welfare advocate. After nearly two decades in the stock market, he left to complete his 4th year honours in psychology. His main interests are social justice and mental health issues, and he teaches ethics to primary school children in his spare time.

S&M: Question Time – a perennial April Fools’ Day

It’s April Fools’ Day.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk politics. Same same.

I’m not sure how many Australians actually watch Question Time in Federal Parliament.

We all have better things to do, right? Well, clearly I need to get out more, because I’ve found myself glued to it of late.

Sadly, this is not due to the stimulating debate that transpires in the chamber. Rather, I am spellbound by the sheer immaturity and schoolyard antics on display. I know this should come as no surprise, but I really was astounded by the degree of sarcasm and mockery that I witnessed.

Watching politicians taunt their counterparts, all the while snickering and looking back to their colleagues for approval, is reminiscent of school days gone by. And, embarrassingly, this often transpires in the presence of foreign dignitaries and school children, who regularly attend the public gallery.

It makes you wonder what these dignitaries must think of our system of government. Or what these school children must think about a future career in politics.

Perhaps even more frustrating than this puerile behaviour is the complete inability of many politicians to do one simple thing…answer a question. It is called “question time” after all, and yet it is exceptionally rare for a question to be answered.

I can sympathise with the Opposition’s attempted motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, last week… if not for reasons of impartiality, then at least for incompetence. Her unwillingness to direct the government to answer questions during question time stymies productive debate.

Doesn’t the public have a right to expect their elected representatives to engage in informed debate? Evading questions, belittling opponents, and relentlessly blaming those on the other side of the floor, does nothing to promote the kind of debate that may just lead to sensible policy.

I’m so sick of hearing questions about the upcoming budget answered with references to Wayne Swan’s ineptitude. Or questions about Operation Sovereign Borders answered by mocking former Immigration Ministers. Why can’t we hear real answers to real questions?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that the Abbott government is the only guilty party. Both sides of the house are complicit in this debacle. It just so happens that the government of the day always happens to be smarmier, and thus more susceptible to sarcasm.

Perhaps if we adopted a style of government more similar to that of the United States, where there is a respect for high office, we could dispense with the shenanigans?

If our politicians couldn’t ridicule their opponents, on account of the respect their positions afforded them, perhaps they would be obliged to address the issues at hand.

(Ed’s note – just to illustrate Mr Rivkin’s point, here’s one of our more (less) memorable Keystone Cop moments of recent times…)

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