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A Statistical Analysis Of Question Time

Last updated on March 13, 2024

The tabling of a government report into the supposed throwing overboard of children from the Tampa was the dominant issue in Question Time in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, tabled the report which argued that the government had been misled about the incidient which featured prominently in last year’s election campaign.

The first Questions Without Notice for the 40th Parliament followed the official opening of the Parliament the day before.

As well as the first appearance as Opposition Leader for Simon Crean, a number of ministers, shadow ministers and backbenchers made their debut in their new roles in the House of Representatives.

Question Time commenced at 2.00pm and concluded at 3.25pm. A total of 19 questions were asked, 10 of these from the ALP, including 5 from Simon Crean.

Eleven government ministers were asked questions, the Prime Minister receiving six questions, the Foreign Affairs Minister 2, the Treasurer 2, Education Minister 2, and 7 other ministers 1 each.

There were a number of symbolic choices made by the parties in their choice of questioners. The government’s first Dorothy Dixer came from Peter Dutton, the new member for Dickson, who defeated Cheryl Kernot in last year’s election. The coalition has taken particular delight in defeating Kernot. The government’s second question was asked by Ken Dicehurst, the new member for Dobell, who defeated the ALP’s Michael Lee.

Similarly, the ALP’s first backbencher to ask a question was Catherine King, the new member for Ballarat, the only seat the ALP picked up in the election.

The most popular topic for questions was the ongoing saga of the Tampa, including the issue of whether children were thrown overboard, and the latest allegations about illegal use of the Defence Signals Directorate to eavesdrop on Australians. Nine questions were asked about these issues, mainly by the Opposition. Another 2 questions on related issues were also asked.

The government’s Dorothy Dix questions focused on the Unfair Dismissal legislation, recent renamed “Fair Dismissal” laws, consumer confidence, research funding, assistance to the unemployed, petrol prices and steel exports to the United States.

An interesting feature of Question Time is that of the 19 questions asked, only 10 were asked by backbenchers from either side and 9 of those were government backbenchers asking prepared Dorothy Dix questions.

Half of the Opposition’s 10 questions were asked by the Leader, Simon Crean, 4 by shadow ministers, and only one by a backbencher.

Of the government’s 20 ministers in the House of Representatives, 11 were asked questions.

/Questions Without Notice
Wednesday February 13, 2002
No. Questioner Minister Topic Audio
1
Simon Crean
(Opp Leader – ALP)
Alexander Downer
Foreign Affairs
DSD intercepts
2
Peter Dutton
(Dickson – Lib)
John Howard
Prime Minister
Report into Tampa children overboard incident
3
Simon Crean
(Opp Leader – ALP)
John Howard
Prime Minister
DSD intercepts
4
Ken Ticehurst
(Dobell – Lib)
Peter Costello
Treasurer
Costs of policing unauthorised boat arrivals
5
Robert McClelland
(Barton – ALP)
Daryl Williams
Attorney-General
Espionage legislation: leaks and whistleblowers
6
Alan Cadman
(Mitchell – Lib)
Peter Costello
Treasurer
Economic outlook – consumer confidence
7
Kevin Rudd
(Griffith – ALP)
Alexander Downer
Foreign Affairs
DSD intercepts
8
Christopher Pyne
(Sturt – Lib)
Tony Abbott
Employment & Workplace Relations
Profitability of small business
9
Catherine King
(Ballarat – ALP)
John Howard
Prime Minister
Employees entitlements legislation
10
Luke Hartsuyker
(Cowper – Nat)
Brendan Nelson
Education, Science & Training
Research promotion and funding
11
Jenny Macklin
(Deputy Leader Opp – ALP)
Brendan Nelson
Education, Science & Training
University places & funding
12
Phil Barresi
(Deakin – Lib)
Mal Brough
Employment Services
Assistance to the unemployed; comments by ACOSS
13
Simon Crean
(Opp Leader – ALP)
John Howard
Prime Minister
Report into Tampa children overboard incident
14
Bruce Billson
(Dunkley – Lib)
Gary Hardgrave
Citizenship and Multicultral Affairs
Community harmony since September 11
15
Simon Crean
(Opp Leader – ALP)
John Howard
Prime Minister
Report into Tampa children overboard incident
16
John Forrest
(Mallee – Nat)
Wilson Tuckey
Regional Services, Territories & Local Government
Parity between city and country petrol prices
17
Julia Gillard
(Lalor – ALP)
Philip Ruddock
Immigration
Knowledge of Tampa children overboard incident
18
Bruce Baird
(Cook – Lib)
Mark Vaile
Trade
Steel exports to United States
19
Simon Crean
(Opp Leader – ALP)
John Howard
Prime Minister
Peter Reith & Tampa children overboard incident
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Malcolm Farnsworth
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