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Howard Government Cancels Question Time On Budget Day

The Howard Government has cancelled the scheduled Question Time on Tuesday May 14th, citing the death of the Queen Mother as the reason.

The government claims it is the tradition to suspend Question Time in the event of a condolence motion for a member of the royal family.

The move has been met with criticism from the Opposition and the Australian Democrats, who each accuse the government of avoiding its obligation to be accountable to the Parliament.

According to the political newsletter, Inside Canberra, by Budget day “the Parliament will have sat only 14 days out of 229 since September last year” when the Parliament was dissolved for the election. “And after Budget day, Parliament will sit for five weeks out of seven and then rise for another seven-week break.”

The newsletter says the government is letting its third-term arrogance show: “In a blundering defence of the Government, Peter McGauran, leader of the House, said Labor was being beastly to the royal family in not meekly agreeing to forgo questions as a mark of respect to a member of the royal family, and who was once a sovereign to boot.

“McGauran, warming to his work, said Labor was being nasty about the condolence motion because it would not accept a majority of Australians had decided to remain monarchists. Dumping question time is a silly idea because it reeks of oarrogance and a refusal to face questioning. It was also silly to allow the inept McGauran to be the public defender of the Government.”

Text of statement released by Wayne Swan, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services.

What Century Is John Howard Living In?

Wayne Swan, Shadow Minister for Family and Community ServicesJohn Howard has confirmed how out of step he is with modern times with his plan to cancel Question time on Budget day to make room for a marathon five and half hour condolence motion for the Queen Mother.

Since the Queen Mother’s death on March 30 nearly all other Commonwealth nations have already held special sittings of Parliament for condolences, most within a week of her death.

And while most nations have had under 2 hours of speakers Mr Howard has decided we need five and a half. While Labor is sympathetic to the need to recognise the Queen Mother’s passing, we just don’t think it requires five and a half hours.

It has been almost a month since the Queen Mother died, yet the Howard Government has not recalled Parliament for a special sitting, as so many other Commonwealth nations have.

What is most concerning is that Mr Howard would rather cancel question time on the day the Budget is delivered than have a special sitting of Parliament on the Monday before the Budget is handed down.

The story so far:

British House of Commons
Special sitting, 3 April, 2 hours; thirty speakers. No other Government Business.

Northern Ireland Assembly
Special sitting, 3 April, 39 minutes; 8 speakers. Adjourned for rest of day.

Scottish Assembly
Special sitting, 3 April, 21 minutes; 4 speakers. Adjourned for rest of day.

Welsh Assembly
Special sitting, 4 April, 39 minutes; 10 speakers. Adjourned for rest of day.

Normal sitting day, 8 April, 65 minutes; 10 speakers, ordinary business for rest of day.

New Zealand
Normal sitting day, 16 April, 5 minutes; 7 speakers, followed immediately by question time and ordinary business for rest of day.

Mr Howard has quoted the deaths of King George V and King George VI, 1936 and 1952 respectively, and Queen Mary in 1953 as previous examples of question time being cancelled.

These events occurred over 50 years ago and the parliament was adjourned for an entire day not just for question time. There was also only a maximum of three speakers.

Mr Howard should stop hiding behind the Queen Mother’s death and face question time on Budget day.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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