A time-wasting tactic
employed by Australian Government
s during Parliamentary Question Time
, Dorothy Dixers are asked of Ministers by government backbencher
s in order to allow the minister to launch into a lengthy response, invariably a list of the ways in which the relevant policy will benefit the nation. Such questions became known as Dorothy Dixers after a 1930s advice/agony aunt
column authored by a fictional Dorothy Dix
In both the Senate and the House of Representatives 45 minutes each sitting day is allocated for Question Time. During this period any MP/Senator may ask a question without notice of the Executive (the Prime Minister and Cabinet). The idea is that the parliament, representatives of the people, are able to hold the executive at least slightly accountable for its actions. Unfortunately this lofty ideal has never been a reality.
When the Australian constitution was drafted the theory was that MPs would represent the interests of their electorates, and that political parties would play a minor role. In practice, Australia has a two-party system and the executive of the ruling party has complete control over its back bench. Since any MP is allowed to ask a question, approximately half of all questions are asked by government MPs. Such a question, which is by definition planned out beforehand and read in a monotone without the asker taking their eyes off the page, serves as a launching pad for a ministerial speech which will occupy the whole of the allowed three minutes.
Neither of the two major parties is interested in abolishing Dorothy Dixers. It's not even one of those things which they whinge about whilst in oppostion but quiestly let drop once elected - the matter is simply ignored. The rationale behind allowing the asking of such questions is admittedly sound; it is always possible that a government MP might want to seriously question the actions of the executive, hence to ban more than half of the parliament from asking questions would further undermine the ideals upon which it was founded.