Question Time in Federal Parliament is a joke and, as it is currently administered, serves no useful purpose. But you knew that. The real interrogation comes in the fine print of Hansard, that section at the back called "Questions Without Notice".
There's an interesting document on the Australian Parliament website.
Its title is "List of Unanswered Questions in Writing".
It contains all the questions put to federal ministers by opposition MPs (and, theoretically, government backbenchers) during the life of the current parliament to which replies have not yet been made.
It is 85 pages long.
And as soon as Parliament is prorogued for the federal election, the list of unanswered questions lapses.
Now some of the questions are complex and no doubt require research, compilation of data and detailed responses, and therefore answers may take time. With that in mind, I have focussed on those questions in the QONS document that have been outstanding for more than twelve months. That's the first 21 pages.
The oldest question on the list was placed on the notice paper on November 17, 2004. That's the second sitting day of the current parliament. It was, in fact, a question that had been previously submitted during the previous term of parliament, and had lapsed. Indeed, there are two questions unanswered from that day.
I'll kick off my analysis of the more interesting unanswered Questions Without Notice by reproducing Martin Ferguson's questions of 17 November 2004 and ponder the reasons why the respondent has, thus far, failed to give a reply:
48. MR M. J. FERGUSON: To ask the Prime Minister —
(1) Did his Department receive a licence agreement for the Super Dome box at the 2000 Sydney Olympics; if so, what was the basis of the agreement.
(2) In addition to the $850,000 for the cost of tickets to the Olympics for use by Government, the $240,000 for use of a 20-seat box at Stadium Australia, and the $120,000 for an 18-seat box at the Super Dome, what was the breakdown of other costs incurred by him and other Ministers when entertaining guests during the Olympic Games.
53. MR M. J. FERGUSON: To ask the Prime Minister — What was the total cost, including a breakdown of costs for travel, accommodation, security and other expenses, of the Prime Minister’s visit to the United Kingdom in November 2003.