As it turns out, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard really DO take longer to answer questions than their predecessors.

We looked at Question Times in August and September this year and last year and at the start of last year, and compared them to similar dates in 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004, looking at how long Prime Ministers and their deputies took to answer questions.

Julia Gillard is streets ahead in prolixity, averaging nearly 750 words per answer, or over 200 more than her boss.

The Prime Minister, however, is master of the set-piece Dorothy Dixer where he rises, usually for the second question of the day, and bores the Parliament into a coma by reading a 1000-word essay into Hansard.

John Howard, in contrast, was the soul of brevity, at around 350 words, more than half Julia Gillard’s average, less even than Peter Costello. Indeed, there was a day in February 2007 when Howard was particularly terse, taking 17 questions and answering them in less than 100 words each.

Rudd and Gillard might learn from their predecessors that, every so often, a brisk “no” is the best answer of all.

Total questions Total word count Average of totals Shortest complete answer
Rudd 26 13501 519.3 102
Gillard 9 6712 745.8 31
Howard 38 13341 351.1 1
Vaile 8 3698 462.5 1
Costello 5 1907 381.4 75
Anderson 2 1276 638 74
Date Name No. of questions Answer word count in total Average words per answer
15/09/09 Rudd 6 1126 187.7
15/09/09 Gillard 2 759 379.5
20/08/09 Rudd 3 1776 592
20/08/09 Gillard 2 978 489
19/08/09 Rudd 2 3951 1975.5
19/08/09 Gillard 2 2091 1045
27/08/08 Rudd 7 4293 613.3
27/08/08 Gillard 3 1334 444.7
13/02/08 Rudd 8 2355 294.4
13/02/08 Gillard 2 1647 823.5
06/02/07 Howard 17 1606 94.5
06/02/07 Vaile 1 2381 2381
07/02/06 Howard 4 2431 607.5
07/02/06 Vaile 7 1317 188.1
17/08/06 Howard 3 4181 1393.7
17/08/06 Costello 1 296 296
14/06/05 Howard 6 2155 359.2
14/06/05 Costello 4 1611 402.7
12/08/04 Howard 8 2968 371
12/08/04 Anderson 2 1276 638

Additional research, Crikey intern Nina Nicoll.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.