You thought question time was chaotic last year … Well, the introduction of Peter Slipper to the esteemed role of Speaker of the House isn’t about to restore order, that’s for sure. The school yard antics might be fun to live tweet for, oh, about 1o minutes, but the spectacle of question time is far from edifying and it’s set to get a whole lot worse.

Of course, everyone’s an expert until they try it, so why don’t you? Today Crikey in conjunction with the people at OurSay are launching a new project entitled The People’s Question.

It’s your chance to best the predictable Dorothy Dixers of our politicians and put your own question to the floor — and we believe it’s a world first. Using social media OurSay will crowd source potential questions and then put them to a vote. A mystery MP has agreed to put one of the winning questions, no matter what the subject, to the House of Representatives when voting closes on March 4.

Each week until March Crikey and OurSay will feature a new question — our Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane will be working closely with OurSay to canvas a new issue each week, explain the topic and explore the politics (and the people) behind the question.

As Keane writes in Crikey today, essentially question time  — the primary mechanism of parliamentary accountability — has been “reduced to theatre — not much above the pantomime kind — where the audience isn’t voters but your opponents, the press gallery above and evening news producers. The only actual scrutiny comes from the crossbenches down the end.”

So far social media’s mix with federal politics hasn’t really lived up to the hype. Politicians use Twitter and Facebook to push press releases or write flippant updates about cups of tea. This Our Say project is another way to test the potential of these platforms to bring the people to parliament.

So you can keep sniping from the sidelines (and don’t get us wrong, that has its attractions) or get involved. Or both. Start hitting OurSay (@OurSayAust,  @OurSayPeoplesQ #PeoplesQ #auspol or on Facebook) with questions. And for more information about OurSay, go here.

*It would be unAustralian for us to publish tomorrow. So we won’t. We’ll back on Friday — happy Australia Day.

Peter Fray

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