“It is not the intention of the Australian government to bring to the parliament any legislation dealing with voluntary euthanasia. Of course, in the parliament, parliamentarians as individuals have their rights, and if someone wanted to bring such a proposition as a private member’s bill, that is possible, but the Australian government has no intention of bringing such a bill to the parliament.”

That was the essence of Julia Gillard’s response to Adam Bandt’s question on euthanasia yesterday, the outcome of the Our Say People’s Question process. Bandt would have asked a supplementary, but for speaker Peter Slipper to inconveniently fail to see him before giving the call for another Dorothy Dixer from a Labor backbencher.

From the opposition was an apparently incessant series of questions trying to somehow link Gillard with western Sydney gun crime, on the basis that if she couldn’t stop the boats she couldn’t stop the guns (or the infectious diseases, or the national security risks, and so on — you get the picture).

It was symbolic of the facile theatre of question time that a question on an issue of genuine concern outside the parliament was shunted aside for inept political tactics.

Question time used to be, if lacking in substance, a genuine forum for the testing of ministers and a key element in both sides’ prosecution of their political agendas. These days it looks a lot like empty rituals played before a bored gallery, disconnected from the issues that truly engage voters.

Peter Fray

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