The nation’s most active government scrutinisers are Liberal backbenchers in the early stages of their careers — their first or second terms up on “the hill” in Canberra.
The House of Representatives’ most active participant, South Australian Liberal MP Jamie Briggs, asked 233 questions in total, heading up the list of the opposition’s rising stars. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott came second on the list, which recorded MPs’ oral (without notice) and written (on notice) questions between the 2010 election and the end of January 2013.
Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher came in third, followed by Cook representative (and shadow immigration spokesman) Scott Morrison.
Questions in writing, also known as questions on notice, were popular with these active politicians — only 13 questions Briggs asked were questions without notice.
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Briggs told Crikey his flood of questions was in part connected to his role as chairman of the scrutiny of government waste committee.
Fletcher, from New South Wales, is interested in broadband, which was the topic of almost one-third of the 177 questions he asked. Fletcher has a background in the telecommunication sector and communications policy and worked as senior adviser to the Howard government in the late 1990s.
Morrison, the opposition spokesman on immigration and citizenship, was on-message with a host of portfolio-related questions. Asylum seekers was the second most-discussed topic in question time during the current Parliament, and immigration was the fourth most common issue when questions were broken into broad categories.
But there’s more to Parliament that asking questions. While the Liberals asked most of the questions, ALP backbenchers made the most speeches. Ministers and shadow ministers were more likely to speak on bills, matters of public importance, motions and ministerial statements, while backbenchers took out most of the top 10 speechmaking spots.
There were only two ministers in the top 10 for speeches. Minister for Infrastructure (and plenty else) Anthony Albanese topped the list, partly due to his role as Labor’s leader of the house. Second position went to Employment Minister Bill Shorten.
Labor’s parliamentary secretaries Shayne Neumann, Sid Sidebottom and Andrew Leigh were in third, fourth and fifth on the speechmakers’ list, followed by backbenchers Harry Jenkins, Gai Brodtmann, Chris Hayes, Jill Hall and Stephen Jones. Perhaps some names to watch for the future?
Neumann, the member for Blair who was recently named parliamentary secretary to the Attorney-General, believes the promotion is in part because some people noticed his efforts on the floor. However, he says his new role in Parliament will mean fewer speeches in future. Neumann — who is a lawyer — focussed his speeches focused mainly on social policy, including health issues and ageing, and issues related to corporations and taxation.