Queensland’s opposition and an independent MP say not enough time has been given to question ministers in state budget estimate hearings.
A controversial trial of budget estimate hearings in Queensland is biased and has dramatically curtailed the time ministers are scrutinised, the opposition and an independent say.
This year, estimates hearings have been cut from seven days to two, with ministers giving evidence concurrently.
While the government argues ministers are available for questioning for 85 hours compared to 58 hours last year, the opposition and an independent say their time has been cut short.
Independent Peter Wellington said in one committee session with Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie on Tuesday they only got seven minutes of airtime after a 20-minute stint by government MPs.
Mr Wellington said committee chairman, government MP Ian Berry, didn’t allow them to persist with questioning until they got satisfactory answers.
When Mr Bleijie gave short or incomplete answers, Mr Berry then threw to government MPs, Mr Wellington said.
“We should be able to decide when that question is exhausted, not the chairman,” he said.
“The government members are controlling the time allocated to questioning the ministers, directors general and senior staff in the department.
“It is an abuse of power.”
Mr Berry said each MP got to ask the same amount of questions, and it’s not his fault if Mr Bleijie responded briefly to some.
“I have no control of how long the attorney-general speaks for,” he said.
Labor has vowed to return to the old system if elected in 2015.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said ministers are avoiding questions and getting away with it.
For example, a question on the cost of scoping studies on asset sales wasn’t answered by the treasurer nor did he say how many jobs have been cut from government-owned corporations, she said.
“This trial hasn’t worked, it is shambolic,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Premier Campbell Newman denied that the new system was biased.
“I actually had to answer questions for twice the period of time I did last year,” he said.
“So for six hours I was there to answer questions and it means that there’s much greater scrutiny on the government.”