Government s Dorothy Dix farce
Government's Dorothy Dix farce

Ministerial offices have produced lists of Dorothy Dix-style questions for Barnett Government backbenchers to ask during this week's parliamentary Budget estimates hearings, soaking up time and helping ministers avoid questions from the Opposition.

_The West Australian _has learnt lists of questions have been emailed to Government backbenchers ahead of estimates hearings, which are the Parliament's chance to interrogate the detail of the Budget papers before the annual appropriation Bills.

In other hearings, printed sheets of questions have been handed to backbenchers.

Estimates is traditionally an opportunity for the Opposition to grill ministers on their budgets and operations of their portfolio.

In at least one portfolio, not only were suggested questions distributed to Government backbenchers, but also suggested.

One Government MP said the Opposition got the vast majority of time in estimates to ask questions but there were "key messages" the Government wanted "reinforced".

Another Government member said: "There is no doubt the idea is that the minister read out the answer to waste time."

Opposition government accountability spokeswoman Rita Saffioti admitted Labor had used Dorothy Dix questions in estimates when it was in Government but said it was a matter of "degree".

In 2008, then opposition backbencher Colin Barnett said it was appropriate that the opposition should get the "lion's share" of questions in estimates and that "it is absolutely pathetic if a minister is not across his or her portfolio and has to rely on Dorothy Dix questions".

Yesterday, Mr Barnett's spokeswoman said decisions about whether to provide suggested questions was up to ministerial offices.

"It has long been common practice under successive governments for members to seek, and receive, assistance with estimates preparation," she said.

The West Australian

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