An Australian term, Dorothy Dixers are friendly questions asked in Parliament of government ministers usually by backbenchers from their own party. The questions add little to the democratic process, serving mainly to get the backbencher's head on television to remind his or her constituents their member is working, and for the minister to round on the opposition or spruik government programs.
Rarely is a Dixer asked of a government MP by a member of another party.
But this is precisely what happened in the Australian Senate on Wednesday. Instead of using question time to hold the government to account, Greens leader Senator Bob Brown took another tack. Demonstrating the Greens' unfitness for office, Brown turned the nation's stomach with a series of leading questions that can only be seen as gloating over the unwanted, un-voted for Carbon Tax.
Senator BOB BROWN: My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Is the minister aware of the letter from the Prime Minister of the UK to our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in reference to the carbon package saying:
"Your announcement sends a strong and clear signal that Australia is determined to make its contribution to addressing this challenge and it will add momentum to those in both the developed and the developing world who are serious about dealing with this urgent threat."
I ask the minister: is it not an embarrassment that Australia has a Leader of the Opposition, a conservative, in London, who, to take the Prime Minister of Britain's words, is neither serious about action on climate change nor prepared to have Australia play its role in contributing to addressing that challenge?
This Dixer allowed Finance Minister Senator Penny Wong to attack Opposition leader Tony Abbott for traveling overseas to a conservative convention. Brown had another Dixer at the ready:
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note that Mr Abbott may today meet UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who said:Despite objections from Opposition senators, Senator Wong used the opportunity to again attack Tony Abbott, and for good measure throw in a gratuitous shot at Senator Barnaby Joyce.
"We believe, in the UK government, that climate change presents one of this century’s major international challenges in terms of security and peace in the world …
We believe the most successful economies of the future will be built on low carbon growth …"
I ask the minister: do you think there is anything that connects the Australian Leader of the Opposition with this forward-thinking?
But Brown wasn't finished. Confirming the fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden coalition that is the current Australian Federal Government has hit Peak Stupid, Brown invokes Al Gore:
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I ask the minister: is she aware of comments of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US Vice President Al Gore that:This was too much even for the Labor president of the Senate, John Hogg. Acknowledging Penny Wong is not Climate Change Minister, Hogg informed Brown:
"This is a historic moment. Australia's Parliament has put the nation's first carbon price into law … As the world’s leading coal exporter, there's no doubt that opposition to this legislation was fierce. But through determination and commitment, the voice of the people of Australia has rung out loud and clear."
I ask the honourable minister what response she has to the comments of this world leader in thinking on climate change.
Senator Brown, I struggle to find that that question is in order because it is not related to the minister's responsibility.All this brings to mind another useful Australian term: brown-nose.