Years 7 to 12
Run Question Time
Discover how members of Parliament use Question Time to closely examine the work of the government in this classroom activity. Use this activity to further your study of civics and citizenship.
Years 7 to 12
1 to 2 lessons
Making a law in the Australian Parliament
Preparing for Question Time
Choosing topics and ministers
- Ask the class to decide on 3 to 6 areas of national importance, such as the environment, education, health etc. You may wish to consider areas of importance to your community, areas you have been studying in class or areas receiving coverage in the media. If you’d like to see the kinds of issues the Parliament has been discussing recently, look at News from our Parliament.
- Divide the class into government, opposition, minor parties and independents and the media. You should make approximately half the students government members, half opposition members, 1 to 2 students as independent or minor party members, and 2 members of the media.
- Choose students from the government to be the ministers responsible for each of the 3 to 6 areas of concern that your class identified. For example, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Health, and the Minister for the Environment. Also choose a Prime Minister and a Leader of the Opposition.
- Give each minister 1 to 2 minutes to prepare an idea within their area of responsibility. Their teammates can help them with these ideas. For example, if your class identified education as an issue, the Minister for Education might supply funding to build more science labs or hire more language teachers in schools. Ministers can do this one at a time. Ask the opposition and minor parties to watch, so that they understand what the government is doing and can later prepare relevant questions.
- Give your students 5 to 10 minutes to prepare questions which are relevant to your areas/ministers.
- Ask students in the opposition to prepare a question which challenges the government’s ideas.
- Ask students in the government who aren’t ministers to prepare questions which allow ministers to promote their ideas. They may wish to share their question with the minister to ensure the minister can answer it easily.
- Ask the minor party and independent members to prepare questions which either challenge or promote the governments ideas.
- Ask the Leader of the Opposition prepare a question for the Prime Minister about any of these areas.
- Ask the Prime Minister to prepare answers about any of these areas.
- Ask the students in the media to decide what media they are with, such as TV reporters, online-newspaper reporters, bloggers. They can be creative and think of a name for their column, TV station etc.
Set up room
- Turn the classroom into the House of Representatives by arranging chairs and tables into a horseshoe shape as indicated by the seating plan in the toolkit.
- Select a student from the government to be the Speaker.
Running Question Time
You can follow this process in the master script.
- The media introduce themselves and announce that Question Time is about to begin.
- The Speaker begins the session and explains how Question Time works.
Asking and Answering Questions
- The Speaker calls the Leader of the Opposition to ask a question.
- The Leader of the Opposition asks their question and the Speaker calls the Prime Minister to answer the question.
- The Prime Minister answers the question.
- The Speaker calls a member to ask a question and then calls the relevant minister to answer the question. The Speaker repeats this step alternating between questions from government and non-government members.
- To end Question Time the Prime Minister requests that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.
- The media take it in turns to share their reports.
Discuss with the class what happened in your Question Time. For example, was the government able to highlight their achievements? Did the opposition, minor party and independent members ask effective questions?
Question Time receives more media attention than other parliamentary business, including debates, speeches, and votes. What impact do you think this might have on the public’s perception of the Parliament? For example, people may think that the Parliament is adversarial and that parties always disagree with each other. People may also think that the Parliament is reactive rather than proactive in making laws for the future of Australia.