John Chiddick, December 2014 – January 2015

Judith Brett (November) contrasts the superior quality of the British House of Commons debate about air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq with the “jeering, sneering question time” in Canberra’s House of Representatives. She also notes that party “discipline” for backbench MPs is less repressive in the UK than in Australia. There could be a connection between these two realities. If the function of backbenchers is to provide lobby fodder, there is little incentive for them to go beyond tribalist abuse.

It is noteworthy that the standard of discussion has markedly improved on the rare occasions when a conscience vote has been allowed. Unfortunately the notion of what constitutes a conscience issue is far too narrow. Surely questions of war and peace are matters of conscience par excellence.

John Chiddick
Hawthorn East, VIC

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