Diet question time session should be an occasion where party leaders discuss domestic and foreign policies from a broad perspective. Both the ruling and opposition parties need to go back to the original purpose for which question time was introduced and work to review the way the session should be managed.
A question time was held for the second time during the current Diet session. Five opposition leaders traded verbal blows with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, spoke of “seven problems under the Abe administration,” dwelling on issues related to the sale of state-owned land to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen and to the new establishment of a veterinary department at a university operated by the Kake Educational Institution, arguing that the issues “impair the fairness of public administration and invite crises in our society and the state.”
If a party leader just makes assertions of their own without leaving enough time for Abe to respond, it is meaningless for the two of them to discuss issues face-to-face.
Question time was introduced for such purposes as reviewing the previous way of deliberation in the Diet, which bound the prime minister and cabinet ministers to committee sessions for many hours, with opposition parties questioning them. Question time was supposed to be held on the premise that the governing party and opposition parties, which aim at rising to power, would discuss policies.
It cannot be satisfactory as long as the question time session turns into a mere extension of committee deliberations at the Diet, where misconduct on the part of the government is delved into.
It is disappointing that Abe said, “With Edano’s oration, the historic mission of question time has ended.” Both ruling and opposition parties must talk, without reserve, about reforming question time.
Increase debating time
Forty-five minutes is set aside for each question time session, including responses to be made by the prime minister. It is unreasonable for as many as five leaders from the opposition camp to take part in the session, held with such limited time. It must be necessary to increase the time for discussion.
It is also indispensable to improve the operation of the session, such as by having it concentrate on themes linked to the course the nation should take, including North Korea issues and economic policies.
Regarding the government’s plan of accepting more foreign workers into this country, Kohei Otsuka, coleader of the Democratic Party for the People, said: “This is a major switch in policy. It would be difficult to complete the relevant deliberation by next April while also winning people’s understanding.” By saying this, he called on the government to deal with the issue carefully.
The government will introduce in the next fiscal year a new residence status that will enable foreign nationals to work in the country, provided they have certain expertise. There is a risk that the introduction could lead to the accepting of unskilled workers, and there are concerns over its impact on Japanese workers.
Abe said, “As a matter of fact, there has been a labor shortage,” emphasizing the need to accept more foreign workers.
Otsuka can be given credit for taking up an important policy issue, thus trying to hold a constructive argument. Deepening the discussion at the Diet on the medium- and long-term utilization of foreign workers is important.
The Diet session has been extended until July 22. A censure motion submitted by the CDPJ and other opposition parties against Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato over bills related to work style reform was voted down. Such obstructionist tactics as one aimed at delaying voting on the bill will not be able to win people’s support.
Opposition parties should strive to hold substantial deliberations by clarifying points of discussion on the bills.