A highly respected former Speaker of the House of Representatives has questioned the need for Question Time.
Harry Jenkins says politicians could make better use of their time helping constituents rather than sitting through the theatrical hour of televised combat.
"In the 21st century, if you are building our parliamentary procedure from scratch, would you have Question Time?" he told a parliamentary inquiry on Thursday.
The former Labor MP was Speaker under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard before retiring from the role in 2011.
The committee is looking at ways to improve Question Time, with two former Speakers, including Mr Jenkins, listing potential ways to improve it.
Questions and answers should be time capped, phones and laptops should be banned, and answers should be forced to be more relevant.
Former Speaker Anna Burke, who later took up the role under the Gillard government, said Question Time was an important part of democracy.
But she said it wasn't working at its best, with the public perceiving parliamentarians as kindergarteners on steroids.
"It's a whole lot of squabbling kids not actually running the country," Ms Burke told the committee.
During his time in the chair, Mr Jenkins relaxed the rules around the use of props in the lower house, but his efforts were abused.
"It was just then used for political advantage and made a mockery of," he said.
Ms Burke said phones and laptops should be banned from Question Time.
Her office regularly received complaints, including one case of an MP observed buying shoes online.
Mr Jenkins said most of the abuse MPs copped would be illegal in any other workplace today.
"In our workplace: 'Oh no, don't worry, an hour of Question Time - let it rip'," Mr Jenkins said.
Both former Speakers agreed the measures put in place in parliament due to the coronavirus had shown it was possible to be civil during the Q&A session.
"You've seen that before, like when there's been a national tragedy," Mr Jenkins said.
The procedural rules did allow for transparency and more civil debate, but Mr Jenkins said a cultural shift had turned it into the spectacle it was now, with any controversy swept under the carpet.
"Question Time is less effectual in trying to come to the truth of those sorts of things," he said.
Ms Burke said government MPs should be allowed to ask their own questions of ministers when they liked, rather than waiting their turn to ask Dorothy Dixers.
She also suggested moving Question Time to the morning, rather than mid-afternoon, to make it more productive.
"Tempers become frayed, individuals become tired. I don't think it's a good time," Ms Burke said.
Bert Van Manen, chief whip in the lower house, said in December clear themes had emerged from a public survey, including suggesting a bigger focus on constituency issues and strengthening rules on relevance.
Australian Associated Press