Thanks for your question.
One of the functions of the Australian Parliament is to scrutinise – closely examine – the work of the executive government. This can occur during Question Time which takes place at 2 pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about 1 hour.
During Question Time, Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain the decisions and actions in their portfolios – areas of government responsibility. When asked ‘questions without notice’, Ministers usually do not know the questions they will be asked by the opposition or crossbench. These questions are likely to be tough, designed to test Ministers' ability to answer quickly and confidently. Ministers can refer to notes in answering these questions.
Ministers can also be asked questions by members of their own party – the government. These questions are often referred to as ‘Dorothy Dixers’ after Dorothy Dix who was a popular advice columnist rumoured to sometimes write the questions she answered. Unlike the questions without notice asked by the opposition and crossbench, Dorothy Dixers are designed to highlight government policies and achievements. Ministers know in advance that a Dorothy Dixer is going to be asked and this gives them time to prepare a response.