Functions of Parliament
The debate function refers to when there is a forum to allow for discussion of pertenent issues in relation to proposed bills, and should allow various viewpoints and potential concerns with any legislation to be raised and discussed within parliament.
Debate Function in Theory
Debate is needed in each of the other three functions of parliament; representation, responsibility, and legislation. Without debate and discussion, parliament cannot act in the way it was designed to. Parliament facilitates debate through:
Second reading debates as part of the legislative process
Grievances, urgency motions, PMBs, 90-second statements, matters of public importance, to represent their electorate
Ministerial statements and question time to hold government accountable
Additionally, parliamentary privelege creates an ultimate form of freedom of speech. It protects MPs from torts or defamation or limitation suits when speaking in parliament, allowing freer expression of ideas and viewpoints, thus a factor in achieving constructive debate in parliament.
Debate Function in Practice
Executive dominance in government means that debate that is deemed by the government to be irrelevant or conflicting to their agenda can be limited. The government can control debate by:
Restricting debate opportunities when setting schedule for the day
Extending government business, restricting time for other debate opportunities such as urgency motions, grievance motions, etc.
Using gags and guillotines to limit debate during legislative process
A innovation of modern politics is the emergence of party room policy discussions. As executive dominance may limit debate in the parliament, members of parties still have opportunity to discuss potential policy direction. Here, backbenchers can keep their party ministers accountable and a more equal platform debate is established, meaning debate can still occur in modern politics.