Three years is long enough

News Ltd’s Leo Shanahan notes how terrible the NSW government is and how annoying it is that the people of NSW will (because of fixed four year terms) have to wait until next year to get rid of it:

The bizarre formulation of federal three year terms will force the Federal Government go to the polls before the NSW Iemma/Rees/Keneally Governments, despite the fact this triumvirate have given the people of NSW one of the worst governments in the state’s history.

Kevin Rudd was elected six months after Morris Iemma and will have to face the electorate at least six months before Kristina Keneally, despite being a federal government with greater responsibility and a more complex agenda, the black comedy of Macquarie Street has been heritage listed till next March.

He’s right, that is absurd. But his suggestion? Not fix the NSW mess by making it more like the Federal system with 3 year terms – but to make the Federal system more like the disastrous NSW one!

It’s Time – to scrap three year terms

…it’s about time we made the switch from three year to four year terms, and preferably those terms would be fixed.

Leo wants the public to be consulted even less frequently than it is at present. This will give us stability, he argues:

I can’t help but think what we’ve recently witnessed in the UK has something to do with its four year terms, a time period that allows for more long-term change in government and opposition.

Well, they’re five year terms, and was Leo watching the same election the rest of us witnessed? Citing the debacle that was UK’s 2010 General Election as an example of where we should be heading seems, as Sir Humphrey would say, courageous. The UK experience demonstrated even more starkly than the NSW one just what happens when governments are given too long without voter endorsement. Brown was Prime Minister for almost as long as Kevin Rudd, but never won a single election. The Labour Party was never realistically going to be held accountable for things it did five years earlier, in a significantly different world and under a Prime Minister who left three years ago.

Long parliamentary terms are a recipe for corruption and unaccountability.

If MPs are not doing their job because they’re “electioneering” (whatever that means), then don’t vote for those ones!

Fixed terms are an excellent idea – removing the power of the incumbent to manipulate the electoral system for its own cynical ends. But there’s no reason they have to be longer than three years.

You can tell how dodgy the idea of longer terms is by the people who are behind it – major party politicians and their backers. There’s almost got bipartisan support for being able to avoid public judgment for longer. But far from being an argument in favour of the proposal, it should ring massive warning bells. The only reason for longer terms is “stability” so those in charge can do what they and their most favoured lobbyists want, without worrying about anything approaching representative democracy. These people don’t want to represent us, they want to rule us. Regular elections – and three years isn’t a particularly short time, anyway – are the way we keep them in check.

No wonder they and their supporters are so keen to change the rules of the game to make it easier for them. Whenever they trot this self-interested proposal out, we should tell them to get stuffed.

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7 responses to “Three years is long enough

  1. Splatterbottom

    Changing to four year terms for the House of Reps requires an amendment to the constitution. There is absolutely no chance that the people will be conned into that.

    New South Wales has been in decline since four year terms were introduced.

  2. A little off topic, if we are going for electoral reform, lets do something about the Senate.

    Optional preferential would be a good start. Having a choice of either a simple “above the line” voting or numbering a metre long sheet is no choice. And so we get our Senator Fieldings.

    Next election I will take great delight in placing Senators Conroy and Fielding last and second last and hope I do not duplicate any numbers as I work through the rest of the field.

    Hopefully optional preferential voting for the senate would reduce the incidence of underqualified/party hacks/time-servers in the Senate. Otherwise we also need to address the six year terms of Senators.

    Would also be nice to have optional Prefs in the lower house so here in Melbourne I can vote for the greens and not preference either Labor or the Liberals.

    As an afterthought Senators should not be ministers.

  3. I cannot agree here. I think fixed four year terms are a good idea. Three years simply does not allow a government enough time to do anything long-term. Governments are too paranoid about the next election to implement long-term policies – it means constant short-term, short-sighted planning.

  4. Four years isn’t “long-term” either.

    The solution to governments that only plan for the short-term is to vote for parties that plan for the longer term.

  5. It’s longer than three years.

    And to SB

    Changing to four year terms for the House of Reps requires an amendment to the constitution. There is absolutely no chance that the people will be conned into that.

    Well obviously the people of NSW were “conned” in 1995 when they voted for a change to 4 year terms.

    New South Wales has been in decline since four year terms were introduced.

    Even if that was true, which it isn’t, a typical Tory would just argue that it’s because of the party in power; not the length of terms.

  6. Have to agree with Aussie Unionist – if there’s a problem with the government in NSW, its because its a rubbish government and the Opposition is not doing its job, not because of the length of parliamentary terms.

    I think there’s probably a lot of people who would like to see another year of the current Federal Government before deciding how they vote. Five years as in the UK is too much, but I think its possible to mount a plausible case for four years.

    Agreed that fixed terms is an obvious improvement that should have been in play federally years ago.

  7. Splatterbottom

    AU the four year term means that rubbish governments, like the current morally bankrupt ALP regime, hang around too long. It will be almost a year before our puppet muppet premier has her strings snipped by the electorate. Then the lurking grubby puppeteers will be out in the cold and their property developer mates will have to find someone else to duchess.

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