The protracted death rattle emanating from the New South Wales state government has set many tongues to wagging about the iniquity of fixed terms. In the wake of the Rees government’s disastrous showing at the October 18 by-elections, The Australian complained that voters suffering “buyers’ remorse” would be “denied a refund for whatever hopes they may have invested in Morris Iemma’s team in March last year”. The blame rested, as it usually does, on those with a “centralist, progressive and utopian view of the world”, which supposedly marches hand-in-hand with an enthusiasm for fixed terms. As has been noted by Andrew Bartlett and Mark Bahnisch, this argument is based on the strange assumption that Nathan Rees would freely choose to put his government out of its misery if only he were allowed the chance. The real problem, if problem it be deemed, is not the term’s inflexibility, but its four year length.
Such concerns have obviously failed to cut much ice beyond the state’s borders. In Tasmania, Premier David Bartlett has recently flagged legislation to fix elections for the third Saturday of every fourth March starting from 2010 (setting up an ongoing clash with elections in South Australia). Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson last week introduced a bill to set future elections for the fourth Saturday of every fourth August, which his government committed to immediately after its recent brush with death at an election called a full year before time. In Western Australia, the centralist, progressive and utopian Liberal government has approved drafting of legislation for quadrennial elections in February or March. This will commit the current government to a four-and-a-half year term, which had always been a possibility owing to the early September election and constitutional arrangements that fix the expiry of the Legislative Assembly at January 31.
There is also lingering in the background Kevin Rudd’s pre-election promise to hold a referendum on fixed four-year terms in conjunction with the next election. However, a previous proposal for four-year terms put to the people in 1988 illustrates the challenge the Senate presents to any such move at federal level. The constitution currently provides for Senators to serve fixed terms of six years, unless they are cut short by a double dissolution. A simple extension of House terms to four years would require frequent half-Senate elections to be held independently of those for the House, which as well as presenting governments with unwelcome “national by-elections” would defeat one of the main purposes of the reform: reducing the frequency of elections, and hence their cost.
The Hawke government’s solution was to abolish staggered six-year Senate terms, so that the entire Senate would face election at the same time as the House. The favoured explanations for the heavy defeat of the proposal were the innate conservatism of the electorate regarding the constitution, a complacent sales pitch by the government and opportunistic obstruction from the Coalition (then in its first period under John Howard’s leadership). However, what seems remarkable in hindsight is that anyone expected it to succeed in the first place. Lacking a provision for fixed terms, the measure merely sought to increase the power of sitting governments by giving them an extra year to play with. Less ambitious proposals to require simultaneous elections for the House and Senate, without fixing the terms or changing their length, had already been rejected in 1974, 1977 and 1984. The small states in particular were easily persuaded that tying full Senate elections to those for the House would have reduced the independence of the chamber that was established to safeguard their interests. While defeated in all six states, the proposal copped a particularly severe drubbing in Tasmania (74.4 per cent against), South Australia (73.3 per cent) and Western Australia (69.3 per cent).
None of these difficulties have gone away. The minister with responsibility for electoral matters, John Faulkner, recently signalled that the party remained committed to simultaneous elections and four-year terms for both houses, the only alternative being an untenable extension of Senators’ terms to eight years. The only substantial respect in which the next referendum will differ from the last is that terms will be fixed, which will add a new complexity to the required amendments. Fixed terms clash with two of the assumptions on which the constitution was based: firstly, that the conventions of the Westminster system would continue to operate, including the increasingly theoretical expectation that a government defeated in the House should resign or seek a new electoral mandate; and secondly, that elections could be used in the last resort to break deadlocks between the two houses. Fixed term legislation has thus required messy escape clauses making exceptions when the parliament becomes unworkable. Such measures have not caused controversy at state level so far (though it’s interesting to note that of the states and territories currently considering a move to fixed terms, one has a minority government, another seems very likely to have one after the next election, and the third has a government with a one-seat majority). However, that won’t make any less vexing such issues as whether a fixed term will deprive the Senate of its power to force a government to the polls. Whatever views one might hold on these questions, they are plainly not the stuff of incremental reform of a kind likely to clear the hurdles of a constitutional referendum.
Even in the best of circumstances, a referendum proposing fixed four-year terms would face formidable obstacles. In an election that has Labor fearing a backlash against a New South Wales government entrenched until 2011, the whole endeavour begins to look like a waste of time. The Prime Minister indicated his recognition of this a fortnight ago when he told the Sydney Morning Herald there would be “little point proceeding with a referendum unless it had bipartisan support”. John Faulkner has likewise conceded the proposal may be too much, too soon, to receive the level of broad bipartisan support that is a prerequisite for any referendum to be successful. If the government wants to take on something more achievable, it could very easily stick to fixing the term rather than extending it, which could be achieved by legislation alone (UPDATE: Charles Richardson in comments is not so sure: he argues s. 28 says the House ‘may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General’; I don’t think legislation could fetter that power.). Given that this would involve throwing away the tactical advantage of deciding the election date with little corresponding political gain, you would do better to place your money on nothing happening at all.
NOTE: Can we please keep this thread broadly on topic general discussion about federal politics should be directed to the latest poll thread.
42 comments on “Fixin’ to die”
I’ve long found fixed terms to be an intuitively distasteful concept but that’s perhaps just because my election junkie status means that the thought that the next election is definitely four whole years away rather than just maybe only three and a bit is all a bit too much to bear!
Or, more seriously, perhaps it’s because I reckon more frequent chances to review and if needs be dismiss an incumbent regime are well worth paying extra for.
Politicians are public servants at the end of the day with privlages above the the regular public servant.
Fixed four year terms do appeal to common sense that is that once an election is out the way a mandated period is set for them to govern and to focus in the national or state interest rather than to exploit oppitunitism on the whim of costly early elections.
The games that political parties exploit are only in their interest not the public when they choose when to start & stop the electoral cycle. I may point out that the recent US elections that are fixed terms are rooted in a system where when the time is up you stannd on your merits. Even if there is a world financial meltdown.
My choice of system may be boring to the “fait accompli” that most Australian politicians like but it would make them in some sense more accountable to us all & would keep them on their toes in all political sense & economical climate.
Can anyone out there resolve a point of confusion I have regarding the 1988 referendum? This reference from the Parliamentary Library says the proposal would “reduce Senate terms from a six-year fixed term to a four-year fixed term”. But according to this, it “proposed that the terms of all Senators would expire upon the expiry or dissolution of the House of Representatives” – in which case Senate terms would surely not be “fixed”. I have gone with the latter for the moment, as it is consistent with my previous understanding.
“This argument is based on the strange assumption that Nathan Rees would freely choose to put his government out of its misery if only he were allowed the chance”
Not necessarily ‘freely choose’ I think: if terms were flexible, the federal party heavies might lean on unpopular state colleagues to get an inevitable defeat over with quickly to prevent a backlash. Not sure how likely a government would be to take one for the team, but the option could be there.
Another option is to have fixed terms but provide greater provisions to force an early election. But I imagine there’s no easy way to do this.
Working on the idea that governments get worse as they age, a more radical option is to reduce the length of a term as a government gets older. So from (say) the third term onwards the government gets three years instead of four. This could cause confusion, but at least reduces the chance of something like NSW now, with people locked in to four years of a terminal government.
With regard to the Senate, i think it is vital that terms extend for twice a House term, otherwise the government of the day would be far more likely to get a Senate majority. Howard would probably have won Senate control in 1996 and 2001 if the whole chamber was up for election. If that means eight year terms for a fixed four year House then so be it. Or why not just have fixed three year House terms and six year Senate?
Why exactly is the extension of Senators’ terms from six years to eight years considered “untenable”? The best, most incremental change would seem to be to simply extend the maximum term from 3 to 4 years with the corresponding increase in Senators’ terms.
Yes, that seems correct. From Lionel Bowen’s second reading speech:http://tinyurl.com/6yzuam.
We don’t need less democracy, we need more.
If you want an argument why increased parliamentary terms would be a mistake for Australia, look no further than France, which I believe has 5 year terms.
Without the outlet of frequent elections, the electorate are forced to vent their frustrations by styming good policy debate.
An example of this is the 2005 rejection of the European Constitution, which many pundits have suggested was largely the result of an electorate trying to punish an unpopular five-year-term president.
Does Australia really want debates of national importance distorted through the lens of a frustrated electorate?
Frequent elections allow the people to have a more nuanced national debate, as politics and policy can be more easily separated in the public sphere.
speaking as a public servant, I find fixed terms in Victoria to be a major boon. So much more certainty allows much better forward planning, rather than going oh bugger that could be an election year then we’re stuff and cant do anything, we can forward plan so all the useful stuff happens in the two years in the middle – year one is spent fixing or implementing the election policies, years two and three are productive, year four is budget constrained and you can’t do anything remotely popular.
The NSW Government was returned only last year!! yes they are a busket case but that might say more about State Government!! do we need more elections, in short no.
Five year terms in France were I believe introduced at the behest of de Gaulle in 58 when the Constitution of the Fifth Republic came in.
The many of the changes made by de Gaulle should be repealed.
These include 5 year terms, increased presidential powers, the single member two round electoral system (a re-reintroduction that has since been scrapped (1986) and re-re-introduced (1988)) and the constitutional provision where the government can pass a bill through the National Assembly if it rejects a vote of no confidence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_49_of_the_French_Constitution).
[do we need more elections, in short no.]
de Gaulle also introduced 7 year Presidential terms, but were reduced a couple of years ago to 5.
We don’t need non-fixed or shorter terms, we just need a “none of the above” or “seek further candidate” option. Who in their right mind would have then voted for Iemma or for Debnam?
The Greens were an option (and still are) but they did not have enough profile and the election system is not favourable to there spread of votes (it is Lang`s (and his postdecessors for not changing back) fault for ending the multi-member system) not enough people voted for them.
[Not necessarily ‘freely choose’ I think: if terms were flexible, the federal party heavies might lean on unpopular state colleagues to get an inevitable defeat over with quickly to prevent a backlash. Not sure how likely a government would be to take one for the team, but the option could be there.]
I don’t recall any of the unpopular Kirner/Lawrence/Bannon ALP state governments being pushed to go early in 1990, as a circuit breaker. And Hawke almost lost in 1990.
This year it’s only NSW really on the nose, and frankly Rudd should be able to win in 2010 spite of the NSW State Government’s problems.
The idea of a government falling on its sword and going to an early election despite massive unpopularity and certain defeat, solely to protect another level of government is almost unthinkable. Has it ever happened, anywhere?
7 year presidential terms are a good thing in a non-presidential system because the president then has less mandate to not ceremonial. The 5 year terms change was to put the presidential elections and the parliamentary elections in the same year to give the president more mandate to act which is bad.
I don’t mind fixed terms. It’s changing them from 3 to 4 years that I object to. I also think parliament needs a way to dissolve itself and seek direction from the public.
From memory federal Labor leaned hard on the Vics to dump Cain as leader before the fed election to give them some clear air.
I think the governments you mentioned were a year or so into their term at the 1990 federal election. Going two to three years early would look desperate and ridiculous. But with NSW, assuming Rudd goes full term, it will be only 6 months until the election. Going six months early is not uncommon under flexible terms, so I’d think it’s highly likely something woud have been said.
Hi William – I’d support fixed 3-year terms, but is it really true that the government could legislate for them without a referendum? Constitution s. 28 says the House “may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General”; I don’t think legislation could fetter that power.
Thanks for pointing that out, Charles. I was wondering what John Quiggin was driving at when he said “it would probably be possible to fix a three year term by amending the Electoral Act” – I guess you’ve provided the answer.
*Sniff* You’re welcome, William *sniff* 😛
Er … thanks, Martin.
I mean I not only had to look at Hansard, but also run it through tinyurl 🙂
Although http://tinyurl.com/5dtztp may be better…
Well I think we should have fixed terms. Among other reasons, it is silly that a PM can basically call an election when it suits him. The problem however in my view is that 3 years is too short and 4 years is too long.
Therefore the least radical and most practical solution would be to hold elections every 3.5 years; say on the last saturday of March followed by the last saturday of September 3.5 years later.
C’mon you know it’s the real way to go? 🙂
Having grown up with the US system – fixed terms (albeit a different system from a Parliamentary one but thats off my point) – I think making the federal elections fixed would take all of the enjoyment and fun out of this parliamentary system of politics. I hope Federal Elections never go this route. Its too much fun with the political intrigue the way that it is now 😀 . If the powers to be want to make the system more like the US they ought to start with the system itself (i.e get rid of the monarchy) but that is a whole new can of worms …..
As far as “more democracy” goes I’m inclined to believe that issues around the restraint of power are more important than issues of the mechanism of allocating power. I prefer fixed terms but don’t get especially exercised over it and raise even less of a sweat over 3 years vs 4 years.
Charles: Couldn’t the legislature restrain the executive from advising the Governor-General to do so? So that it would become a reserve power rather than one exercised at Prime Ministerial discretion.
Actually, you don’t even need legislation to fix the term of the parliament. The Prime Minister could simply announce, now, that the next election will be on such-and-such date.
Voila, a fixed election date, and therefore a fixed term – while still allowing all the current checks-and-balances of forcing an early election if a) the government lost the support of the house, or b) the Senate blocks supply, or c) the PM simply thinks he made a bad choice and decides to go early.
In that latter case, he’d better have a good reason – I can think of only a very few extreme reasons the public would forgive a PM for breaking that word.
Legislation would only encode that, while still allowing the GG his constitutional prerogative.
That’s an excellent point Quog – and all it would take is for one PM to make such a bold move and you suspect it would become a convention… otherwise any newcoming PM would be asked by the media ‘so…what date will the next election be?’
‘oh I’m not saying yet’
‘*gasp* why on earth not?’
…and thus goes any honeymoon period out the window in a single press conference
Still, it’s unlikely as you say. Which is a shame.
I’m strongly for fixed three year federal terms – hold the election at the end of October, give any new government three months to put together a legislative agenda and get the ball rolling again the following February. Also ensures they avoid the inevitable clash with the US elections. Simple. Never going to happen.
As for the NSW state of play… I tend to agree with William in that flexible terms give an advantage only to a ruling party which would benefit from going early and would make very little difference here (except, perhaps, that media pressure might force an election six months earlier than it otherwise would have been.) But my view of NSW is a bit different to most others. The way I see it, the people do not elect two parties to duke it out in Parliament. They are divided into electorates whereat in each electorate the electors vote in one person who will represent them in Parliament. We do not have two major parties and a few minor parties, we have 150 (or the equivalent in state parliaments) men and women representing the population in the House, and a few more in the Senate.
In that respect, there is absolutely nothing directly stopping any elected Labor MP in NSW from crossing the floor in a no confidence motion. None. In fact, it would not surprise me if one or two did as such in the new year should the NSW government continues on it’s hurtling path southwards; becoming independent in an attempt to save their own skin when the people vote in a few years time. Nonetheless, this fundamental human ability to change ones mind is what makes the Westminster system work – and would have, eventually, averted the 1975 crisis if Mr Keane had not stepped in to screw the government (correct me if I’m wrong but a few Liberal senators were very, very close to breaking ranks and passing the money bills, yes?)
If the NSW media were serious about ‘sacking the government’, they would have a more productive time of it targeting individual moderate Labor MPs. Now THAT would make for an interesting year or so 🙂
Th earlier quote may still be open to interpretaton by word nuancing
There was a specific context , oz histary & examples given by Bowen in 1988 speech to proposed Ref Bill , which makes it unambigous that Senate terms were to be for a maimum 4 year term (from 6 years) but NOT to be a fixed term & would conclude whenever Hor concluded
“We therefore propose that a senator’s term should be the same as that of a member of the House of Representatives and that, in line with this, the terms of current senators would expire with the present House of Representatives. It is worth pointing out that, of the senators elected for six years since 1967 whose terms have ended, none served a full six years. Only half served terms of more than four years. The other half served for less than three years. The last senators who served a six-year term were those elected on 5 December 1964 who took their places on 1 July 1965. It will be seen, therefore, that this proposal, as it affects the terms of senators, would bring the Constitution into line with the reality of the past 20 years. Overall, the Bill will bring Commonwealth elections into line with the general democratic norm of four-year parliaments. I commend the Bill to the House. ”
So Senators term proposal to 4 from 6 years but not fixed
Max has ‘faith’ in pollies , I don’t i prefer a fixed 4 year term expiring ala US on a fixed day We all then know & politcal manipulations go , and 4 years giv ample longterm planning & policy implamentation Ditto Senate 4 years fixed &electon on same day Issue of no confidence , Supply etc ar separate issues to negoriate once principal is accepted but first I’d bar and 2nd I’d trigger an new electon auto..let people unravel not politcans
1988 Ref was flawed I feel due to absence of a fixed component IF Faukner is serious he will need to trde someting (but else) with Libs in electoral area to get bi partisan suport otherwise forget wasting time on it
And using a poor NSW Govt as an excuse against fixed 4 year terms is reverse way to tink…they ar exception …should provide for th norm
The NSW govt is an argument against FOUR-YEAR terms, not FIXED terms, as William pointed out. If you want the Rees govt out early, you need to support some sort of recall mechanism.
Only on current status reality but not on concept , so if William is arguing that (and I’m not sure) then I disagree
ie 1/ Presently there ar arguments in favour of “Federal” FIXED terms (to remove politcal opportunissm/cynicism etc to ensure accountability of a Govt’s FULL term performance , etc )…but concept is not operationaly (Federaly)
ie 2/ ALSO presently there ar arguments in favour of “Federal” 4 year terms (to allow better Govt long term planning & implementation of reel policys & seeing some reel outcomes to measure vs politicans rhetoric , etc)…but concept is not operationaly
Th nexus of th 2 currently unoperationaly concepts is as I said with th poor NSW Govt Reason is that in practice States hav moved to accepting 4 year terms (unfixed) for all th favourable reasons listed abov favouring 4 year terms (unfixed) This practical implementation & its reasons is broadly accepted
Those that selectively pick a poor NSW Govt out as a reason against 4 year terms (unfixed) ar flying against th general politcal views of both Partys that 4 years (unfixed) is healthy governement , and occasionaly you’ll get & hav to wear a poor one as now
What those opponents ar arguing for seeing NSW holds HoR majority is a “unrepresentative” ‘Upper house’ (if it exists in a State) always threatening to terminate (early) a poor Govt resulting in more unhealthy govt generaly , th very thing 4 year terms do more provide….OR ar simply arguing to return to 3 year tems …same result … lees long term planning , more unhealthy govt generaly
Crucialy by making that argument , they ALSO kill off any argument to actualy make 4 year terms actualy fixed as well …as there argument would be using NSW that we’re guaranteed having Rees till 2011 irrespective
So an argument using NSW against 4 year terms ALSO becomes an argument against 4 year terms fixed as I suggested And Rees poor Govt makes getting agreement to fixing very difficult and an asset to th NO vote groups
That would leave fixing terms at 3 years ….but as I saidd thats against Politial Partys views that 3 year terms ar satisfactory for healthy Govt (note at all stages I’m suggesting politcal partys views ar objective views on actualy governing , but excluding always dormint politcal opportunism to oppose any Govt Ref proposal)
So we hav 4 possible combinations , 3 or 4 year terms , each either fixed or unfixed….one of which th curent 3 years unfixed would seem th worst of th 4 So I do feel th poor NSW Govt is a terible example to quote against 4 year terms and by extension if fixing of 4 year terms fixed as its not a norm to assess upon And I feel at minimum ‘Federal’ should follow many States into 4 years terms for more healthy Federal Govt governing , and if trade off had to be no fixing then reluctantly I’d wear it
The Queensland situation is murky since it is an issue of difference between the former Liberals and former Nationals of the Liberal National Party. Bligh offered Springborg the option of fixed four year terms in April this year. He agreed with the proposal for half a day and by next day Springborg had curled up into election mode ‘Small ball ‘ and the idea has not been mentioned by Springborg since to my knowledge.
[Hon. AM BLIGH (South Brisbane—ALP) (Premier) (9.44 am): This afternoon the cross-party working group on a proposed referendum on fixed four-year terms for the Queensland parliament will meet for the second time. The first item on today’s agenda is confirmation of the Liberal and National Party positions on this important issue.
In February this year the parliament voted unanimously to support a referendum on the introduction of fixed four-year terms. This presented us with an extraordinary opportunity to bring greater certainty to the Queensland parliamentary system. However, the opposition leader, as everyone knows, has since tried to move away from this position, jeopardising our chance to make the most significant reform to the parliamentary system in 86 years. I urge the coalition to maintain a bipartisan
approach to this issue.
The introduction of four-year terms will bring Queensland into line with all other states and territories and local government here in Queensland. An agreement to make the term fixed will bring improved certainty and remove any perception of politics in the timing of elections.
A 1991 referenda on four-year parliamentary terms failed after a split between the National and Liberal parties, with the Nationals failing to support the referendum. In 2008, I hope that the National and Liberal parties have a chance to present a united front. I look forward to the meeting this afternoon with a great degree of optimism.]
Queensland Parliament Hansard Page 1026 Ministerial Statements 16 Apr 2008
At one point this year Springborg did support four year fixed terms, now it is anybody’s guess as to what he supports or doesn’t support because he has been locked away from the General Public since July when the merger happened.
[Mr SPRINGBORG: I am more than happy to come back and debate four-year terms—absolutely.
I am on the public record with regard to that. In actual fact, I take that interjection. Only recently, on 22 January, I challenged the Premier to support a referendum on four-year terms. I support four-year fixed terms. We are on the public record as saying that. We also need a commitment from the government in relation to some form of decent parliamentary reform.]
27 Feb 2008 Queensland Parliament Hansard Page 473
It was the first act of Springborg when he defeated Seeney to call for four year fixed term elections.
[Less than 24 hours after toppling Jeff Seeney as leader of the Queensland Nationals, Lawrence Springborg has issued his first challenge to the Bligh Labor Government – put an end to election-day guessing games.
The State Opposition Leader today called on Premier Anna Bligh to commit to fixed four-year parliamentary terms to give Queenslanders greater certainty and commitment from their elected representatives.
“People are sick and tired of politicians playing the business of politics, not the business of representation,” Mr Springborg said.
“We’re seeing too many opportunistic progressions towards early elections in Queensland that suit politicians.
“What I am doing today is inviting Anna Bligh to support a referendum on fixed four-year terms. This is a significant issue because it is about giving back to the people of Queensland the control of their government.”]
One thing that does appear to be different from the Federal situation is that any change in Queensland must be sent to a referendum to change the Queensland Constitution.
[The Constitution Act Amendment Act 1934—
4 Duration of Legislative Assembly not to be extended except in
accordance with this section
(1) The provisions of section two of “The Constitution Act Amendment
Act of 1890” (referred to in the preamble to this Act) shall not be amended
in the direction of extending the period of three years, which, as provided
by the said section two, is the period for which any Legislative Assembly,
now or hereafter summoned and chosen, shall continue from the day
appointed for the return of the writs for choosing the same and no longer
(subject, nevertheless, to be sooner dissolved by the Governor), nor shall
any other Act or law relating to the Constitution be passed extending such
period of three years as aforesaid, except in the manner provided by this
(2) A Bill for any purpose within subsection (1) of this section shall not
be presented to the Governor for the reservation thereof for the
signification of His Majesty’s pleasure, or for the Governor’s Assent, or be
in any other way assented to, until the Bill has been approved by the
electors in accordance with this section.
(3) On a day not sooner than two months after the passage of the Bill
through the Legislative Assembly, the question for the approval or
otherwise of the Bill shall be submitted to the electors qualified to vote for
the election of members of the Legislative Assembly according to the
provisions of “The Elections Acts, 1915 to 1932,” or any Act amending the
same or in substitution therefor.
Such day shall be appointed by the Governor in Council.
(4) When the Bill is submitted to the electors the vote shall be taken in
such manner as the Legislature prescribes.
(5) If a majority of the electors voting approve the Bill, it shall be
presented to the Governor for the reservation thereof for the signification
of His Majesty’s pleasure.
(6) The provisions of this section shall extend to any Bill for the repeal
or amendment of this section.]
#34 , #35 and #36 :
“Bligh offered Springborg the option of fixed four year terms in April this year. He agreed with the proposal for half a day and by next day Springborg had curled up into election mode ‘Small ball ‘ ”
“At one point this year Springborg did support four year fixed terms, ”
“It was the first act of Springborg when he defeated Seeney to call for four year fixed term elections.”
Springborg views seem to reflect my earlier posts claim that Political Leaders in ‘oz’ sensibly support both 4 year terms and that those 4 year terms be also a fixed 4 years It seems th politics , will , grandstanding/opportunism/trade offs that seem to be problam
A pity , its not sort of issue to inspire voters to push for when bread & butter issues naturaly ar there priority
I believe that a referendum also needs to be held to reintroduce the Legislative Council.
Hang on, it turns out that Four Years fixed terms are to be legislated within the first 100 days of a springborg government in Queensland, no wonder there is no support for action this year.
[Mr SPRINGBORG (Southern Downs—NPA) (Leader of the Opposition) (11.30 am): This morning
we saw an appalling breach of confidentiality in this parliament by the Premier in relation to the four-year
parliamentary term discussions we have been undertaking. Queenslanders should be very disappointed
that we have lost a great opportunity to bring in genuine fixed four-year term reform in this state. Let me
put it on the record very clearly. Representatives from the Queensland coalition went into both of those
meetings and took the Premier at her word. It is very obvious to us that her word is worth absolutely
nothing. We gave a commitment that there would be no discussions by any of us outside of that
process. When I was asked about it by the media, I said, ‘We have had a constructive meeting and we
are making progress.’ That was agreed on.
To date, I and my colleagues have kept those confidences. Who has breached those
confidences? The Premier has. What this shows is that this government has never been serious. The
coalition remains absolutely committed to this process. I can give an absolute commitment today that
within 100 days of the election of any government that I lead we will put a bill through the parliament to
facilitate a referendum on fixed four-year terms. But do members know what they will get? We will also
get a repeal of this government’s lying legislation. There will also be decent freedom of information laws
and decent reform of the standing orders. It is a great pity that today this government has jettisoned an
opportunity for very significant electoral reform in this state because it wants to play politics and wants to
set itself up for an early election. The government knows that it cannot argue for a four-year term and go
to a referendum in November this year and then have an early election in February or March next year.
This is what this is all about. This is about laying the ground rules for an election—standing up and
Queensland Parliament Hansard 30 Apr 2008 Page 1321
A beautifully crafted letter is here:
Antony Green on NSW’s fixed four-year terms.