Following her prepared speech, in response to a question, Minister O’Dwyer mentioned that the House of Representatives Speaker, the Hon. Tony Smith, had done a lot of work on the 4 year term proposal.
The fixed 4 year term has been a bee in the bonnet of Whitlamites since the Great Gough (GG) said in 2000:
In no democracy other than Australia are election dates so frequent and unpredictable. The capricious timing of elections engenders public cynicism and political instability. They should be fixed at four years.
That a Liberal MP is spending resources on a Whitlamite idea should probably not surprise. That there is no evidence supporting the benefits of fixed 4 year terms should also not surprise. Recent evidence is actually to the contrary given the performance of former NSW State Government of Iemma/Rees/Kenneally, which was a fixed 4 year term.
we actually need to increase – not decrease – the number of MPs in Canberra.
So. Let’s add this up. 4 year terms and more not less MPs in Canberra. But how about a bit more arithmetic that is seldom brought up.
Given the quirks of the Australian Constitution, there is nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate. This means that a fixed 4 year term for MPs means a fixed 8 year term for Senators.
And for every additional MP, there needs to be an additional half a Senator such that the number of MPs is roughly double the number of Senators. Also, each state needs to have an equal and even number of Senators. Thus, any increase in parliamentary numbers would involve a minimum addition of 12 Senators (2 extra for the 6 states and 24 MPs).
Some may be old enough to recall that in 1983, before the Graham Richardson and Robert Ray reforms, there were 64 Senators (now 76) and 125 MPs (now 150).
So there you have it. The political class would like (a minimum of) 14 senators per state with 8 year terms. Oh and another 24 MPs. Yep. Another 36 extra bodies sitting comfortably and for longer on the nice red and green chairs of Parliament.
Put aside for the moment the immediate costs and consequences of these ideas. Consider that Tasmania already has 1 Senator for roughly every 45,000 residents compared to NSW having 1 Senator for roughly every 625,000 residents. Increasing the number of Tasmanian Senators, and South Australian for that matter, would have a calamatous impact on the governance of this country.
To change and fix parliamentary terms requires a change to the constitution. To increase (or decrease) the numbers of Senators and MPs requires an act of Parliament.
When discussions of increased numbers and increased terms are brought up, citizens should employ the Broken Windows Theory and exercise zero tolerance. Just throw ’em out
Just remind me. For whose benefit is extra MPs/Senators with longer and fixed terms? Let’s just ask Jack Lang :
In the race of life, always back self-interest.
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