The case for term limits

December 16th, 2011 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

In my column at the I make a case for term limits:

I still believe a term limit of say six terms would be a good thing for New Zealand. If MPs knew that they had a maximum tenure in Parliament, I believe they would focus more on what they could achieve during that limited time, rather than be focused on how to get re-elected time after time after time.

Arguably one could also have a term limit for the top job of Prime Minister also. Isn’t nine years enough for any one person to make a contribution?

I hope the constitutional review will consider as an issue.

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19 Responses to “The case for term limits”

  1. m@tt (631 comments) says:

    One of the side effects would be a shift of focus to what they are going to do after parliament for their last few terms. I think that would be counter productive and potentially lead to conflict of interest issues for those that would try to set them selves up for a sweet position after, not to mention the further proliferation of jobs for the boys (and girls). That’s a big enough problem as it is.

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  2. tvb (4,516 comments) says:

    This is daft. What you are saying is the democratic process fails so the law is needed to force People out.

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  3. nzclassicalliberal (34 comments) says:

    On the one hand, I think people should be allowed to elect whomever the hell they like. On the other hand, under MMP voters don’t really elect individuals, they elect party lists. I agree that there is a risk that it will increase the focus on what to do after Parliament and that that could be an issue, but it would also spell the end of people entering Parliament in their late 20s and staying in Parliament until their 50s or 60s without ever having learned anything about the economy they seek to take charge of.

    So, depending on how it was managed, I think this could be a good idea.

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  4. PaulL (6,048 comments) says:

    Six terms? Presumably you expected everyone to say……..if you haven’t achieved anything in 12 years, what will you achieve in 18? Surely 4 terms is enough. Or, if we shifted to 4 year terms, 3 terms.

    I’d personally go with 3 x 4 year terms, unless you’ve made one of the very senior roles – so PM, deputy, speaker maybe a couple others could stay on for 4-5 terms, subject to a 2 term limit in those roles. So if you’re doing OK, you get 12 years backbench/in the trenches, and then 8 years in a senior role if you make it. If you don’t make it to that level, then you’re out to make room for someone with more talent.

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  5. Mark (1,493 comments) says:

    I see little point. If my electorate wishes to elect the same candidate 20 times that should be our decision alone. it is called democracy.

    [DPF: Term limits often enhance democracy as they remove the power of incumbency]

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  6. PaulL (6,048 comments) says:

    Perhaps this is something for parties to address directly, rather than legislatively. Maybe a party that had term limits so as to get more talent would do better in teh political marketplace?

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  7. Camryn (543 comments) says:

    tvb abd PaulL have got it… no need for regulation when this can simply be left to the “political marketplace”. If democracy does fail, guns will be more effective than regulations anyway.

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  8. DJP6-25 (1,389 comments) says:

    This would be a brilliant strategic move. Presently, the left, and increasingly the ‘center right’ are dominated by a political class of career politicians. They’ve had little experience of life outside politics. They’re there until the electorate fires them , or they’re carried out feet first. That’s part of the reason why Labour and National are quite left of center. Having to return to the real world eventually would change their attitude. There would be less dead wood in either party. The next change that needs to be made is to make MPs choose either an electorate seat, or the list. Not both. No dead wood sneaking back in via the list.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  9. gravedodger (1,571 comments) says:

    Parties need to be more management focused and ruthless with candidate rating retention and recruitment but placing arbitrary limits is nuts.
    Some of the hopeless will still sit around getting in the way for the whole 18 years, while others for what ever reason may just become of some use when their date with destiny comes along.

    Sheesh how long was Churchill around and few can suggest a better option in Britains darkest hour. OTH keeping him on for a second bite in the 50s was not good either.

    Don’t you just love racehorse owners, some of the mares retire to Stud but the rest plus most of the stallions and all the geldings, bang, call the “Hunt”.

    Their have been some absolute howlers where the hopeless are retained like old labradors who just eat, sleep, consume food and vet services.

    Sure they learn to use the “system” more efficiently but PRODUCTIVITY!!!! give me a break.

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  10. Pete George (23,686 comments) says:

    I don’t see the point in term limits, and it could often be bollocks – who’s to say a fifth term MP would be more or less effective than a second term MP? It should be the eelctorate who decides each on their merits.

    As for the list, Labour didn’t do too well with a poor list, that can be self sorting as well.

    And…we have enough trouble as it is getting enough quality MPs, forcing good experienced ones out doesn’t sound sensible.

    Better MPs and smarter voters should be the aim, not arbitrary regulations.

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  11. david@tokyo (263 comments) says:

    Obama is spending the second half of his first term in electioneering mode, I am thinking a single term limit might be an improvement…

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  12. DJP6-25 (1,389 comments) says:

    Pete George 3:59 The idea behind term limits is to prevent the rise of a political class whose entire life and experience is ‘politics’. To get quality representation, you need people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Once they’ve risen to their level of incompetence, term limits kick in, and the dead wood gets replaced.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  13. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Should the same principle apply to bloggers?

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  14. JeffW (327 comments) says:

    How could there be term limits for party of the left whom as we should realise have a divine right to rule? Perhaps for National and Act only.

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  15. PaulL (6,048 comments) says:

    I think I’m leaning towards what should be the default right wing position – don’t regulate, just provide information.

    Basically DPF is asserting a market failure (imperfect information for voters, and tilted market/incumbency in favour of the MPs themselves). Normally the right is sceptical of regulation to correct for supposed market failure. So, the question is whether anyone can prove that the solution is better than the problem, and that there are no unforseen/unexpected consequences.

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  16. leftyliberal (651 comments) says:

    @PaulL: I suspect the fact that the vast majority of people vote for a party with their electoral vote rather than the person, suggests that the market here is as free as the big two political parties allow. Turnover within a party is good politics as NZers tend to vote governments out rather than vote them in, so I’m not sure there’s any particular failing that requires an intervention.

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  17. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    Term limits are a dead duck. The US Supreme Court ruled they were impossible over there and the same legal principles apply in NZ.

    An MP elected in 1996 goes through to 2014; term limits are introduced; his party de-selects him; he stands as an independent (with no legal impediments to being an election candidate whatsoever); he wins; serves term 7.

    It is nothing more than a legal fiction; there is more chance of a nuclear bomb expoding in central Hastings later tonight than term limits ever being introduced.

    (in case you are scratching your head – it comes down to the right of anybody to be a candidate; only a very small number of people, meeting a very specific criteria, are ineligible. To create a separate category – based on spurious reasons, namely length of service, would not succeed)

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  18. Johnboy (16,994 comments) says:

    ‘rather than be focused on how to get re-elected time after time after time.’

    A song for Phil (and possibly for silent T. ) :)

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xzb5s_cindy-lauper-time-after-time_music

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  19. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    I’m with David Prosser.
    That’s part of the reason why Labour and National are quite left of center. Having to return to the real world eventually would change their attitude. There would be less dead wood in either party. The next change that needs to be made is to make MPs choose either an electorate seat, or the list. Not both. No dead wood sneaking back in via the list.

    We need protecting from the oligarchy.
    Either List or constituency MP not both.
    4 year terms and 3 term limit for all.
    No big pensions or world class medical aid, just the same as the rest of us.

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