The Dom Post editorial:
There are two ways to look at John Key’s call for a four-year parliamentary term.
The first is that it will give the “bastards” more time. The second is that it will give voters more time to assess whether their representatives and, more particularly, governments are deserving of another term.
By international standards New Zealand’s electoral cycle is short. Australia too, has a three-year term, but the United States president serves for four years and so do the parliaments of Germany, Japan and a host of other nations. Britain has a five-year term.
The attraction of a shorter electoral cycle is that it allows voters to dismiss truly awful governments quickly and it make politicians more responsive to public opinion.
The reality in New Zealand since 1960, however, is that voters have only once exercised their prerogative to turf out a government after only three years.
I think a four year term would increase the number of one-term governments. Unless a Government is a walking disaster, they will tend to get a second term as most New Zealanders think that three years is not enough time to judge if their policies are working. And they are right. It can take 18 to 24 months to even get laws introduced and passed, so there is little chance of being able to judge their impact within a three year cycle.
A four-year term would provide breathing space. It would also give governments more time to fine-tune their policies before implementing them. The New Zealand Parliament has not earned the reputation for being the fastest legislator in the west for no reason.
Finally, a four-year term would give voters more time to take the measure of their elected representatives. One more year might be enough to identify hopeless governments that should be put out of our misery.
The Herald editorial:
But the arguments in favour of an extra year are sound. Governments need time to establish and then implement new policies. New Zealand has too frequently run out of time in politicians’ minds to prove their benefits to the public before the short election cycle interrupts normal business. Each year, the Budget documents forecast spending and revenues four or five years out, but the incumbent government must spend its political capital within a maximum of two and a half.
Some would argue that in winning a second or third term a government is able to pursue its strategy adequately; that a divisive debate over changing the term could in itself distract from the policy changes we most need.
It will not be easy to persuade voters of the benefits. Most, naturally, live in the here and now and have little time for long-term planning.
If it gets put to the vote, the country should take the longer view. New Zealand has long needed a plan for economic revival and development that is not hostage to the next opinion poll.
As I have said previously, if it goes to a vote in 2014, it should be made very clear that it will not apply to the next term of Parliament.