The term of Parliament

Simon Day at Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key wants to extend the parliamentary term to a fixed four-year period as part of the Government’s constitutional review.

One hundred and 73 years after the constitutional foundation of New Zealand was laid, the constitutional landscape was again the topic of discussion at Waitangi yesterday.

“My view is that there should be a four-year fixed date of Parliament.

“I think it makes a lot more sense to know when the date is fixed and I think it makes a lot more sense to have it for four years,” Mr Key said.

I support both these changes. A fixed date gives certainty and also removes a tactical advantage from the incumbent PM. And absolutely three years is too short an electoral term. NZ and Australia are very rare in having such a short term. It gives very little time for Governments to design and implement policies before the politics of election campaigns interfere.

The only Parliament I know with a shorter term is the US House of Representatives at two years, and we can see the impact as Representatives are constantly campaigning for re-election and hence the House has been a source of leglisative gridlock for many years.

Any change would require the support of 75 per cent of MPs or public support in a referendum. The proposal had failed twice before, in 1967 and 1990.

But the prime minister appears to have the support of his political opponents and allies.

Opposition leader David Shearer agreed that three years was not enough.

Good on Shearer. Any change should go to a referendum, and importantly should not come into force immediately. What I mean is if there is a referendum with the 2014 election, the for the next Parliament should not be dependent on the  outcome, rather it impacts the term after that.

So the next Parliament would be 2014 to 2017, but the one after that might be 2017 to 2021 if NZers voted for a four year term. This is important for two reasons.

The first is we must know what the term of Parliament is when we elect a Parliament. The second is that people are more likely to vote for an extension of it is not see as a Government trying to extend its next term in office – but rather is for the term after the next term.

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