A fixed election date?

As earlier this year in the UK, one of the demands to have surfaced in coalition/support negotiations resulting from the lack of a parliamentary majority has been the possibility of fixing in law the date of the next election:

And [Prime Minister Julia Gillard] promised to serve a full term and even offered to name an election date between August and October 2013, a promise [Leader of the Opposition] Mr Abbott matched, saying that, as prime minister, he would not go to the polls before August 2013.

See the full story, “Key MPs name price for power,” in The Australian.

5 thoughts on “A fixed election date?

  1. In 1991 Tony Windsor was one of a group of independents who forced a NSW minority government to enact fixed parliamentary terms. The difficulty with this parliament is that the federal constitution is much more rigid than the NSW constitution so there is no prospect of legislation, merely a really, really serious promise by the major party leaders. Sadly, one could expect such a deal to be honoured about as well as Stephen Harper honoured his similar promise in Canada.

    Fixed term parliaments are a good idea because they prevent the executive from manipulating the election date to its own advantage. They also empower the parliament against the executive because the executive must work with the numbers it has, rather dissolve and go hunting for a better parliament.

    Apart from the states, where fixed term parliaments are now quite common, Australia has had a long experience with our fixed term Senate. This will, of course, not prevent traditionalists from hmmmphing loudly and declaring fixed terms alien to Australia’s system of government. Or something.

  2. This report’s opening paragraphs are tosh:

    ‘SYDNEY – On the main streets and byways of Bob Katter’s outback Queensland electorate, everyone knows the man in the 10-gallon cowboy hat. But in the rest of Australia, the lawmaker who could cast a deciding vote in Australia’s cliff-hanger election is virtually unknown…’

    – Meraiah Foley, “Rural Lawmakers Hold Key in Australian Election”, New York Times (25 August 2010).

    Rubbish. Katter’s name is recognisable throughout Australia – at barbecues as much as on blogs. His persona (in US terms, somewhere between Charlie Wilson and Strom Thurmond [*]) is as widely-known as Pauline Hanson’s (say) or Graham Campbell’s.

    Put it this way: I’ve taught first-year students who ask nervously if the “House of Senate” is the same as the “House of Representatives ” in the federal Parliament. But they knew Katter’s name right away… As long ago as 2004, John Howard’s then chief of staff, Grahame Morris, was using BK’s name as a byword for “maverick independent”:

    “There is every chance after the election the Prime Minister will have to wake up every morning worrying about what Bob Katter had for breakfast.”

    — quoted in Glenn Milne, “Hamstrung by the minors,” The Australian (6 September 2004).

    (Full disclosure: I was once talked into accompanying Katter’s daughter to the University of Queensland student union post-election changeover dinner – a deal brokered by mutual friends who knew that I needed a date and that Ms K needed a ticket, having failed to win some Union Uouncil position or another at the AGEs. From memory, barely five words were exchanged and Ms K abandoned me seconds after arrival to sit with the Young Nats bloc.)

    [*] Not, I rush to add, due to any association with racial segregation or bikini-clad personal assistants.

  3. I think Fix Term election in a parliamentary system is bad. What if the governments falls, and can’t call an election, will the government switch back and fourth between Tony and Julia, and they take turns running a government for 3 months.

    An example would be The government is formed by Julia, it collapses 6 months later, then Tony forms the government and it last for 6 months, and it collapses, and Julia is given another shot. This has never happen in any parliamentary democracy a situation like this.

    I think the Swedish method of election is perhaps best, and not the Norwegian system of Fixed Terms. I heard Norway is one parliamentary democracy with Fixed Terms. The Swedish system being that the government can call an extra election within it’s term, but it still has to have the normal schedule election.

    Australia has very short terms of three years. Are snap elections common? It seems to me most governments last the full term. I know that a term starts when the House first meets not when the last election was called.

    Will Australia amend it’s constitution to allow for 1 and a half dissolution? Dissolution of the House and half the Senate?

    Maybe we are going to see a double dissolution. This situation is only going to benefit the Greens, and the Minor parties. Perhaps Australia should increase the size of it’s Senate for the states from 12 members to 14 members, and then when you get half senate election, you get more proportionate results because of the odd number.

    Is proportional representation going to happen in the lower house? Will Australia use STV, or will it use MMP in conjunction with the Alternative Vote?

    I think it would be sad if Australia abolish single member districts with full preferential voting. It’s a nice system, better than FPTP. It makes Australia unique.

  4. I also like the Australian combination of single member districts for the lower house, and STV for an upper house with real power. Its a more elegant solution than schemes to have proportional representation in one house but to somehow combine that with local representation.

    Wasn’t there a tendency in the past for Australian governments to go to the polls after two year? I think fixed term legislatures work best if the system features a strong independent head of state, ie a presidential or semipresidential system. Then the government doesn’t necessarily change every three months.

  5. No fixed term parliament in Australia has ever exhibited the behaviour imagined by Suaprazzodi or required the strong head of state advised by Ed. Victoria is a typical case, the legislative assembly can be dissolved after a vote of no confidence. That is open to the German problem of governments that abstain on their own confidence, but it at least means that the parliament must consent to its own dissolution.

    The Nationals received around 4% of the primary votes and are vastly over-represented (precise figures are difficult because the definition of a National MP is up in the air right now) in the House compared with the Greens who received around 11% of the primary votes and 1 MHR. There is just no obvious reason, aesthetics, uniqueness or otherwise, why minorities should receive representation according to whether their electors are concentrated or dispersed in geographical terms.

    I would have the House elected in multi-member districts by roughly the same rules as the ACT.

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