The Labor and Liberal National parties hope to slip in four-year fixed parliamentary terms in Queensland through a referendum being held at the same time as state-wide polls for local councils. A four-year term proposal was defeated in 1991.
Perhaps they are upset that first the Bligh Labor government and then the Newman LNP government were each forced to elections and voted out less than three years after they were elected because of their pro-privatisation policies. They seem to believe we are now going to agree that they ought to have an extra year to govern badly and enjoy parliamentary privileges before we can bring them to account.
While “yes” supporters say the longer terms will provide more “certainty” for business and reduced influence for “political considerations” in policy and election dates, the “no” advocates point out this means less democracy and voter control and more complacent governments and politicians. In other words, if the referendum succeeds, corporations can be sure that they will get to exert their influence for more time, while the citizen voter gets to do that less often.
The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) is using its campaign networks to back the elite “yes” consensus. A March 2 email from QCU argues that it was a problem when former Premier Campbell Newman, feeling his only chance to win was to go early, gave us the opportunity to boot him out instead. It also argues that we should not be happy spending public money on elections just to have our say and we would save money by “trudging out for elections less often”.
What the QCU asked us to do in earlier elections was campaign, not trudge out, to defeat bad governments. That is exactly what should be done, and the sooner the better. In fact, this is the traditional stance of militant workers: the Chartists called for annual elections and ever since the Paris Commune, radicals have supported the right to recall elected representatives at any time.
The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties opposes the change, arguing that in a state with a deficit in democracy, lacking a human rights act and other measures, extending parliamentary terms would weaken "one of the few restraints" on its government.
Socialist Alliance policy is to limit electoral terms to three years, while also allowing voters to recall elected representatives from all governmental levels if 10% of electors or more petition for a recall. We oppose the concept of a fixed term, not only because it is the polar opposite of the right to recall, but also because fixed terms remove the possibility that a people's movement can force a bad government to an election.
If Queensland Labor and LNP want to remove that possibility, we should oppose them all the way.
[Jonathan Strauss is a member of Socialist Alliance.]