Tuesday, January 07, 2003

It is remarkable how the idea of a longer political term keeps popping up and being advocated by many. Usually its being advocated by politicians - who of course have great self-interest in avoiding elections. But it is surprising that the governed also get in on the act.

The president of the Business Council of Australia even included it in a friendly homily for the New Year Being smart at business as drums of war sound AFR 6 January. In a piece reminding us that good businesses equip themselves for all conditions and stay alert we are offered "The Australian government should also set up a process and timetable to gain the necessary consensus to move to four-year terms of government. The problems inherent in government planning cycles of three years, and shorter, are well understood. It is time to bring the terms of parliament and executive government into line with Australia's best interests. "

No one has ever expounded exactly what these problems of planning for three years are that get improved by four. Certainly businesses plan for more than 5 years in some circumstances - but elect at least some directors annually. And I've never understood what the need for "continuity" of government is here - can't the people be trusted to vote? Or why magically there will only be four year time horizon projects every four years.

Surely Australia's best interests is the elimination of the political cycle - not its mere elongation. That can happen in one of two ways. Either eliminate all elections - or have them so frequently that government has no alternative but to take the public into its confidence and explain to them the plan. Its a simple choice - pick one.

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