By Connor Pound
On the 19th of this month Queenslanders will be out in droves voting for or against the government’s push to increase the term for the state’s legislature (and consequently government) from the current three years up to four years. Below are three brief points on why you shouldn’t listen to the horde of politicians supporting it and instead vote NO.
1). Of course politicians agree with it, they are the ones benefiting from it.
The Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg have both come out in favour of the motion, showing solidarity in a state where such things rarely happens. This united front is a very obvious advantage for the YES camp; I mean if our representatives are overwhelmingly supportive of it surely it must beneficial to you and I? Well… no, not really. The fact is that the common Queenslander won’t benefit from it at all. Politicians and their parties are the ones who stand to benefit from heightened job security AND keeping their party in power for longer – which is literally the point of politics. The opposition has no reason to vote against it as it isn’t going to kick in until the next election, an election they undoubtedly think they can snatch away from the Palaszczuk government, so they have of course supported it.
2). The State government doesn’t need more time.
One of the main reasons we are supposed to vote yes in the referendum is because it will give the government time to get more done. This is meaningless for two reasons. First of all, it disregards Queensland’s history and the amount that has been achieved under three-year governments. Whether they are things you agree with or not, big changes have occurred even under the 3 year terms of the past 15 years. In his first term (of two) Peter Beattie unleashed a program that totally restructured the government’s approach to the education system, Anna Bligh introduced the largest wave of privatization that Queensland has ever experienced and even Campbell Newman’s self-confessed economic focused government managed to pass legislation that allowed politicians to circumnavigate the judicial system in certain cases. These are all major things that show with a bit of planning governments really don’t need more time to win votes. Then we have the fact it totally ignores the age old political ploy of leaving the largest and most impressive plans for the end of their term so they have leverage in the next election.
It’d be stupid to argue that they couldn’t get more done in a four year term. Of course they can, they would be able to continue passing bills of less significance (bills that are often bi-partisan and would happen regardless of the party in charge). If they really wanted to get a lot done they could amp the length of their terms up to five or six years.But three years has been working as well as it did 100 years ago.
3). Three year terms act as a check that Queenslanders can use against bad government
Perhaps the most important reason, and the reason why you should heckle any politicians describing the change as convenient, is that 3 year terms have a very democratic purpose. Queensland’s upper house, the one that blocks any unnecessary or dangerous bills that might be passed through by the government, was dissolved in 1922. Why does that matter? Well it means we don’t have many forces checking bad governance in Queensland. If the referendum succeeds and the next government has a clear majority in the lower house it means that the Premier and their cabinet would essentially have free reign over what happens in Queensland. We would be the only state/territory in Australia where the government wouldn’t have to face any opposition from a protective upper house for four years. Couple this with Queensland’s Judiciary, which doesn’t seem particularly bothered by any government transgressions, and a constitution that could best be described as absent, you have quite a formula for disaster.
So whether it was intended or not the three year term has and should continue to act as a check that the common Queenslander has over government. Of course a year isn’t much, but it is a great compromise between security and letting the elected government get stuff done.