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A longer term?

March 12, 2020 March 2020 No Comments

The report, from the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, argues a four-year parliamentary term and possibly another 30 MPs would create a better country for future generations.

New Zealand has one of the shortest parliamentary terms in the world. Of 190 countries with parliaments, 103 have five-year terms, 74 have four-year terms, and just nine governments are in power for three years before an election is held.

The report‘s co-author, Jonathan Boston, said that a longer term would provide more time for a government to make substantial achievements.

“As it currently stands a new government can be formed and then in effect got to spend maybe the first year trying to work out what it’s going to do, the second year trying to do it and then the third year preparing for the next election. In dealing with very complex, difficult issues, that’s a very, very tight timeframe.”

He said short electoral cycles are compounded by the rapid nature of social media and the news media.

Professor Boston said relentless reporting puts governments under pressure to deliver quickly, which encourages a short-term approach.

“I think we have plenty of evidence in New Zealand of governments of all persuasions really struggling to address big issues like climate change, fresh water, housing in very short parliamentary terms.”

Professor Boston said it would also allow select committees to scrutinise bills in more depth, and ensure better legislation .

Law professor Andrew Geddis said a lot of people in government say a three-year term is too short to plan and legislate for the long haul. But he said elections are basically the only way governments can be held to account.

“We don’t have a written constitution, we don’t have courts that can strike down legislation, we don’t have an upper house of parliament or anything like that. “So if we get rid of three-yearly elections and move to four yearly we’d have to ask what other arrangements we put in place to increase the accountability of members of parliament.”

When the length of the term was voted on in 1967 almost 70 percent voted against change 

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