The Hon. Bernie Ripoll
Moving to four-year Parliamentary terms of itself isn't going to change the world although it will make it better for weary electors and campaign workers at the polls on average every 2.5 years. Yes it's important and has been discussed for as long as I can remember, but the real change will come through recognising our first Australians and not before time.
The challenge has been set and the opportunity within reach but only if our national leadership can see their way clear to an agreement. In hindsight the sour experience of the last Constitutional Referendum in 2000 was always doomed to fail because no agreement could be found on the system or the politics. So if four-year terms and recognition of Australia's first people in our Constitution is to become a reality, great leadership from both sides of politics will be essential.
The recent comments by Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten raising the proposition and offering bipartisan support to the Government to set four year fixed terms for federal elections is a positive step forward and is Labor Party policy. The subsequent media reports noting that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has signalled his support is also very encouraging with the two party leaders to meet when Parliament resumes to discuss the idea further. Liberal MP David Coleman will introduce a private member's bill that would allow for fixed terms and wants to see the Bill come before the Parliament this year.
This is all good news. But, given Australia's reluctant record to change the Constitution, the only chance for two very important questions that could be held at the same time, not to get entangled or face a no campaign is if both sides of politics agree. Failure on either of these issues will see us languish with the status quo for a very long time just like the potential for another referendum on an Australian as Head of State. The bar for getting across the line for change is high and a double test which requires a majority of national electors in the states and territories, plus a majority of electors in a majority of the states (i.e. at least four out of six states). This is a high bar worth jumping and a chance we may not get again anytime soon!