Parliamentary Terms – Behind the News
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Parliamentary Terms – Behind the News

November 17, 2019

Good people of the kingdom,
may I present your new Queen. CROWD: Huh? RUBY CORNISH: Back when kings
and queens ruled a lot of the world, their power would last a lifetime. (BABY LAUGHS) Some were even crowned as babies, and as they grew up,
they stayed in power, no matter what. I hereby declare that I can do
whatever I want. Are we really stuck
with her forever? Here in Australia, though, leadership has always
been done differently. Here, the people in charge
are voted in, and since Federation, our country’s
oldest rulebook, the Constitution, says there has to be
a federal election at least once every three years, meaning we have
a three-year parliamentary term. At the end of it, everyone over 18
heads to the polls to have a say on who
they think should lead. That’s a bit shorter
than many other countries. In fact,
90% have four or five-year terms. So why do we have a limit
in the first place? There are some good reasons
not to let one person or group stay in charge for too long. If a leader isn’t doing a good job… (RECORD SCRATCH)
What? You have no money, army or food? Oh, well! ..we should be able to replace them. And if people don’t have
that option… Help! What can we do? ..things can get ugly. Fetch the pitchforks. The leader of the opposition,
Bill Shorten, says three years is too short, so now he’s suggested
having an election every four years instead. He reckons leaders would then spend
less time worrying about votes and more time, well, leading. Governments can be more daring
and more determined if they’re not constantly thinking
about the next election. Election campaigns
are super expensive, so we’d save money
if we had them less often too. Business groups are pretty keen
on the idea. They say longer parliamentary terms will help them plan further
into the future. Soon after Bill Shorten
put the idea out there, the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, called him to talk more
about the idea. But even if every politician agrees, making the change
still wouldn’t be easy. Changing to four-year terms
means changing the rules in that big rulebook,
the Constitution, and that can only happen
through a referendum. (RECORD SCRATCH)
ALL: Down with the Queen! Down with the Queen!
Down with the Queen! We want the Queen gone! OTHERS: Yeah! Referendums cost a lot of money, and to be successful,
it would need to get the thumbs up from more than half the voters
in every state. (RECORD SCRATCH) Yes, uh, well, uh…
We’ll think about it. (ALL GROAN) Nearly 30 years ago, in 1988, Australia actually did vote
on this very question, but fewer than a third of people said yes to making
election cycles longer, so the referendum failed. But that was quite a while ago,
so what do you think now? If we have an election
every three years, parties will be worried
about the election and they wouldn’t focus
on the problems that need to be fixed
around Australia. I think that it’s rather a good idea because we’ll be…it’ll make us
more in line with other countries. If we have to have a referendum
to change it, then that will be expensive, and also, in the past,
referendums haven’t always worked. I think that the referendum,
it’s needed to improve the system, because why wouldn’t you want
a stronger government? And a four-year term, I believe,
will make a stronger government.

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