MP pushes for federal terms of four years

In theory voters are only meant to go to the polls every three years, but the average time between federal elections is just two and a half.


Liberal MP David Coleman has told the ABC he is pushing for that three year federal parliamentary term to be extended to a fixed four years.

And these people on the streets of Canberra agree.

“There’s just not enough time for a government to get its plans in place.”

“Everything takes time, so, you know, three years maybe isn’t enough.”

Mr Coleman says he will put a private member’s bill to parliament later in the year.

“There is a widespread view that having a fixed term of government would lead to a better system of governance in Australia and more getting done.”

He says it would bring the federal government in line with most of the states, allow for fewer elections and help lead the way to long-term policymaking.

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen says he backs the plan.

“Well, I’m going to do something perhaps a bit unusual and say, ‘I agree with David Coleman.’ The Labor Party supports four year, fixed terms. Now, this is not a front of centre issue just at the moment – our focus is on Medicare, housing affordability and other things – but when a politician says something that is a good contribution, we acknowledge that good contribution.”

Australian prime ministers have one of the shortest political terms of leaders around the world.

While they are joined by New Zealand, prime ministers in Canada get up to four years per term, much like the president of the United States.

In Britain, India and China, leaders get up to five years.

The debate dates back as far as the late 1920s.

Any change would mean updating the constitution, but David Coleman has told the ABC it would be well worthwhile.

“It’s a very difficult thing to change the constitution. It requires political support from both, essentially, the government and the opposition of the day, and it would require widespread public support. I certainly think there’s a strong case for this. I think a system of certainty is better for the community, a system of four years is better for the community than a system of just over two-and-a-half years. And certainly in the business community and many other parts of the community, there is strong support for this concept.”

Another hurdle, though, is the Senate.

Senate terms are six years, with half of the senators up for election every three years.

The only way to avoid making voters go to the polls more often is to have simultaneous elections for both houses every four years or increase a Senate term to eight years.