Seven changes of Australia’s Prime Minister in the past eleven years is good reason to re-visit the debate on extending the term of the House of Representatives from three to four years in harmony with the terms for most State Parliaments, even although it would require a referendum to effect the change.
The present average term of office of about 2 years 7 months, dictates that governments are swayed by short-term political expediency considerations, and perhaps unable to implement tough decisions in the longer-term interest of Australia.
The Australian Constitution permits Prime Ministers to call a federal election at any time during maximum parliamentary terms of three years. As a result some terms of office have been less than 18 months, half the permitted span.
Inevitably party leaders come under intense scrutiny, both inside and outside of parliament, in the lead-up to elections. The never ending blow by blow accounts of factional wars, and bitter feuds between powerful sectoral interests of the past several years may be a bonanza for the media, but they undermine public confidence in our political system, and unsettle our multicultural and diverse communities of voters.
Some would argue that longer terms postpone our democratic right to change governments that do not perform to expectations. However elections do not necessarily result in a change in government, there having been only nine changes in office since federation, and Australia is out of step with a move to longer terms internationally.