20 December 2011
I HEARD A RUMOUR
“Um, er, Ms Bligh, Premier, when will the election be?”
“On a Saturday, in 2012. Thanks folks.”
The scene was Richmond, in Queensland's North West. A young reporter (at least 4 minutes younger than me, so I can say that) had his chance to ask Anna Bligh the question the Brisbane press gallery has been wearily throwing out there ever since the Premier's polling spiked during Queensland's floods.
Why? Well because we want to know. Call it journalistic curiosity. Call it news directors wanting to map-out resources. Call it me wanting to know if there is any chance I will make it to a friend's wedding in February.
But the real question is, why should we be asking? Why should it be the Premier's decision at all? There is an inherit unfairness in political leaders in Australia being able to ‘call' the election. Any opposition will tell you it can be hard to get ‘oxygen' – after all, they comment on policy, but the government actually makes decisions that affect people's lives.
So why do we hand governments an added advantage, to be able to decide when the election is? Surely a fairer system would be to have the election at the same time every year, unaltered except in exceptional circumstances. Heck, make it on a Monday, declare it a public holiday, and the vendors of temporary Australian flag tattoos can double their annual sales.
And while we're at it, how about fixed four-year terms? Yes, this will be shouted down by NSW voters who still have blood on their voting pencils, but one government shouldn't trash an idea that makes sense, in particular at state level.
On a federal level, imagine the time, energy, and newspaper print that could have been saved if Tony Abbott had not once asked Julia Gillard to call an early election this year?
On an operational level, it would give governments time to go about their agenda, time to completely ignore the polls no matter how good or bad they are, and remove the temptation to hint at an election every time a lord mayor assumes control of a state political party despite not holding a seat.
And I could finally RSVP to that wedding.
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