Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: A four-year parliamentary term?

80 Responses

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  • DeepRed, in reply to James Caygill,

    As I have often found myself saying to people who say “why didn’t Labour fix [insert pet peeve], they had nine years to do it?”. It’s more sensible to think of it as three three year terms.

    How many of them are actually disgruntled ex-Labour supporters, as opposed to trolls who’ve never voted Labour to begin with? It's genuinely difficult to tell the difference.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4158 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It is however true that a UK government (Thatcher, weirdly) did something, albeit temporary, about property inflation (limiting tax relief on mortgage interest, and did it with a delay, such that the property market was effectively undermined).

    Maybe if they'd had an election in the next year, they wouldn't have done this.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4421 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to DeepRed,

    “why didn’t Labour fix [insert pet peeve], they had nine years to do it?”

    Was [insert pet peeve] actually that broken?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1186 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to DexterX,

    “why didn’t Labour fix [insert pet peeve], they had nine years to do it?”

    Was [insert pet peeve] actually that broken?

    Complaints of this nature are usually in response to Labour telling the Government they should be doing something now.

    E.g. in 2011 Labour was complaining about how, when ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day fall on a Sunday, they don't get Mondayised. They were claiming it was a biggish deal, and that National should quickly change the law to allow people to have their usual number of stat holidays that year.

    The response by some people to this claim was to the effect: "Well, ANZAC Day and Waitangi Day were also Sundays in 2005 and in 2000. If Labour actually thought this was really urgent and important, why didn't they do something about it while in office?"

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2996 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    All of which is simply the tu quoque fallacy.
    It doesn’t constitute a reason against doing something now.
    (As I’m sure you know; but I figured it should be made explicit.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB, in reply to linger,

    All of which is simply the tu quoque fallacy.
    It doesn’t constitute a reason against doing something now.

    It doesn’t constitute a reason not to act… but it does point out the hypocrisy of the recently voted out suddenly saying “this is a desperate issue that you simply must attend to, and you are big bad meanies if you don’t”

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 791 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to FletcherB,

    All of which is simply the tu quoque fallacy. It doesn’t constitute a reason against doing something now.

    Sure, but the purpose of the reasoning is not directed at whether it should be done, it's at whether the other side can score points from it not being done. For that purpose, calling the other side hypocrites does work, tu quoque or not. Well, so long as the pair of them are the only choices. If they're not, then it can give quite a lot more points to a third party than it saves against its target.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • James Caygill, in reply to BenWilson,

    You don't have to buy it Ben - I'm simply telling you that that IS my experience in Government.

    Christchurch • Since Oct 2007 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Caygill,

    You don’t have to buy it Ben – I’m simply telling you that that IS my experience in Government.

    Presumably you mean that is your judgment based on your experience. Or are you saying your breakdown is some kind of policy or procedurally accepted system?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • James Caygill, in reply to BenWilson,

    Presumably you mean that is your judgment based on your experience. Or are you saying your breakdown is some kind of policy or procedurally accepted system?

    A little from column a and a little from column b. It's hard to tell where that line is. Certainly it's not a procedurally accepted system in the wider public service - but that's how we looked at it in Minister's offices.

    You campaigned; if you won, you spent the next budget getting through all the things you could that you promised to do (all of the immediate stuff like tax changes, allowance shifts, significant programmes that needed funding). The next budget was a more flexible one, obviously you are responding to events, but also allowing your policy platform to bed down. The third budget is all about positioning for the next election, within the context of your fiscal strategy and your approach to government. (rinse repeat if you get reelected).

    So my basic point (and I accept that it may not be compelling to others) is that a four year term simply gives you more of the time in between. I don't think that need be looked on as anti-democratic. Governments are elected to govern and I have no problem with wanting them to get on and do that.

    I think there's no better illustration of the perversity of short election cycles than looking at the US House of Representatives. There are many many things wrong with that body, but I think a large number of them stem directly from the permanent campaign psyche.

    I agree with you Ben that any number is arbitrary. Of course it is - I don't buy into magic number theory. But I think Representative Democracy does need to be given a space where representatives can actually be allowed to represent, rather than looking constantly to the polls and voters to see if what they are doing is 'popular'.

    Christchurch • Since Oct 2007 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I agree with you Ben that any number is arbitrary. Of course it is – I don’t buy into magic number theory. But I think Representative Democracy does need to be given a space where representatives can actually be allowed to represent, rather than looking constantly to the polls and voters to see if what they are doing is ‘popular’.

    That's the one valid argument for a longer term as far as I can see.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to James Caygill,

    Governments are elected to govern

    It’s not always that simple (and the “winning” group should be wary of simplifying it that far by making claims about the size of their “mandate”, which is something of a fiction in the MMP environment anyway).
    Sometimes they’re elected because people have stopped trusting the other lot, or figure it’s time for a change, or time for someone else to have a go. Actual differences in stated policy platforms don’t always seem to be that much of an influence.
    Looking at the election results vs. the later protests – and looking at the downward trend in voting participation – I’d have to conclude that much of the policy signalled prior to elections doesn’t directly connect with what many potential voters actually care about; or maybe that a large number of potential voters don’t expect any politicians to actually do what they say they will.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 874 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    That’s the one valid argument for a longer term as far as I can see

    Not sure, to be honest. They need to be "given a space", definitely. But that's not the same as "given more space". They get an extremely long space already, by comparison to practically any other kind of work. I don't see what's so exceptional about being a politician that it requires a whole different standard than, say, the directorship of a gigantic company, or the engineering team on a vast project. It's just something we've come to accept because that's the way it's always been.

    I don’t think that need be looked on as anti-democratic.

    No, but it can be looked at as anti-democratic, because it does actually get used that way.

    Governments are elected to govern and I have no problem with wanting them to get on and do that.

    I don't have a problem with them wanting that. It's human nature to want power. I wouldn't expect anything different, which is why I asked:

    I have a question for wonks: How many times has a change in the length of term has been offered to a populace, and they have opted for a longer one? And vice versa? Also, similar question, how many times has it been changed by legislature without recourse to referendum, and which way did it go, longer or shorter?

    Rich answered the question for NZ alone, but that wasn't what I was asking about, why I addressed it to wonks, because it's not just a matter of looking up NZ history. I want to know whether there is always pressure in general to increase term lengths, coming from politicians, and whether this is always resisted by the populations.

    But I do have a problem with them getting their power it based on such a weak argument (that they want it). I want a billion dollars too, but that's not a good enough reason for you to just give it to me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I can't think of many countries that have changed their term length in modern history.

    The UK has moved to fixed terms which is effectively an increase (because governments usually called elections tactically 6-18 months before they were due). Labour and others wanted to move to a four-year fixed term, but this was defeated.

    The US it's so hard to make a constitutional amendment that it would never happen.
    I've never heard of any pressure for change in Australia.

    I think in general where a country has a written constitution, the term length is entrenched and would only change as part of a general constitutional reform.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4421 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The US it’s so hard to make a constitutional amendment that it would never happen.

    And yet the constitution has been amended many times.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2011 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to James Caygill,

    I think there’s no better illustration of the perversity of short election cycles than looking at the US House of Representatives. There are many many things wrong with that body, but I think a large number of them stem directly from the permanent campaign psyche.

    But is the problem the short term lengths or the political culture? With the US, I'd argue that the biggest problem is the political culture, and in particular a public political discourse that seems to me to have become utterly toxic. I think there's plenty we could learn from the US, but almost all in terms of how not to do things.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2011 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I can’t think of many countries that have changed their term length in modern history.

    Sweden reverted back to 4-year terms in 1994 after having had 3-year terms since 1970.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Sweden reverted back to 4-year terms in 1994 after having had 3-year terms since 1970.

    This was not done by referendum, so far as I can tell. Nor, however, was the drop to 3 years. I can't find much information on the whys of that one, but it coincided with their joining of the European Union, so presumably it was done to line up with something there.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to BenWilson,

    This was not done by referendum, so far as I can tell.

    No referendum, but as it was a change to the constitution (or the closest thing Sweden has to a constitution - fundamental law) it required:

    To amend or to make a revision of a fundamental law, the Parliament needs to approve the changes twice in two successive terms, with a general election having been held in between. The change can be dismissed but not formally approved by a popular vote coinciding with such a general election, although this option has never been used. If the people do not dismiss a change, it still has to be ratified by the newly elected Parliament.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Wow, that's a really low bar for a constitutional change. So you just have to be elected twice? And for the people to reject the change they have to reject the entire government?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to BenWilson,

    And for the people to reject the change they have to reject the entire government?

    Well, apparently a change can also be dismissed by a popular vote (i.e. referendum) coinciding with the election.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    16 times in over 200 years since the Bill Of Rights, which isn't that many. There hasn't been one since 1992. 2/3 of congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures is a big hurdle.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4421 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to James Caygill,

    But I think Representative Democracy does need to be given a space where representatives can actually be allowed to represent, rather than looking constantly to the polls and voters to see if what they are doing is 'popular'.

    With ECAN suspended because it didn't deliver the results that central government wanted, and the Chch City Council negotiating in secret, I'm finding that more than a little creepy. That's not what MMP was supposed to deliver, but it has.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3377 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Well, apparently a change can also be dismissed by a popular vote (i.e. referendum) coinciding with the election.

    The referendum is not automatic, though?

    I’m finding that more than a little creepy

    Me too. There aren't a whole lot of times I can think of when I've gone "If only they had a couple more years to slip that one through, things would be so much better now". But quite a few times where I've gone "If only there had been an election looming, this wouldn't have happened, and things would be better".

    Unfinished business can be finished, if it's something that people want. Finished business, on the other hand, can't be unfinished, if it's something that people don't want.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8316 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    For reasons against extending the term to four years, add to the list: 33% more Richard Prosser.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 840 posts Report Reply

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