Home > The Body Politic > John Key: four years and a fixed date for Parliament?

John Key: four years and a fixed date for Parliament?


Key pushes for four-year termsFull Story


Four Year Term?

Periodically, our politicians try it on, and try to persuade us to give them more power.

Two previous referenda in 1967 and 1990 asked the question  whether or not the Parliamentary term should be extended from three to four years.

The public, bless their cotton socks, obligingly responded with resounding ‘No’ votes to any extension of the Parliamentary terms. Unsurprisingly, the public wanted to keep a firm grip on the tenure of our politicians.

Let’s not forget that we have no Upper House, no written Constitution, and few binding referenda to speak of. Once we elect MPs, they are practically free to do as they wish.

Which they do with unpleasant predictability.

National’s latest intention to sell 49% of several state assets – despite being a minority government and despite over-whelming public opposition is another clear case of politicians doing what they want and screw the will of the people.

Key’s agenda to sell 49% of Mighty River Power despite a referendum in the offing is another indicator of politician’s arrogance.

And Key wants us to give him (or Labour) an extension to the three year Parliamentary term?!?!

No thank you.

If politicians want an extension to their employment contract (which is what elections effectively are), then they have to earn our trust. To date  I have seen very little trust earned.

Let’s be clear here. A four year term may well be more “efficient” to the process of government.

But “efficient government” is not necessarily synonymous with democracy and public participation. In fact, some very “efficient” governments have turned out to be very undemocratic and very, very nasty.

A three year term may be “inefficient” – but by the gods, it’s the one single leash on executive power that the public currently holds over our elected representatives.

If politicians want our trust to be given a four year term – they first have to earn it.

And anyway, if a government is doing a good job – the people will vote accordingly, won’t they?

In the meantime, I, for one, will be keeping a firm grip on that three-year leash.

Fixed Election Date?

Key also made passing reference to having a fixed election date, as do our American cuzzies.

The benefit of this, he maintains, is that a fixed date takes away the ability of politicians to manipulate the date of elections to suit their own agenda.

Media reports barely refered to this suggestion. I suspect that Key has mentioned this, only in passing, because for him it’s a side issue.

It’s actually a good idea.

But he’s not interested in this good idea. He wants a four year elecoral cycle.

Wrapping his four-year agenda in the Fixed Date “gift-paper” is a way for him to present a rather questionable “gift” dressed up in something nice.

Public Referenda or Parliamentary Decision?

These two issues can be decided either by binding public referenda, or by 75% of Parliament voting to enact the reforms.

It’s a shame that the same criteria are not used to determine the fate of our state own assets.

What about it, Mr Key?


Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2013 at 10:46
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Four Year Terms, Fixed Election Date, and other matters
To: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: David Shearer <david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz>,
Winston Peters <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>,
Metiria Turei <metiria.turei@parliament.govt.nz>,
Russel Norman <Russel.Norman@parliament.govt.nz>,
“Hone.Harawira@parliament.govt.nz” <Hone.Harawira@parliament.govt.nz>,
“peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz” <peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia ora Mr Prime Minister,

It has been reported in the Media that you have raised twin issues of extending the Parliamentary Term from 3 to 4 years, and having a fixed Election Date.

To enact these reforms, either a binding referenda or 75% of Parliament will have to vote in favour.

Binding Referenda or 75% of Parliament seems a democratic way to enact such important changes.

In which case will you also be using the same process to allow the People or Parliament to decide whether or not to proceed with the 49% sell-down of certain State assets?

After all, if you want the people to give you something – shouldn’t we expect the same courtesy in return?

You want a four year term – we want the chance to vote on our State assets. Let’s do it.

Go to the people.

See what they say.

I can live with the results. Can you?


– Frank Macskasy



Final Thought

At a time when National implemented a 90 Day Trial period for new employees, John Key wants to extend his Parliamentary employment by a year?

I don’t think so, chum.




Other Blogs

The Standard: Against a four year term

Imperator Fish: Why we must have a four-year parliamentary term

Public Address: A four-year parliamentary term?

Tumeke: Why a 4 year term would be madness



= fs =

  1. Paul Carruthers
    7 February 2013 at 11:30 am

    Binding electronic referendums is the only way to go, along with a meritocracy. Too many people don’t even know or care what’s good for them and it is because of them that the whole country is being held to ransom and cynically exploited. It is the degree to which they resist change and support primitive belief systems that enables politicians to divide the population and exploit public opinion, increasingly misusing legislation (or even ignoring it completely), and trashing the integrity of our justice system in the process. It has to end. Another year added to the Parliamentary term just gives the wolves more time to harm the sheep, but make absolutely no mistake about it – the sheep are choosing to be harmed.

    • Hugh Y
      9 February 2013 at 12:56 pm

      It is precisely BECAUSE “too many people don’t even know what is good for them” that binding referendums” are NOT the way to go. They would vote for all sorts of oppressive crap, based on some vivid case the day before the vote was held. The problem with a “meritocracy” is that we have no objective measure of “merit”. Wouldn’t you think royal honours were for merit? Sir Paul Holmes in charge, anyone?

      • Paul Carruthers
        9 February 2013 at 1:18 pm

        The problem with your thinking is that you work on the assumption that most people are less intelligent than you, rendering you no better or more informed than you are accusing them of. Never assume anyone else is less fucked up than you are, for sure, but never assume they are MORE fucked up than you are either. The whole reason why we are in this mess is because of the sheer number of people who think they don’t know better, and the sheer number of people who think they do.

        • Hugh Y
          9 February 2013 at 2:04 pm

          It’s not about being intelligent – average intelligence is enough – it’s about being informed. Most people don’t have the information to make the best decision in every referendum that will be thrown at them. In particular, people would vote for measures that oppress others (like against same-sex marriage) because they are not personally affected by them. We elect people to make decisions for us because they have the time and the information to base their decisions on a detached overview, not their personal self-interest. At least, that’s the theory. (Indirect) democracy (as distinct from your proposed demarchy – direct democracy) isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve been able to think of so far. And how do you propose to choose your meritocrats?

          • Paul Carruthers
            9 February 2013 at 1:41 pm

            I no longer care enough to put thought into it. I used to care, but it was beaten out of me by other’s apathy. Personally I would be happy with the complete annihilation of the system and we all have to fend for ourselves. That would sort the wheat from the chaff in ten seconds flat. Anarchy is actually the ideal state for us to live in. I am sure of it. I only mentioned meritocracy as an alternative to democracy, simply because I am aware that a lot of people still need to give their power away by deifying others. I am not one of them.

            • Hugh Y
              9 February 2013 at 1:50 pm

              You also said “Binding electronic referendums is the only way to go”. And who says choosing decision-makers on merit (such as some kind of test for correct decision making – that is not beyond us) would be deifying others? I see a lot of internal contradictions in those three posts.

              • Paul Carruthers
                9 February 2013 at 1:58 pm

                I see someone who spends far too much time in his head and simply needs to get a life. How to start an argument:

                1: Express an opinion online.
                2: Wait…

                In this case though, I can’t be arsed. It’s a beautiful day out there. I will leave you to solve all the world’s problems Hugh, seeing as you are obviously the man we all need to be listening to.


  2. Budinski
    7 February 2013 at 11:36 am

    They should get less. 2 years to prove you do what you say or you are gone. That’s still much better than what the average worker gets.

  3. David F
    7 February 2013 at 11:36 am

    An extra year’s salary + perks before having to face the performance review, what politician wouldn’t want that?

  4. mcclairy
    7 February 2013 at 11:40 am

    They can do enough damage in three years so why give them four to do even more damage …..at least the 3 year term can shorten that prospect if a government goes feral, overboard, in flawed ideology. Our biggest problem is not having genuine opposition parties. The traditional “Social Democratic Left” has moved so far to the centre it is difficult to know where they truly stand, in fact they have been known to be National Lite in some areas. Not good enough. At the moment it is the Greens who seem to be more left than Labour but they have a lot of work to do to undo the bad press and derogatory name calling they receive re their environmental policies. Mana and yes, dare I say it, NZ First, have policies that would go down well in a coalition with Labour but one-man bands with high egos can cause havoc. Sigh !

    • 7 February 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Indeed, McClairy.

      And the same applies for National/ACT Party supporters. Would they have welcomed a Labour-led government for twelve years rather than eight?

  5. Denny Weisz
    7 February 2013 at 11:53 am

    As long as there is a KPI component which takes into account not only their performance but is inclusive of policy, individual operational costs as an MP, and behaviour toward the public & of course income??!

    • Alison W
      7 February 2013 at 12:00 pm

      OMG, could you imagine how much more destruction Key could do with another twelve months in his grubby hands? He has an agenda to fulfill for the Banksters, and is running out of time, he wont be satisfied until he has completely sold off our democracy.

      • Denny Weisz
        7 February 2013 at 12:02 pm

        Don’t worry Alison he aint going to get another term! haha!

    • Alison W
      7 February 2013 at 12:06 pm

      I shudder at him getting another day, let alone another term! LOL

  6. Maryanne R
    7 February 2013 at 11:54 am

    I don’t think so…

  7. Possum
    7 February 2013 at 12:03 pm

    did you notice the only ppl that want that are the polies, and no1 else wants it like that and as a major issue it shld be done by referendum at nxt election, its not that had 2 do and out in black and white and not twist it that it looks like ppl want short term although wrding by govt switch that 2 they can do it…much like asset sales the country dont want that either.

  8. mick
    7 February 2013 at 12:33 pm

    OK, four years ,as long as any action they take that has consequences longer than four year goes to a binding referendum ,no matter what party.

  9. Matthew
    7 February 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Scary thing is, the poll on stuff.co.nz is weighting heavily towards those who support a four year term. I would only support any change to the electoral system as part of a WRITTEN constitution, which would include proper financing for govt watchdogs, a requirement for a referendum before any state-owned asset is sold, & an independent Attorney-general. It is too easy (as we have seen) for a party to gut govt services that keep tabs on nefarious goings-on & run rampant. I cant comprehend the damage NACT could do if they had more time.

    • 7 February 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Indeed, Matthew. It’s a complex issue and one requiring more analysis than just whether it should be 3 or 4 years. As you pointed out, there are other considerations that would need to be addressed.

    • mcclairy
      7 February 2013 at 4:31 pm

      This Stuff poll along with many others, is “NOT SCIENTIFIC” – If indeed any of them are. They just frighten the bejesus out of the populace. The only thing I can re-call Bolger saying was, “Bugger the polls!” and he was proven right, unfortunately. Oh, nearly forgot, “We are now part of Asia!” He got that right also ! Bugger.

      • 7 February 2013 at 5:44 pm

        mcclairy :

        This Stuff poll along with many others, is “NOT SCIENTIFIC” … Bugger.

        Indeed, McClairy. It gives an illusion of “accuracy”, which in turn one has to wonder if such “polls” create public opinion instead of reporting it.

  10. murray
    8 February 2013 at 9:04 am

    My preference would be 4 years for the left, because it takes years to build up industries, jobs and prosperity for all and to build up strategic infrastructure for our future security and 1 year for the right, because it takes stuff all time to wreck, plunder and destroy.

  11. 8 February 2013 at 9:49 am

    Ha ha ha ha… that has to be the most creative response yet, Murray!! 😀

    And yet, strangely enough, it makes perfect sense… 😀

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