Queensland could soon have a referendum about four year fixed term elections.
A report by Parliament’s Finance and Administration Committee has made a number of recommendations including:
- Elections to be held every four years, bringing Queensland into line with all other Australian states.
- Elections to be held on the last Saturday in October
- Provisions to be made for special elections if the parliament becomes unworkable
- The parliamentary committee process to be strengthened to ensure that legislation is properly reviewed
- A referrendum about these changes be held at the same time as the local government elections which are scheduled for 19 March 2016
If these proposals are implemented, the parliament elected at the next election would be the first to have a four year term.
The Committee’s report was supported unanimously, indicating that legislation implementing its recommendations could be supported by both Labor and the LNP.
March or October?
When should State elections be held if the date is to be fixed?
The Committee answered this question by suggesting that elections be held on the last Saturday in October. While noting that there was some public support for elections to be held in March, the Committee preferred October for the following reasons:
- Avoids the weather problems that arise in cyclone season
- Avoids possible conflict with local government elections (held in March)
- Allows a new government time to get organised to deliver a budget
Concerns about four year terms
Queensland is unique among Australian states in that it only has one house of parliament, having abolished its Legislative Council in 1922. The other states all have upper houses (Legislative Councils) which review legislation.
The Committee recognized that without an upper house of parliament there were concerns about accountability and responsiveness of the parliament to the people if a longer term is implemented. To address these concerns the Committee recommended that Parliament consider ways of entrenching a parliamentary committee system to review all legislation before it is passed. Specific recommendations include:
- a minimum number of parliamentary committees to exist, the role of which will include the review of Bills
- a requirement that all Bills be referred to, reviewed and reported on by a committee
a minimum timeframe in which Bills are to be subject to committee review (without special majority exemption); and
The existence of a Budget estimates process for the annual Appropriation Bills
The Committee suggested that the “special majority” be 65% of members including at least one person in the official Opposition.
Report by Redland2030 – 10 November 2015