When is it not an important year?

We say it every year, but 2019 will be a big year.

We have three massive World Cups to look forward to look forward to: cricket, netball and rugby, all where we stand a decent chance.

Internationally, my eyes will be glued to the Brexit process, and the increasing likelihood we’ll see the UK crash out of the European Union without a substantive deal in place.

At the time of writing the Government shutdown in the United States is still ongoing, now the longest in history.

The fact that Donald Trump has lasted as long as he has surprises many.

Even if he does survive, in 12 months he’ll be back into full campaign mode against a rapidly increasing field of Democratic challengers, and potentially some from within his own Republican party.

If you think elections roll around quickly, you’re not wrong.

After all, our own next General Election is next year.

At the end of last year there was some chatter around Parliament of extending the term from three years to four. I’m not so sure.

Ultimately I’m a democrat. I believe in and trust the wisdom of the population to make the right call.

Granted, sometimes those decisions might not go our way, but we accept them and move on.

In a Parliamentary democracy the election process is of fundamental importance.

We don’t regularly have binding referenda, so an election is the only concrete opportunity New Zealanders have to dictate to politicians what should happen. To, as an infamous Australian politician once said, “keep the bastards honest”.

The idea of extending out the period to four years, making that opportunity less regular, does make me nervous.

Some politicians are of the view that a three-year term is too short because in the first year you’re getting your head around what to do, in the second you’re actually doing the work, and in the third you’re off campaigning again.

I don’t subscribe to that. Politicians shouldn’t need trainer-wheels. Members of Parliament should be ready to hit the ground running when they arrive after an election.

The same is true for new Governments.

Time in Opposition should be spent working on new policy and planning for what to do when you’re in Government.

It’s what we in the National Party are in the midst of now.

What we don’t want is the situation the current Government find themselves.

Having not done that work in their nine years in Opposition, now having to contract 215 working groups at a cost of nearly $300 million to the taxpayer.

There are some benefits, of course.

A four-year term might lead to better planning, and possibly even politicians looking more to the longer term.

And it’s true that an election every three years does mean less time for considering and passing legislation, as MPs close Parliament to go off and campaign.

So too does the public need a rest from us, and from the overwhelming coverage the TV media apply to the campaign period.

A four-year term would, if not decrease the intensity, certainly reduce the regularity.

Unfortunately this year won’t be much of a break – we have council elections in October.

– By Andrew Falloon


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