The Westminster System is woeful in stopping incumbency. The British system has parties stay in power for close to a quarter of a century at a time, in Australia the churn rate is greater but party's remain in power often for a decade at a time.
This is a failing of the Westminster system, if Australia is to persist with a parliamentary system, term limits need to be introduced to increase the churn rate of the elected representatives in order to protect against incumbency, corruption and nepotism.
Poll : Best device to increase the churn-rate?
The State of the System
Since World War II and the change over from the states being the first government to tax income to the federal government getting first lick of the pie, parties have managed to remain in power for overly long period. While not as long as parties have been able to remain in government in the United Kingdom, Australian parties have still managed to average over three terms.
As an example of how static the Australian Westminster is, this is the
periods in years parties have held government starting in 1942
Labor, 7 years (1942-1949)
Liberal, 23 years (1949-1972)
Labor, 3 years (1972-1975)
Liberal, 8 years (1975-1983)
Labor, 13 years (1983-1996)
Liberal, 8 years (1996-
If we look at the number of Prime Ministers that were removed by a general election the stagnation and concentration of power in the Westminster system is even worse. Of the thirteen Australian Prime Ministers since 1942, only four have been removed by an election.
Curtin - died in office
Forde - removed by party
Chifley - defeated at general election
Menzies - retired
Holt - died in office
Gorton - removed by no confidence vote
Whitlam - removed by Governor-General
Fraser - defeated at general election
Hawke - removed by party
Keating - defeated at general election
Howard - still in government
The defeats that have come at general election have all been "drovers dog" election where the local three-legged cattle-dog could have beaten the incumbent government. This has led to a "waitocracy" in Australian government where opposition leaders either entrench their position in an effort to wait out the current government until their is a drovers dog election.
John Howard has often been held up for his tenaciousness in returning to the leadership of the opposition party when the Hawke and Keating governments were in power. Commonly called, "Lazarus on a triple bypass". Howard's career is a good example of the waitocracy in action. Howard managed to hang around in the leadership position long enough for the drovers dog election of 1996 to come around. Keating was seen as too arrogant and out of touch with the electorate.
If Latham entrenches himself in the opposition as well as Howard did, he will get a chance to be Prime Minister, not because of his - or his party's - abilities, but rather because the incumbent government will exhaust itself on its own power and offer a "drovers dog" election to the people where they will be seen with not having a choice for the incumbent.
Inertia To Change
Humans are adverse to change in the larger aspects of life. Humanity attempts to control its environment as an outlet of this larger aversion to change and the desire for stability. This is completely understandable given the volatile nature of modern life, modern employment and fiscal security. Add the ongoing fear campaigns by government, the media and terrorist groups - the desire for stability is entirely accepted.
In political systems this acquiescence to the appearance of stability often leads to corrupted individual hijacking a democratic system with clear separation of powers into a dictatorship with absolute rule collapsed to a singular person. The current changes in Russia under the arm-twisting of
is a good example of this. Another is the manner in which
in Pakistan has managed to suspend the constitution to support his desire for absolute power.
In democracies the system is set up to balance the negative passions of humans through the principle of the separation of powers (a principle Joh Bjelke-Peterson was oblivious to when questioned by a judge). Even though this is a defence against a dictator, it is not a perfect defence and through the manipulation of other negative passions and appeals to the people's desire for stability, diffuse power can collapse into absolute power for an individual.
One of the purposes of a written and explicit constitution is to have the stability of the democracy not be personified into an individual but rather into the system itself. Leaders of the Executive Cabinet (Prime Ministers) enjoy pursuing the position as celebrity and use the trivial reporting of the news media to entrench themselves further and further into power. There is no need to seek stability through a Prime Minister remaining in the position for long periods.
From a subjective point of view governments tend to exhaust themselves after about eight years. This is also the period where the government, and the leaders start to fall into the traps of power such as corruption, abuse and nepotism. In NSW, the Bob Carr government after a long tenure has corruption allegations levelled against it that were sufficient enough for ICAC to visit the issue. Despite the Howard government's re-election there are still issues surrounding the federal government's abuse of power that have to be resolved.
To minimize this entropy that governments display, it is fitting to forcibly retire the head of the Executive Cabinet (Prime Minister and Premier) from parliament (or the assembly) after six years. This is two election periods and more than enough time for the leader of a government to have an effect in the position.
Another natural period of tenure is the generation. This is often construed to be twenty-five years. Elected officials in parliament who create legislation require specialist knowledge in legislative law. Due to party discipline most of these decisions are carried out by the Executive Cabinet, but as back-benchers move to the front-bench and possibly to lead the party then a long enough period for the specialist skills to be developed is necessary.
The period of a generation is suitably long for the specialist skills of legislation to be developed. After this period an elected official should be forced to retire by the constitution. This will be effective in putting an end to the benefits of incumbency, and has been the case of some elected officials in the US Congress, almost dying on the job. A generation is half a working lifetime, and more than enough for an elected official to make their mark on the government, serve the polity, the electorate and the common good.
Protecting Against the Rules Being Bent
Another truism of politicians is that they will bend the rules to
th degree in order to satiate their personal desire for power. In the case of the head of the Executive Cabinet being forced to retire from the position, there is the possibility that the Prime Minister would leave the position before the six years is up and hand over the party to another representative. Effectively skipping the forced retirement to remain in parliament on the front or back bench.
This would require some additional explicit language in the constitution to protect against officials weaselling out of the intent for term limiting the position. To solve this, the Prime Minister would need to be recognized in the constitution as the formative holder of Executive power. Once the Prime Minister leaves the position they will be required to retire from parliament.
Being Prime Minister is the summit of Australian political achievement, forcing retirement from parliament with the handing over of the position would not detract from that achievement. Another reason to force the Prime Minister to retire from parliament after the relinquish the position is to stop a former Prime Minister going to the back-bench just before being forcibly term-limited and staying in parliament until their twenty-five years is up.
Fixed Term Elections
A final, and the most important change in increasing the churn-rate is the implementation of fixed term elections. Supposedly governments sit for three years before an election but all governments in the Australian system constantly call early elections. The Howard Government is in its fourth term in eight years. The incumbent constantly calls elections as soon as they can, and as soon as they see electoral advantage in doing so. It is a sham.
The government should be given three years (1068 days) between each election unless there is a double dissolution election. Having fixed term elections would be the greatest benefit to democracy and the greatest challenge to the power of incumbency. Three years is more than enough for a government, there is little point in giving a government four years between periods as the they have been calling election every two and bit years anyway. Three years is enough.
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.