Our Say: Time to start discussing fixed federal terms

AS the Turnbull Government struggles to make any impact on the polls we should not be surprised to read reports that any plans for an early election have already been shelved.

The timing of the next election was always going to be difficult for the federal government even without its terrible polling figures.

Tasmanian voters went to the polls last weekend, Victoria will go to the polls in November and NSW voters are locked into an election in March next year.

The Berejiklian Government, facing troubles of its own on a number of fronts, would no doubt prefer the federal election was held prior to the state poll in the hope that disaffected voters might vent their frustrations at a different target.

But the final possible date for a federal election is Saturday, May 18, 2019, and there now appears every chance Malcolm Turnbull will break with tradition by taking this government to full term.

The theory is he needs all the time he can get to try to turn around the polls and delaying the election for as long as possible will give the new cabinet that was sworn in last December just a bit more time to make a mark in their portfolios.

An election in late May would also allow the government the chance to make the 2019 Federal Budget – to be handed down early that month – a big-spending vote winner with personal tax cuts and plenty of infrastructure announcements.

That would mean a low-key budget for 2018 but the short-term pain would be considered worth the risk for longer term gain.

It all makes for some fascinating viewing for fans of politics and some intriguing strategy discussions, but we have to ask why?

We won’t see this same sort of intrigue in Victoria and NSW where fixed terms of government mean that election dates are set in stone.

Governments cannot seek to time elections to their own advantage and we don’t spend months – years, even – speculating when the next election might be held.

So surely it must be time to start debating the pros and cons of fixed terms of government at a federal level as well.

Wouldn’t it be only a good thing for a government going to full term – as now appears likely for the Turnbull government – to be the norm rather than the exception?

Isn’t that the sort of certainty and stability we want from government?