PETER COSTELLO: This is the last question time—
Opposition members interjecting—
PETER COSTELLO: It could well be the last question time before the election...
(source: Hansard, 20.9.07)
[Dave] Hughes: "What are you talking about, the election or the grand final?"
Costello: "They all culminate together this time of year, of course, the last day of September, and the last day of November, isn't it?"
Hughes sensed a scoop. "Is it? You've just called it, have you?" he asked. "You've taken over already, have you?"
(source: The Sunday Age, 30.9.07, reporting on the Grand Final Breakfast, 29.9.07)
Having previously let slip that the federal election would be called before parliament was scheduled to resume on October 15, Dollar Sweetie Costello seemed to take things a step further yesterday and imply that the big day will be November 24.
Now there is no doubt that John Howard is manipulating the timing of the election period for his own benefit - the constitution, electoral laws and convention allow him to do this - but should we have to put up with this phantom election campaign in the meantime?
Especially if the election date is already pencilled in but isn't being made public?
Bear in mind also that Howard effectively gives up some of his power from the day that he visits the Governor-General to prorogue parliament, and enters caretaker mode from that date.
We're feeling the brunt of a federal election campaign right now - it's everywhere in the news, in the ads, on the streets. But we don't know when it will be. And the distortion of democratic process is exacerbated by changes to electoral law pushed through this year, which ensure that the rolls close on the same day that the election is called. Too bad if Johnny visits the GG on a Sunday, as is the norm.
The Australian public has a right to know, and to have sufficient notice of, their deadline for registering or updating their details on the federal election roll.
John Howard is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the first Prime Minister to manipulate the election timeline for his own ends. But it's high time he was the last.
It's time for fixed terms of government, for fixed dates for federal elections, as we have in all the states now. We don't need to change the Australian Constitution to do this, unless we wanted a term longer than three years. (And a four-year term has been rejected several times at referendum.)
An Act of Parliament is what it would take to fix the dates of the federal election every three years (for, let's say, the fourth Saturday of November for argument's sake).
Will Kevin Rudd make this part of the Labor Party's election platform? I hope so.