In a rare instance of early adoption, I have been advocating four-year fixed Federal terms for some time. I don't think it's in our interests that the government can manipulate the electoral cycle to their advantage. I'm all for consolidating all the pork-barreling into one pork season, fixed on the calendar, that we can all anticipate and maybe plan our hospital renovations around. Also, it seems to me like we're forever having elections, and I like politics. God knows how much they must annoy the apolitical among us. So, good on Kevin Rudd for promising to put the matter to the Australian people.
That doesn't mean I expect such a referendum to pass. For starters, it's a referendum. Those things hardly ever pass here. ("Referenda: Just Say No".) Secondly, a cursory glance at the Herald's comments page reveals the kinds of arguments that are going to be deployed in favour of the status quo, namely, scaremongering on how we're, yawn, in danger of becoming America, and one rather intriguing theory that fixed terms are part of the insidious Unions' Agenda and are therefore almost certainly against the interests of Ordinary People.
How the unions managed to become the antithesis of ordinary people I'll never understand, but I do know this kind of thing is exactly what we can expect from the No camp. Also, you can expect the debate to be more bitter than its subject would necessarily indicate. Australian discourse is peculiar in that respect: stem cell research, abortion, euthanasia, these we can debate like grownups. But the tax system, IR laws, heads of state, electoral terms? Forget it. I've noticed the same phenomenon in NSW Question Time: the drier the subject, the more likely it is to descend into name-calling, yelling, and scurrilous accusations. We're a funny bunch.