Fixed four year terms across Australia

I’m currently working on my guide for the Brisbane City Council election, as well as updating my ward map of Queensland, both for the local government election on March 19.

On the same day as that election, Queenslanders will be voting in a constitutional referendum, which would fix state elections to be held on the same date, and extend the term from three years to four.

If this referendum is successful, the only remaining elected body in Australia running on three-year terms will be the federal Parliament, and all state and territory parliaments other than Tasmania will have put in place fixed four-terms in their state constitutions.

If I read the proposed change correctly, the first scheduled fixed-term election in Queensland would take place in October 2018, which would put the three biggest states in Australia on a schedule where all three would take place within five months from October to March every four years, starting in 2018/19. As someone who appreciates some lead-time before elections, I can’t say I’m looking forward to these three big elections basically happening simultaneously on a semi-permanent basis.

UPDATE: Thanks to Edward and Michael in comments who pointed out that the amendment would not take effect until after the next election, so if the election is in 2017 then future elections will be in 2020, 2024, 2028 etc, and if it’s in 2018 they’ll be in 2021, 2025, etc. Either way Queensland elections would be significantly separated from Victoria and New South Wales in time.

Thanks to these changes, we now have reasonably predictable timelines for all non-federal elections in Australia, and we can plot them out on a timetable which I’ve included below the fold.

TAS Leg. CouncilMayMayMayMay
NSW councilsSeptember
VIC councilsOctober
QLD councilsMarch
WA councilsOctoberOctober
SA councilsNovember
TAS councilsOctober

These laws all generally require the election to be held in a specific week of a specific month once every four years, with exceptions for natural disasters, a clash with a federal election, and a process whereby an early election can be triggered if the government loses support of the lower house, and no other government can be formed.

New South Wales was the first to move to fixed terms following the 1991 election. Victoria and South Australia followed in the early 2000s, and Western Australia held their first fixed-date election in March 2013.

Tasmania planned to move to fixed terms in the mid-2000s, but the legislation never passed. Despite this, Tasmania has now held its election in the same week for the last three elections, in all three cases on the same date as South Australia.

At the same time, each state has moved to consistency around when council elections are held. Some states like Victoria previously had council elections every year, with different parts of the state voting in different years, and some wards electing different councillors in different years. Tasmania until recently had elections every two years with half of each council elected at each election, and Western Australia still follows that model.

Apart from Western Australia, every state’s councils now all go to election on the same regularly scheduled date.

NSW is scheduled to go to the polls to elect councils this September, although it’s possible these elections will be delayed due to the current process of council amalgamations.

Thanks to these developments, it’s now possible to put together a timetable of when each state’s next state and local elections are due, and barring gradual changes to local government timetables or major events such as hung parliaments triggering early elections, this timetable should stand well into the future.

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