Political parties on the left and right must reach agreement on how a four-year electoral term would be implemented before the issue goes to the public for discussion, otherwise the proposal will fail once again, says New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters.
Mr Peters and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei yesterday agreed with Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Shearer that the country would benefit from a four-year parliamentary term but the change needed to be supported by the public via a referendum.
The proposal failed when it was put to voters in the 1967 and 1990 elections, almost 70 per cent favouring the three-year term over four years.
Mr Peters said his caucus had discussed the idea some time ago and while it had merit, the key question was whether or not a referendum on the issue was ever likely to succeed.
"The chinless wonders on each end of the political spectrum, feeling their opponents might win, inevitably go for the three-year term so you're almost beaten before you start on the referendum."
Mr Peters said the only way a referendum could succeed was if Opposition parties agreed with the Government on how and when a four-year term would be introduced. "That way [the public debate] will be without self-interest ... . The public needs to know everyone is considering the issue in terms of its merits not because of political bias."
Mr Shearer said a political consensus was needed to move forward on the issue. "It has to be depoliticised. It can't be seen to favour one party over another so you'd have to consider when it was going to be implemented to remove that bias."
Mr Key said yesterday while a four-year term was likely to deliver better government and reduce the negative impact on the economy that occurred during elections, it would be "a bit arrogant" for a Government to change the term "through the stroke of a pen".
Ms Turei said while the Green Party didn't have a policy stance on the issue, there were good policy reasons to go to a four-year term. "There's potential for more stability and less radical swings from one government to another and that's a major issue for the community and business in particular."
United Future leader Peter Dunne said moving to a four-year parliamentary term and a fixed election date, as also suggested by Mr Key this week, were both long-standing policies for his party.
Act leader John Banks didn't believe New Zealanders would vote for "more job security for politicians" by supporting a four-year term.
The Maori Party said it had no stance on the issue as it hadn't been discussed by its caucus.By Adam Bennett Email Adam