There's wriggle room for an early poll

12 September 2008

"If anyone has the power to sack the government, it is the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, and that power is controlled by the NSW constitution," writes Sydney Law School's Associate Professor Anne Twomey in an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In response to recent calls for NSW to go to an early election, Associate Professor Twomey stipulates that an amendment to the NSW constitution in 1995 to include fixed, four-year terms, following a deal between the minority Greiner government and independents, cannot be changed by legislation without a referendum.

However, the constitution does permit an earlier election in four cases:

  1. The Legislative Assembly passes a motion of no-confidence in the government
  2. The Legislative Assembly rejects, or fails to pass, supply
  3. The date for the election moves up to two-months earlier if the date is inconvenient owing to a clash of dates, (i.e. Easter break or a federal election)
  4. The NSW Governor dissolves the Legilsative Assembly contrary to the advice of the Premier provided such action is done in accordance with 'established constitutional conventions'

"The intention was to preserve some of the Governor's 'reserve powers', such as the power to dismiss a government," Associate Professor Twomey writes.

"But there has never been an 'established constitutional convention' that allows the governor, contrary to ministerial advice, to dissolve the lower house of the Parliament.

"The governor could still, conceivably, dismiss a government, although only on established conventional grounds, such as persistent and proved illegality."

Associate Professor Twomey was also quoted in a Weekend Australian feature article on the uncertain future of Australia's federal system of government as well as the concept of regionalism.

"It (regionalism) has no form, no detail and no substance. It changes its shape every time it is conjured up in the debate. It can mean five different things or none and any discussion about it is usually at cross-purposes."

To view the Sydney Morning Herald article - There's wriggle room for an early poll

To view the Weekend Australian article - No accounting for states

Contact: Greg Sherington

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