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Call to cap state MPs' tenure


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State parliamentary careers should be capped at 16 years as part of a broader suite of reforms, according to a former Upper House president.

Former Australian Workers Union secretary and Labor MP Bob Sneath served in the Legislative Council for 12 years from 2000, keeping order for half that time.

He retired mid-term, to be replaced by fellow left-winger Kyam Maher.

He says Upper House terms should be halved to four years, and tenure in either house should be capped at four terms, with the exception of serving party leaders.

“Nobody, unless you’re leader at the time, should be there for more than 16 years,” Sneath told InDaily.

“After 16 years you tend to get a bit teed off, and you should bloody well clear off and give someone else a go.”

His thoughts might rankle with several of his former colleagues, with a raft of the ALP’s most senior frontbenchers already over the hill, according to Sneath’s definition.

That includes 43-year-old Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who entered parliament (at age 26) in 1997, as did 42-year-old Health Minister Jack Snelling. Fellow frontbenchers Jennifer Rankine and Martin Hamilton-Smith would have already been forcibly retired under Sneath’s proposed reforms, as would current Speaker Michael Atkinson, while a host of heavy-hitters, including the Premier and Deputy Premier, would have contested their final election ahead of a 2018 farewell.

On the Liberal side Mitch Williams and Rob Lucas would be history, and Deputy Leader Vickie Chapman contemplating political mortality, while Family First MLC Rob Brokenshire might seek special dispensation, as his 19 years-and-counting has been served across two stints, one as a Liberal MP and currently as an Upper House cross-bencher.

But Sneath maintains “16 years in parliament is long enough for any of them”.

“That’s why I gave up a $200,000+ job (retiring mid-term) with two years to go,” he said.

“You get a bit peeved off, a bit stale, a bit bored with the place … I think it’s a good idea to refresh the place, and give a bit more talent a go.”

But that in itself could prove a challenge, with Sneath arguing “you’re going to find it hard to attract good people with the current wages and conditions of a politician”.

That would also seem at odds with Jay Weatherill’s own reform agenda, which is expected to consider lowering base salaries for Upper House backbenchers. The Premier has publicly stated he wants Legislative Council terms halved, and hopes to introduce broader changes in the current term. Labor flirted with proposals to limit so-called “micro-parties” infiltrating the house of review after the 2013 federal election, in which the Motoring Enthusiast Party headlined a glut of newcomer crossbenchers elevated to the Senate by the vagaries of preference deals.

But Sneath says, conversely, the pathway to parliament should be streamlined for aspiring politicians. He believes the parliament would benefit “if people found it easier to get there, and you don’t have to serve these parties for too long, and suck up to the right or left in Labor or the state councils in the Libs to get a position”.

Sneath says parties should instead “go out finding people that can make a good contribution”, as they did in last month’s Fisher by-election.

“Most of the people that stood there had some sort of talent, and that’s important,” he said.

Jay Weatherill told InDaily Sneath’s notion to cap tenure was “probably an idea that I’d advance in a post-parliament career”.

However, he said the Government would be “saying more about” parliamentary reform in the Governor’s speech next month.

Sneath himself has no regrets about curtailing his own political career, even before his 16 year milestone; indeed, he says he is about to “pack up the van and take off for another 12 months”.

Under Sneath’s plan the following MPs would be on their last term – or gone


Paul Caica

Vickie Chapman

Gail Gago

John Gazzola

Mark Goldsworthy

Duncan McFetridge

John Rau

Isobel Redmond

David Ridgway

Terry Stephens

Jay Weatherill



Michael Atkinson

Fran Bedford

Robert Brokenshire

John Dawkins

Martin Hamilton-Smith

Steph Key

Tom Koutsantonis

Rob Lucas

Jennifer Rankine

Jack Snelling

Mitch Williams



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