In
yesterday’s Crikey Christian Kerr made this comment under the heading
“Spinning, leaking and the debate on four year terms”: “Steve Lewis
seemed well across the detail of reports last week, going by his report
in Friday’s Australian.”

Maybe, but one error in the Lewis article struck me – “Labor tried in
1988 to increase parliamentary terms but the referendum failed because
it included fixed terms and changes to the Senate.”

It
is true that the 1988 proposal included changes to the Senate, but it
is not true that it included fixed terms. So why did Lewis insert this
error? My theory is that Tony Smith (who chairs the powerful joint
standing committee on electoral matters) briefed Steve Lewis. In his
desire to sell the Liberal Party’s preferred position Smith put one
over Lewis.

Liberal Party propaganda has it that the inclusion
of a fixed term reduces the chance of voter acceptance. Consequently
they are keen to sell the idea that the 1988 proposal failed “because
it included fixed terms.” Quite false. It would be more accurate to say
it failed because it did NOT include a fixed term.

So my
question to Steve Lewis is a simple one: “Why did you fall for that trick?”
If Lewis had rung me I could have told him the real reasons why the
1988 proposal failed so dismally.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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