New South Wales needs a new government. More, New South Wales needs a new Parliament. The last state election in NSW presented its voters with arguably the worst choice of governments anywhere in Australia in at least the last 50 years.

There was simply no viable choice for a voter looking for mainstream competent administration. It was impossible to vote with sober hope for either of the major parties. The best irrational hope was that the whole electorate might vote informal.

It will serve for years to come as a real life example supporting arguments against compulsory voting; although what we needed as voters was not the opportunity to stay home, but the opportunity to draft better options, or to insist we try again sooner than in four years time.

We’re stuck with them now until 2011.

2011.

As well as injuring NSW, it can’t be any good for Mr Rudd’s chance to adopt fixed four-year terms for the Commonwealth Government. Before the last Federal election he promised to put that idea to referendum at the next one.

Watching the shambles of Mr Iemma’s demise must leave many wishing today’s popular and widely-respected Governor, Marie Bashir, might for a moment pretend it was the 1930s and she more like Philip Game. She could dissolve the whole show and we could try again.

In some places, including several States in the US and, since 1995, the Canadian province of British Columbia, voters have the opportunity to remove their elected representatives from office between elections.

It’s known as recall, and to succeed in BC a proponent needs to collect signatures from more than 40% of the voters in 60 days. There are strict limits on the financing of recall campaigns, but if enough signatures are correctly obtained on a recall petition, the representative ceases to hold office and a by-election is held.

In his press conference on Friday morning Mr. Costa distinguished between the right and the popular, but all democratic arrangements entail a complex mix of both. To be in a position to do right, a government must maintain a plausible level of confidence.

The disorder of the NSW Government suggests a fixed four-year term needs to be balanced by the possibility of some way out when it’s needed. At the very least a few recall petitions might provide the despairing voter of NSW with an opportunity to express their frustration.

Peter Fray

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