George Williams proposes a reform measure for the Senate that strikes me as vastly preferable to John Howard’s cynical proposal. Williams’ idea involves fixed 4 year terms for Federal Parliament, along with a somewhat liberalised joint sitting mechanism for twice-rejected bills:
This model would retain the power of the Senate to review, and to block, legislation for the life of one parliament. However, if re-elected, a government could have legislation blocked over the previous four years enacted at a joint sitting. This would be achieved by a transparent process whereby the bills in issue would be made clear to the voters at election time.
Williams’ proposal has merit. It would address concerns about Senate obstructionism, while preserving the Senate’s role as an effective democratic counterbalance to excessive government power.
Of course, the joint sitting aspect of Williams’ idea doesn’t actually depend on implementation of 4 year terms. It could be proposed as a stand-alone reform. I think I would support it, while on the other hand I have mixed feelings about 4 year terms. I think they would be fine for the House of Reps, but under the present constitutional structure it would mean 8 year terms for senators, which strikes me as rather too long.