Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been given the double dissolution trigger he was waiting from by the Senate last night. The big question on everyone’s lips is “when will he call it?” and “what does it mean?”
Malcolm Turnbull will likely confirm today that he seeks to use the double dissolution trigger and the country sits with bated breath waiting and we probably will for weeks to come.
The likely result of last night’s trigger, and the flow-on effects will be that Australians head to polling booths on the 2nd of July, our fourth federal election in less than a decade.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said in The Australian that the upper house had “loaded the gun” for an election but we think he is talking tough, setting the stage for a drawn out process of driving to the Governor General’s office.
Chances are that Mr Turnbull won’t set the date for the election today, in fact it would seem crazy to, when you consider the below numerous reasons why he shouldn’t politically. Turnbull wants to control the environment he goes to the polls in. Until he enters caretaker mode, calling the official date, he can still do this.
First, Turnbull is unlikely to declare an election date today, even though he has already declared his hand on wanting to, as it would throw the government into caretaker mode where there are a lot of restrictions on spending, commitment and advertising. Once called, an election must be held on a Saturday between 33 and 58 days afterwards. If a date is set, the budget becomes moot.
Second, the Federal Budget is not far away. Turnbull has already planned for this, bringing forward the date of the budget by two weeks to the May 3. Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s Budget speech sits on the May 5. Then and only then do we believe that Turnbull will visit the Governor-General. These are critical dates in the future of the confidence in our government, which Turnbull will rely on to take him into the election phase.
Finally, an election date set before July 2 has an enormous impact on the Australian electoral cycle in the future. If the date was to be set before the June 30, the Senate would fall out of sync with with rest of our Parliament, causing a separate election to be held in 2018 to spill half of the Senate, potentially costing the country over a hundred million dollars. Voters and taxpayers would likely be unhappy with this given there is an alternative.
There have been six double dissolutions triggered in Australian history, 1914, 1951, 1974, 1975, 1983 and 1987. Many were during tough economic times and times of change, and not all of them resulted in smooth government afterwards.
The cause of the spill is legislation around union power in the construction industry which was defeated in the Senate last night. The legislation was designed to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission to toughen the government’s stance on union officials who misuse member funds.