After the election following the double dissolution created a wafer thin majority for his party in Parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could force voters to the polls another three times in the next two years.
If Mr Turnbull gets his way, Australians will be asked to turn out for both the same-sex marriage plebiscite and the Indigenous constitutional recognition referendum some time in 2017. That could culminate in a federal election in 2018, possibly as early as August – just 23 months from now.
A new paper by the Parliamentary Library points out that because of some of the notions surrounding this year’s double dissolution and Senate terms the next election – assuming it’s a normal house and half-Senate election – has to be held between August 4, 2018 and May 18, 2019.
Assuming that Mr Turnbull’s leadership survives that long, the predicted time period of nine months will be a crowded time and will leave the PM with some tough decisions to make.
Going late in that range would require him to move the budget, and by much more than a week like he did this year.
He’d either need to deliver it significantly earlier in the year before calling a campaign – which would be extremely logistically difficult – or push it back into the second half of the year, after voters have cast their judgement.
Earlier in 2019 would mean trying to avoid conflict with the NSW state elections due to be held on March 23, and to avoid the Easter holiday too.
Any earlier in 2019 and the campaign would have to start in January, when people are on holiday and totally disengaged with politics. This did not work terribly well for former Queensland premier Campbell Newman.
However, late 2018 polls also have some problem areas.
A poll between October and December would seem to make the most sense but there’s another state election in the way: Victorians are due to go to the polls on November 24, 2018, and after would conflict with Christmas break.
Going too close to a state election could also severely stretch party fundraising abilities.
Of course, the same-sex marriage plebiscite may not happen if Mr Turnbull can’t win parliamentary support.
The Indigenous referendum could also be pushed back into the next term of Parliament if politicians fail to get their act together. However at this stage hopes are still high it will happen in the second half of 2017.