The media speculation is that Australia will be headed to the national polls on July 2 for a double dissolution (DD) election.
This is where both Houses of Parliament are dissolved and all senators face the voters (rather than only half as per normal).
The provision of a DD is a constitutional safety valve designed to allow the passage of what the government considers important bills. In effect, it’s designed to break a Senate deadlock by allowing both Houses of Parliament to vote together on the blocked legislation.
The ability for government to utilise a DD requires some specific circumstances with the final determinant being a request from the Prime Minister to the Governor-General.
Firstly, the bill must be rejected by the Senate on two occasions with a minimum of three months between each rejection.
Secondly, there are restrictions on when a DD can actually be called in relation to the government’s scheduled term. It can’t take place within six months of the end of the current House of Representatives’ term.
So with an election scheduled for later this year, the constitutional time limit for calling a DD falls on May 11 - the day after the Federal budget.
If this were to occur, it would deny the opposition their ‘budget in reply speech’ and also limit the prospect of the passage of important supply bills. These are the bills that allow the government and bureaucracy to continue to function and pay their accounts during an election campaign.
One way past this would be to bring the budget forward by a week, thereby allowing supply to continue as normal.
This could then see a DD election called with the earliest possible date at the polls being July 2.
At a DD election, senators’ terms are backdated to 1 July immediately preceding the election. This means that a new Senate would become effective from 1 July 2016, putting senators’ terms neatly in sync with the House of Representatives.
If such an election was held after the passage of the mooted Senate voting reforms, the composition of the Senate would be vastly different to what it is now.
Such a strategy brings with it some important considerations for the government, not least of which is the prospect of a long 10-week election campaign.
It also begs the question that if the Australian Greens are so supportive of the Senate voting reform process, shouldn't the conservative side of politics be a bit worried?
Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to sort the Senate out more than I do but anything that entrenches the Greens as the balance of power party is fraught with danger.
I can only hope that the government has done a comprehensive analysis of the implications of the reforms they are proposing.
An imminent election means I’ll need your support.
In 2013 I ran a solid campaign to drive down the Greens vote in South Australia and I’ll be seeking to do the same again this time.
I also want to offer as much support as possible to conservative candidates across the country.
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