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Federal

Jan 11, 2016

Poll Bludger: and the next federal election will be held on ...

Myriad factors influence when Malcolm Turnbull will decide the date for the next election.

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As the wheel of federal politics begins to turn again after the interruption of the festive season, all calculations for the year ahead are hostage to one overriding question: when and how Malcolm Turnbull will place his prime ministership before the verdict of the voters.

Broadly speaking, two options are available in calling an election that could, in theory, be delayed as late as January 14 next year, but will assuredly be held much sooner.

The first is to go early with a double dissolution, for which triggers are available in the form of twice-rejected bills to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and to impose greater oversight on union officials.

While the latter issue has potential as a means of attacking Labor over union corruption, the real attraction of the double dissolution option comes down to election timing.

The earliest possible date for a vanilla-flavoured election for the House of Representatives and half the Senate is August 6, since the election to replace the senators elected in 2010 cannot be called until the final year of a term that runs to mid-2017.

Given the extremely difficult budget the government will have to bring down in May, the Liberals have good cause to fear that much of Turnbull’s current gloss will have worn off by then. Turnbull also has the fractious state of his party to think about, and could well feel that he has the opportunity to marginalise his internal critics if he gets in quick with a decisive win over Labor while his stocks are still at their height.

The optimal time for such an election would be in early or mid-March, given the interruption of Easter holidays later that month, and the need for breathing space between the election and the budget session of Parliament.

So if Turnbull indeed has a double dissolution in mind, we should know about it fairly soon. However, there are two reasons to doubt that things are headed in that direction.

First, senators elected at a double dissolution would have the start of their terms backdated all the way to the middle of last year, so that Turnbull would effectively be committing himself to a further election of one kind or another barely more than two years later.

The second issue relates to the still-unreformed Senate electoral system, which could hardly fail to return a bumper crop of micro-party chancers under the lower quota for election that applies at a double dissolution.

It is well and truly too late now to reform the system in time for an election held before the May budget.

The government’s relaxed approach suggests either that it has no real intention of changing the system in the short term, or that it will play its hand as late in the game as it can get away with, so as to avoid alienating the crossbench any earlier than necessary.

The latter possibility presumes that Turnbull will exercise the second of the two options available to him: a normal election in the second half of the year.

While such an election could in theory be held in early August, conventional wisdom holds that voters can be caught in a happier mood at an election held between September and March.

Further obstacles to election timing loom in late September and early October, with school holidays to be in swing everywhere other than South Australia and the Northern Territory by September 24.

The weekend that follows is particularly off-limits, since it coincides with the AFL and NRL grand finals.

The government will, in any case, have passed its third year anniversary by that time, and hanging on too long beyond that is generally held to be poor form.

The case for September is further strengthened by the other two electoral events in store for the year: elections for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

The territories’ respective electoral laws set polling day for August 27 in the NT and October 15 in the ACT, but they also provide for the dates to be rescheduled should the Prime Minister be rude enough to call an election of his own for the same day.

In that case, the ACT election would be delayed until January, while the NT election would be rescheduled for an alternative date two months earlier or later.

Taking all the other considerations into account, Turnbull has little reason to offend local sentiment by following such a course.

Very likely he spoke truly when he said he was “expecting” the election would be held in September or October — by which he most probably meant September 3, 10 or 17, or perhaps October 8 at a pinch.

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.

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17 comments

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17 thoughts on “Poll Bludger: and the next federal election will be held on …

  1. William Pemberton

    Any wonder people in this country are disillusioned with politics, it is a farce and both sides are inept.
    As I have said before the country is in crisis and all these idiots do is bury there head in the sand while every other country comes in from behind.
    The U.S said to Turnbull, “why did he sell the Darwin Ports to China” last time I checked, this was AUSTRALIA and we were not another star on the flag of U.S.
    China is running our economy by the way it is manipulating the currency, we export jobs overseas at the cost of jobs here and we sell off our country to foreign investors “who’s” main aim is to generate profit for overseas companies and if it does not work, then they sell it off or offshore it!
    House prices are being put beyond the reach of AUSTRALIANS, as the dollar depreciates snd foreign investors buy up what they can at minimal prices.
    Country is in crisis and these overpaid fools who purport to represent us are talentless overpaid fools.

  2. AR

    Angela – in case you did come in late, gNormless is the Great Seer, knows All, sees All, with an Understanding that surpasseth all ..err.. understanding, so far beyond human ken that he cannot write simple, coherent or worthwhile sentences, just syllogistic solecisms.
    It’s best, for the sake of all our clogged Inboxes, NOT to FEED the TROLL.

  3. Norman Hanscombe

    I’ve spelt it out on Crikey before, Angela, perhaps before your time; but briefly in 1974 when the Double Dissolution was called I told Labor how they could win sufficient two term seats to ensure they’d still control the Senate in 1975, thus making the November 11 Dismissal impossible.
    Gough was persuaded by the Power Brokers to not do it and the rest is History. As a schoolboy I’d worked out how it could be done in 1951 simply from reading the results in the Sunday Newspapers, but then as now most people read without carefully analysing what they read.

  4. Angela

    Norman, thanks for the puzzle, however, I am merely an interested observer not an expert. Now ‘fess up because I’m curious.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    Angela, if someone is, as you say, “a politics junky,” it could be worth the effort of analysing what happened in the 1951 count, and you might discover what Gough should have done in 1974 which would have meant Fraser couldn’t have caused Labor’s dismissal in 1975. Antony has never cottoned on to this, so it might amuse you to work it out before he does.

  6. Angela

    If you are a politics junky, Antony Green (ABC) has an excellent analysis of the 4 options available to Malcolm Turnbull for the 2016 election. He draws on examples from the past, e.g. Menzies DD election in 1951
    http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2015/12/the-turnbull-governments-options-for-a-2016-election.html

  7. Norman Hanscombe

    Steve777, surely IF one wanted to run on, as you call it, ‘union thuggery’, there’s no need to rush anyway as more and more comes to light each day.

  8. Steve777

    If Malcolm decides to delay, the Murdochracy and the shock-jockracy will allow him a free pass. John Howard held the 2007 election 46 days after the anniversary of the previous election, which I don’t recall was an issue. It seems unlikely that we’ll have an election before the Budget. Assuming that the Government brings down a remotely responsible budget, they might want to have a bit of a buffer before the election. I think a date in November is on the cards if Malcoml doesn’t rush to the polls quickly and run on ‘union thuggery’.

  9. David Hand

    Gotta love these “Turnbull equals Abbott” posts. You guys are great!

    Another compelling reason why there will not be an early election is that I reckon no one on any side of politics has selected candidates for NSW electorates. They are all holding off until the boundary changes come into force. Pre-selections will then take place, probably April.

    Were Turnbull to call a March / April election, everyone would do a rushed job of selecting candidates on the existing boundaries and it would be utter chaos all round.

  10. AussieAchmed

    Turnbull will want to go soon and well before the union officials referred by the right wing Commissioner are having no charges laid or charges dropped by the DPP

  11. Norman Hanscombe

    zut alors, those not, as you call them, “halfwits” are already more aware who best qualifies for the Emperor’s New Clothes tag, and they’re NOT any of your picks.

  12. zut alors

    One would hope that by September even halfwits would be aware Emperor Turnbull is wearing policy clothes originally tailored by Abbott.

  13. AR

    Thanks to Bill, & JohnA@4, for such erudite & thoughtful material.
    I’m going to have to chew it over again but methinks (nod to theJames)late April.
    Perhaps Autumn when the olde worlde begins to die off?

  14. John Anderson

    Unless PM Turnbull wants to lose a Minister [Sussan Ley] or buy a brawl with the Nationals, or both, he will not hold an election in March. The Writs would have to be issued before the NSW redistribution is finalised on 25 February 2016. The seats of Farrer and Riverina would have to be combined to ensure that 47 seats are in place. WA’s new boundaries with the extra seat, are finalised. The earliest date for an election with new NSW boundaries would be 2 April. Turnbull would not be concerned that Easter is the week before. He could also select april 9 or 16.

  15. Jaybuoy

    @nh.. It’s such a winner that the report got thrown out with the trash when no one was paying attention..the only interest in this report is the redacted section and the only real scandal is the millions wasted on an inquiry that should have been held into phoenixing ..

  16. CML

    As far as your last paragraph is concerned, I hope you are correct. By that time even those with half a brain should have been able to work out that Talcum Malcum is just Tony Abbott in a more expensive suit!!

  17. Norman Hanscombe

    Whenever he goes Turnbull has a winner in the issue of the public’ belief there’s a need to impose greater oversight on union officials.
    Perhaps that’s why the usual suspect Crikey-philes aren’t venturing on to this thread?

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