Malcolm Turnbull has had a July 2 election under consideration for months and is increasingly putting the pieces in place to make it happen, possibly calling it on May 10 after an early budget the week before.
The scenario would involve going to the country with the budget plan fresh in voters’ minds and eliminating months of a “phony campaign” through the winter as voters waited for an election in August or September.
Business Insider has confirmed a date of July 2, with a seven week campaign starting on May 10, is being actively planned for inside the Turnbull government. It would involve Senate rejection of proposals to revive the Australian Building and Construction Commission as a double-dissolution trigger.
The Australian reported yesterday that “preparations are so advanced now that the Prime Minister will soon be in a position where he cannot safely change his mind for an August-September poll”.
UBS laid out the logistics of an early election in a note to clients. Scott Haslem and George Tharenou noted some of the technicalities surrounding the dates in question. Here’s an excerpt, emphasis added:
The ruling Coalition has legislation that could act as a ‘trigger’ for a DD election, namely union anti-corruption reforms (The Fair Work Bill). However, the Constitution prevents such a move within 6 months of the expiry of the Lower House, meaning the last date for the Government to dissolve parliament is the 11 May 2016. Interestingly, this is also the day immediately following the 2016/17 Budget (always held on the 2nd Tuesday in May). To avoid another (complicated Constitutional) rule that would restrict the next term of government to only two years, the election would need to be after 30 June 2016, and between 33-58 days after the writs are issued, meaning this path would likely see Australia going to the polls in the first half of July, most likely on Saturday 2nd July. There is also speculation the Government could ‘pull-forward’ the 10th May Budget to 3rd May, to ease the passage of ‘supply bills’.
Legislation designed to drastically reduce the chances of micro-parties gaining influence through opaque preference deals is expected to pass the Senate later this month, a crucial step in restoring a more ordered negotiation process for passing legislation in the upper house, which has stymied major reform proposals from the Coalition’s in the current parliament.
Assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer told ABC radio the government would “definitely be bringing forward a budget” but that its date was among “matters to be considered”.
“In circumstances where there is a different election timetable, obviously there are consequences that flow from that,” O’Dwyer said.
An election in July would mean the government would be under intense self-imposed pressure to get the politics of the budget right over the next eight weeks.
Turnbull, who has watched his approval ratings dropping over recent weeks and seen Labor draw level on the two-party-preferred measure in recent Newspolls, has consistently said an election would be held as scheduled in the second half of the year. So strictly speaking, he’s sticking to his word if he proceeds with July 2.
The problem at this point is that so far there are no concrete proposals for economic reform, although Turnbull has repeatedly said those plans would be contained in the budget.