After bringing parliament back three weeks early to debate the Turnbull government’s plan to reintroduce Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) legislation, the senate took just a day to reject the bill, giving the prime minister the double dissolution trigger he sought for a July 2 election.
The ABCC bill was defeated 36-34.
The rejection gives prime minister Malcolm Turnbull the ability to call the double dissolution election – that means all senators will be up for election rather than just half the senate – he threatened when proroguing the parliament and bringing the federal Budget forward one week to May 3.
Independent senators Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day and Dio Wang backed the government, but independents Glenn Lazarus, John Madigan, Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir sided with the Greens and Labor to defeat the bill.
The support from the independents is a high risk strategy because of changes to the preferences system introduced by the Turnbull government during a marathon senate session last month.
But with the Coalition’s appeal falling with voters and Labor evenly poised in the polls, hurtling to the ballot box straight after the Budget is also a risky strategy for Turnbull, whose meandering narrative on tax reform has created a perception of inaction, and if he now walks away from a July 2 election it will only add to that view.
Malcolm Turnbull just got what he wanted.
So keep an hour free on July 2.
The Building and Construction Industry bills have been defeated at the second reading. Ayes 34; Noes 36
— Australian Senate (@AuSenate) April 18, 2016