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Back May 24th, 2014 Forward
Why There Isn't Going To Be A Double Dissolution Any Time Soon

There's a lot of talk in response to the budget about double dissolutions, and the term has been floating around in the public discourse since early on in the Gillard government, where Tony Abbott was threatening to try and call an election every single sitting day of parliament (no kidding, one of the standard procedures during the Gillard parliament was the regular call by the Leader of the Opposition for a suspension of standing orders so they could call for a vote of confidence in the government. It got voted down every single time, but was so damn regular that Kevin Rudd's first day back as PM was notable for the LACK of this motion). While I'm right alongside a lot of Australians with wanting to get a do-over on the election (hells, didn't we just have one of those here in WA?) so we can get it right this time, I doubt we're going to see a DD any time soon. Here's why not:

1) Tony Abbott doesn't want to call one.

Tony Abbott is not a complete fool (much as he does a creditable imitation of one). He and his minders are no doubt looking at the dismal figures they're getting in the polls at present (the Liberals are down 45 - 55 against the ALP in two party preferred figures) and realising any double dissolution election is not likely to go their way. At present the Liberals have a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, and a workable majority in the Senate. They'd be fools to risk either of those if they don't have to. Tony Abbott is famous for saying a lot of things he doesn't actually mean, and I suspect his statements about his willingness to face a double dissolution fall into this category. Given he's the one who is supposed to make the "suggestion" to the Governor General regarding when to have elections, I wouldn't expect to see him willing to go to the polls in the near future.

2) Bill Shorten doesn't want one called either.

Yes, the ALP is up against the Liberals in two party preferred figures in the polls. Problem is, "two party preferred" is a polling artefact, rather than an accurate reflection of electoral reality. The question being asked in a "two party preferred" question is "given these two parties as your only choices, which would you pick?". At present, more people, given only two choices, are picking the red box rather than the blue one. But the thing is, at an election, they don't just have the red and blue boxes - they have more choices, and the ALP is still recovering after a rather comprehensive defeat prompted by internal factional nonsense (and there are NO indicators this internal factional nonsense has stopped. Indeed, all the indicators show it's still going strong, and causing more problems than ever; witness the fuss over the pre-selection of Joe Bullock here in WA). At an election, it's more likely people's votes would swing toward other, more minor parties, such as the Greens, the Palmer United Party, and so on. I suspect a more accurate rendition of people's electoral preferences would point toward another minority government situation, with the balance of power being held by independent, Green and PUP candidates, which isn't really something the ALP wants. Yes, they've shown they can deal with it (the Gillard government, for all the poor press reports, got one heck of a lot done during its time in office), but it isn't their preferred situation - they, like the Liberals, would rather have an outright majority to work with.

Expect to see a lot of horse-trading going on in the House and the Senate between the ALP and the Liberals - this would be the more realistic outcome. While there's going to be a lot of talk about the prospect of a double dissolution, I'd not be expecting one until we actually see writs issued.

Incidentally, if we're really wanting a double dissolution, the person to petition is the Governor General. In strict constitutional terms, the GG is the one who calls elections, usually on the advice of the Prime Minister, but not always[1]. Theoretically, if the Governor General were faced with a sufficiently large indication of the displeasure of the Australian people with their elected government, he would be within his rights to call an election, but I suspect the more practical upshot of such a petition would be an immediate call from the GG to the best firm of constitutional lawyers in the country, to find out whether or not he's obliged to pay attention to such a thing (so any such petition would need to have signatures from at least 75% of Australian voters to have an impact, in my opinion).

[1] The most notable example of same is back from 1975, in the Whitlam dismissal, where the Leader of the Opposition managed to persuade the Governor General of the time the Prime Minister could not pass his supply bills (the ones which pay the wages of the parliamentarians, federal public servants, and federal government beneficiaries and pensioners). This led to Sir John Kerr dismissing the Whitlam government, and installing Malcolm Fraser as a caretaker Prime Minister while an election was called. In the subsequent election, the ALP was voted out rather solidly, and the Liberals were voted in. The ructions of this are still echoing around parliament to this day.

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Back May 24th, 2014 Forward