Australia is one step closer to a 2 July double dissolution election after the Senate’s second rejection of the Government’s bill to re-establish the construction watchdog.
The unusual mid-April sitting was arranged last month after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to recall Parliament for the meeting, three weeks before MPs and senators were actually due to return. At the time, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia would head to a double dissolution election on 2 July if the bill to re-establish the construction watchdog was blocked.
The bill was re-introduced to the Senate on Monday morning and voted down 36–34, with Senators Bob Day, Dio Wang, David Leyonhjelm and Nick Xenophon all voting to give the bill a second reading.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has until 12 May to call a double dissolution election and it’s expected that the announcement will come after the Federal Budget is delivered on 3 May.
I’m not sure whether we’re privileged or benighted to be living through the current political shenanigans in Canberra. For most of us who can recall 1975 and the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, this is the most “exciting time to be an Australian”. Certainly, the media and political commentators appear energised by what may unfold between now and 2 July.
However, I love this country and the current lack of national leadership induces a state bordering on despair. Political theatre is all very diverting, but that’s just what it is, diverting. Distracting the attention of the electorate away from the very serious challenges that confront our nation.
Apologists from the Conservative side of politics will defend Malcolm Turnbull saying he’s only had six months to put his stamp on policy or that he’s constrained by a straight-jacket imposed by the Abbott faction and the deals that he had to negotiate to secure the Prime Ministership. Sager heads, such as former Liberal leader John Hewson, point out that Turnbull should have immediately called an election when he toppled Abbott last September and while his honeymoon period was at its strongest. He could have then emerged from a February election with a strong mandate in his own right. Now, the opposing sides are, according to all the polls, line-ball and the PM’s current high-risk gamble can only be seen as a desperate last throw at securing a parliamentary majority in both Houses so as to extend his Government for a further three years.
But when the dust settles after 2 July, whichever side finds itself at the helm, Australia’s fundamental long-term challenges will not have miraculously disappeared. We do desperately need to fix the tax system so as to raise more revenue to fund the essential investment in education, research and emerging technologies that can help ensure we do become more “agile”. We must also reverse the inexorable polarisation of our society which was once held up as the world’s best example of egalitarianism (not a word favoured by contemporary politicians).
It is a national disgrace that in the 21st century we have so many of our older citizens struggling below the poverty line and increasing numbers of homeless. And these are just a few examples of the issues that should be the real business of our federal Government.
So, call me cynical, but I’m observing the current farce in Canberra as a very expensive, last-ditch attempt by an increasingly unpopular Government to save their own jobs. And, when the tax payers have footed the bill for this political theatre, including the umpteen millions of dollars that will be spenbt on political advertising, I hope we see more long-term benefit than we have from the many years of the so-called mining boom.
What do you think? Do you understand what the ABCC legislation is about? Do you think that both Houses of Parliament should have been recalled for three weeks to apparently vote on two minor bills? Should we be going to the polls three months early or should the Government run its full term?