Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is moving forward with a threat of an early election, after setbacks in the Senate seemingly forced his hand to pull the trigger on a double dissolution election on 2 July.
With the PM claiming his Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) legislation is critical for economic reform, he will bring back both houses of Parliament from their extended break for a three-week joint sitting in April to debate the bill. If the Senate doesn’t pass the bill, he will call for an early election.
“The time has come for the Senate to recognise its responsibilities and help advance our economic plans, rather than standing in the way,” he said. “The restoration of the ABCC is a critical economic reform. The time for playing games is over.”
Mr Turnbull briefed his colleagues on his plans immediately before making the announcement during a snap media conference in Canberra yesterday morning.
In another move seen to pave the way for an early election, regardless of the outcome of the Senate vote, he has also brought forward the budget a week from 10 May to 3 May.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wasted no time criticising the move, saying the PM was acting selfishly, putting his own needs ahead of the country.
“Labor will not get distracted by Mr Turnbull’s games,” he said. “If he wants Parliament to sit on April 18, we will turn up.”
The threat of a double dissolution took some senators by surprise, with Nick Xenophon saying he didn’t see it coming, and Senator David Leyonhjelm describing the PMs move as “an ambush”. Glenn Lazarus views the PMs tactics as a form of blackmail, and Jacquie Lambie also saying that she won’t be bullied into backing the ABCC legislation.
For the ABCC legislation to pass, it needs the support of six of eight crossbench senators – a result that, after his ‘heavy-handed’ pushing through of Senate voting reforms last week, seems most unlikely. These changes to senate voting will, most likely, mean that many independent senators will be out of a job after the next election.
The Liberals are claiming that they’re ready for an election. Labor isn’t afraid of the threat of a double dissolution and the Greens feel they’ll actually win more seats in the next election, so they are particularly looking forward to it. The only losers, it seems, will be the Independents. But, by the looks of things, they intend to go down swinging.
All that’s left now is to see how the voters react to the PM’s political manoeuvring. Only time will tell …
Who needs reality TV? Australian politics, in it’s current state, is more like the continuing daytime saga The Bold and the Beautiful – only without the boldness and with a whole lot of ugly…
I mean in the last year alone, we’ve had I’m a Politician, Get Me Out of Here! with the recent ALP mass exodus in Western Australia and Ian MacFarlane leaving the Libs and attempting to join the LNP, as well as the other highly publicised political withdrawals of Andrew Robb and Deputy PM Warren Truss, and Phillip Ruddock possibly on the way out.
We had The Apprentice, with Malcolm Turnbull playing the Donald Trump role and firing Tony Abbott, then last week, we saw Parliamentary Big Brother, which included Nick Xenophon in his pyjamas and a marathon sitting to vote in controversial Senate voting reforms.
Now this week, we have the big kid on the block, Malcolm Turnbull, playing the bully because he’s not getting his own way. Add to that poor old ‘ScoMo (Scott Morrison) seemingly hung out to dry as the unpopular maths geek rolling out a succession of possible tax reforms for the forthcoming budget and sticking to his claims that the budget would be on 10 May, only to have the rug pulled out from under him when his boss announces an early budget.
In the words of Independent Senator Nick Xenophon: “if you thought last week was ugly in the Senate, you ain’t seen nothing yet”.
In all seriousness though, isn’t it time they stopped playing ‘he said, she said’ and got on with the task at hand? Do we need to remind them that their job is to run the country?
Okay, so the PM wants this ABCC legislation to pass. But who does the bill benefit? If you ask him, he’d say the Australian people, but if you ask Labor and the Greens, it unfairly targets these same people. Some senators, including Greens’ Leader Richard DiNatale and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm would like to see the establishment of a governing body that focuses on corruption across the board and not just in the construction industry and not just the unions. Others are worried that the bill unfairly targets blue collar workers, removing their employment rights and favouring employers over workers. And what about targeting the systemic abuse of power by the big end of town, specifically, the banks?
As Adam Bandt so eloquently states: “When it comes to allegations of wrongdoing, if you’ve got a blue collar, this Government throws the book at you, but if you’ve got a white collar, they turn the other way.”
So there’s obviously some ‘murkiness’ to the legislation that needs to be addressed, only the Government appears unwilling to budge on the finer details, employing tactics similar to the ones it is supposedly trying to abolish from the building industry.
So, an early election seems likely, but as with all recent political promises and proposed legislations, it is hardly etched in stone. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next exciting instalment of Parliamentary Pantomime – at least that’s what I’m calling it…
At the very least, Parliament is providing us with some entertainment. But that’s not their job now, is it? I wonder if a double dissolution isn’t the way to go. Maybe it will end these theatrics, so we, as a country, can finally move forward.
What do you think of the actions of Parliament over the past year? Does it make you confident that we do have the right people in place to help our country evolve? Or are you just as disillusioned (not dissolution!) about the current collective as I am?