Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull informed his colleagues yesterday to begin campaigning for an election in six months time, or sooner, as a double dissolution election is still a ‘live option’.
In a brief discussion during a closed-door party meeting, Mr Turnbull informed his ministers that he is considering calling a poll in August this year, for an election day in September.
But, according to Mr Turnbull, that’s “not set in stone”, and he has also told his colleagues that a double dissolution election still remains an option – one that he may put into play should two key pieces of legislation he hopes to pass the Senate don’t make it through.
One of the bills in question – a clean energy bill– is already a significant trigger. The other is the re-instatement of the Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which has until March to pass but, if rejected, could be another early-election trigger for the Government.
But some crossbenchers, including Independent Senator John Madigan, will not be swayed by the implied threat of a double dissolution.
“Holding a gun to my head will not change how I vote,” said Senator Madigan. “I vote on the merits of legislation according to its impact on working Australians. I will continue to do this and if the Prime Minister thinks he will change how I vote by threatening a double dissolution, he is wrong.”
According to Phillip Coorey of the Australian Financial Review, an early election isn’t likely, regardless of whether these bills pass or not. Either way, Mr Coorey believes it may already be too late for Mr Turnbull to call an early election.
Regardless of when the election is held, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has implored Coalition MPs to focus on the election “in everything we do from now on”.
The current Newspoll Two-party preferred poll has the Liberal Party with a solid 53–47 lead over Labor.
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As we all prepare for an election year, we can expect an action-packed six months of policy proposals and party politics, as well as the usual backflips and bungles. But if voting were to happen today, it’s difficult to imagine Mr Turnbull not being our supreme leader once the final tallies are made.
It goes without saying though, that as solid as Mr Turnbull’s position as Prime Minister seems, he may still be in for a bumpy ride.
What sort of tax package will he take into the next election? Will the GST be increased? Will he go after the poor to find the funds he needs for a healthy bottom line, or will he target the rich? Will the proposed changes to pension portability or asset test thresholds come into play? Will the Age Pension be fair game for further changes? What about superannuation tax concessions?
These are but some of the questions that need to be answered before the first pencil marks a ballot paper.
Now that a ‘loose’ election date has been announced – and they don’t get much looser than ‘could be May, but most likely between August and October’ – all talk of tax reform, in whatever form it comes, will be under increased scrutiny from politicians and the public alike.
But the real question is, how solid is Malcolm Turnbull’s position as PM? His own party has been split since he took over from Tony Abbott. And the divide over increasing or broadening the GST seems to be widening or narrowing that gap, depending, of course, on the time of day and who you ask.
With Tony Abbott stating unequivocally that the Age Pension and superannuation would be safe during his reign, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison’s forays into changing pension and superannuation policy could prove to be a thorn in the side of their re-election hopes. Or it may end up being the stimulus needed for a healthier, more sustainable system. Who knows?
Mr Turnbull has, so far, enjoyed success as the country’s leader but, as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten stated in Parliament yesterday, the PM has already seemingly sold out on his initial stance on same-sex marriage and climate change. Will these backflips work in his favour or against? Only time will tell.
Mr Turnbull currently enjoys a healthy lead in the two-party preferred poll, so if voting took place today – and in light of the fact that there really are no viable alternatives – he would be our leader tomorrow. In the meantime, if he is to have a future as Australia’s Prime Minister, he must first successfully win over his own party.
How would you vote? What policy/policies would be most important to you come election time? Do you think Mr Turnbull should call an early election? Or should the Liberal Party consolidate sound policy prior to the next election?