21 Mar 2016

Australia set for early election if bills don't pass

5:06 pm on 21 March 2016

Australia will hold an early election in July if the Senate fails to pass laws aimed at curbing union corruption.

Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a news conference after winning the party leadership ballot on 14 September.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Photo: Getty Images

The government has introduced bills to re-establish a construction industry watchdog to the Senate five times.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked the Governor-General to recall both houses of Parliament on 19 April to deal with the bills.

Failure to pass the laws will provide a trigger for a so-called double dissolution election.

Under Australia's constitution, a double dissolution is used to break a deadlock between the upper and lower houses of Parliament.

To comply with rules regarding parliamentary terms, a double dissolution must be done by 11 May. It would be the first double dissolution election since 1987.

Mr Turnbull is bringing the government's budget announcement forward to 3 May. If the bills fail to pass the Senate, the election will be held on 3 July.

Australians were due to go to the polls before the end of the year.

"The time has come for the Senate to recognise its responsibilities and help advance our economic plans, rather than standing in the way," Mr Turnbull said.

"The restoration of the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission] is a critical economic reform. The time for playing games is over."

New rules for Senate

Australia's Senate last week introduced new rules that would make it more difficult for micro-parties - very small political parties that campaign on a limited platform - to secure seats in it.

Micro-party senators who hold the balance of power in the upper house have proven a headache for the conservative coalition government.

At a double dissolution election, all Senate seats would be contested, compared to the half that would be contested at a normal election.

This would likely result in a number of micro-party crossbenchers losing their seats in the upper house.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who supported the new rules, called Mr Turnbull's decision to recall Parliament and move forward the budget "a nifty and cunning manoeuvre".

"Well, well, well, if you thought last week was ugly in the Senate, you ain't seen nothing yet," Mr Xenophon said.

Family First senator Bob Day told Sky News that Mr Turnbull's move to recall Parliament was "too clever by half".

"They won't get the ABCC through and they won't clear out the minor parties and independents from the Senate so they'll get neither of the things that they're after," Mr Day said.


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