Right now, it doesn’t look very likely that Labor will win the next federal election. But a week is a long time in politics, and the fortunes of the government are so closely tied to the real estate market and therefore to the unpredictable course of world interest rates.
In defending the Howard government’s plans to centralise Industrial Relations, one commentator (link lost) argued that Labor couldn’t reasonably expect control of the Senate before 2011, so there was no medium-term risk associated with the plan as far as business was concerned. I immediately thought about the double dissolution option.
Today I was thinking about this again and I realised that the combination of a Labor government and an anti-Labor Senate would almost certainly lead to the blocking of supply within a three-year term. The precedent has already been set, and every government goes through rough patches when such an option would look appealing to the other side. It follows that, regardless of its desire for specific legislation, a newly elected Labor government would need to find some popular double dissolution triggers as rapidly as possible (otherwise the blocking of Supply might require a Reps election, but leave the existing Senate in place).
Once the triggers were in place, we would have an unstable situation where an election would be postponed only as long as neither side felt sure of a win. In the nature of things, that couldn’t last forever, and a double dissolution election would be more or less inevitable.
Of course, all of this is contingent on a hypothetical Labor victory, but I’d be interested to see what others think.