Going early ?

According to the usually well-informed Laurie Oakes, the Abbott government is seriously considering the prospect of a double dissolution election, following the impending Budget. This makes no sense to me, not that this should mean it is unlikely to happen.

To recap, talk of a double dissolution emerged last year, in the wake of the Senate’s blocking of unpopular Budget measures. Facing bad polls, the government abandoned the double dissolution idea, then dumped most of the measures. The new budget is supposed to be pain-free and popular. But, if so, what is the need for a double dissolution to get it through

The obvious inference is that, once returned with a more compliant Senate, the government will return to its true agenda. How can this argument be refuted, given that the same agenda was explicitly repudiated before the 2013 election, only to emerge immediately thereafter?

Then there’s the question of a trigger/pretext. The only current trigger, I believe, is the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This is hardly a popular cause on which to fight an election, but more so than university deregulation, mentioned by Oakes as a possible second trigger.

Insiders generally assume that the trigger is a mere formality, of no electoral significance. But these are the same insiders who assured us back in 2010 that the Prime Ministership is in the gift of the relevant Parliamentary Party and that voters should not presume to be upset by an unexpected change. Given that it is nearly 30 years since the last double dissolution, I imagine many voters will want to know what is going on, and may have the temerity to take the constitution seriously.

Insiders are also easily impressed by a well-timed early election. Experience suggests that voters are not so impressed, and are likely to punish a government that goes early for no good reason. The most recent example was Campbell Newman in Queensland. He might perhaps have lost anyway, but he certainly didn’t benefit from running a campaign during the school holidays, despite his much-touted cleverness in “catching Labor by surprise”. Similarly, Kevin Rudd went early, when he would have done better (IMO) to take some time pointing out the weakness of Abbott’s position. And back in 1984, Bob Hawke went early to take advantage of his massive popularity, but still ended up with an adverse swing.

That’s my take, but perhaps the insiders know better.

41 thoughts on “Going early ?

  1. Pete Moran @20:

    If you see action on the proposed reforms to Senate voting, an early DD election moves from impossible to implausible.

    Yes. It is also true, of course, that historically attempts by Australian political parties to redesign the electoral architecture to achieve partisan ends frequently fail to achieve their ends and often produce unintended consequences. On current indications there is no reason to believe that a DD election – even if the proposed reforms are enacted – would produce a Senate in which the government (either Coalition or Labor) would not have to negotiate with a quite large crossbench. The most workable outcome would be one in which a Labor government had to work with a combined Labor and Greens majority in the Senate. This is also the best possible outcome for Labor as long as the Senate is elected by PR, no matter how upset some Labor people get when I point this out to them.

  2. Labor has a weak leader. The next choice is the popular Tanya Plibersek, still seen as weak due to past experience with a female leader. Albanese would be a strong leader but ATM he is down the popularity list. So you have a Labor leadership problem, a popular budget, support of the press, lots of money and nothing to lose that’s not lost already. If the polls improve after the budget they could well go for a DD.

  3. @Megan

    Does the ALP have a plan to have universities set their own fees?

    Does the ALP have a policy to reduce foreign aid?

    Does the ALP believe in a price on carbon emissions?

    Does the ALP plan to pay subsidies for nannies for rich families?

    They are far from perfect, but they are no way identical to the Libs.

  4. Kevin Rudd went early? The 2013 election was held 3 years and one month after the 2010 election. How was this early?

  5. @dedalus
    Dedalus, I’d still give it to Ikon.

    The equivalence argument was still valid till quite recently, but Data Retention was the final straw.

    Labor may indeed be still not as bad as the Tories, but I agree that, within a defacto one party system with spoils of defeat contested by two right-factions, Abbott’s coalition and Shorten’s managers of decline, the difference are becoming academic. Labor are whores as much as the demented Tories and the Oligarchy is the pimp feeding off both.

  6. Matt Taibbi wrote “Griftopia” and “The Great Derangement”, both of which I recommend.
    In these books his admittedly jaundiced view, which he supports with rather compelling evidence, is that both sides of US politics spend their turns in power repaying the donors who financed their campaigns. Government of the people, by the people, for the people is a distant memory.
    I fear we are following in the same path.

  7. My mother was always very supicious of politicians who called an early election. I don’t why it is such a popular political tactic. Have the numbers been done as to whether it does work? Until I see numbers that say otherwise, I’m going with my mom.

  8. Nick and Steve both ‘forget’ it was the leaks against Rudd which started all the leaks.

  9. @john goss

    When you ask whether the tactic ‘works’, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘work’. I could easily give you a list of instances where a government called an election before it was due and then won, but I’m not sure that’s what you mean.

  10. @John Brookes

    You will get different answers depending on whether you ask the Left or the Right.

    Maybe you should ask the Catholic Church as they control the Right?

  11. Paula Mathewson suggests it might be less about Shorten (get shorty) and more about rattling the LNP leadership cage. Rumours of an impending DD could ramp up aspirants resolve to contest leadership before an election is called.

  12. Shorten today effectively said that torturing, and subjecting to abuse, refugee children and adults is “worth it” (in the Madeleine Albright sense).

    The ALP is a party of and for monsters. I cannot understand how people can support it. What do they think they will get for doing that?

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