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Australia Is Officially Headed to a July 2 Election

A double dissolution election for July 2 looks likely after the Senate rejects a controversial industrial reform bill for the second time.

Shorten v Turnbull 2016. Screenshot via

Note: if you're not sure what a double dissolution means, we suggest beginning with this helpful explainer here.

Australia, it looks like we're headed to a federal election on July 2. The Senate has just voted down the divisive ABCC bill, providing the government with the trigger to dissolve both houses of parliament and send the country to the polls.

There's been no word yet from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on whether he'll use the trigger. However, with his poll numbers sliding all signs point to Turnbull pushing for an election as early as possible, before Labor leader Bill Shorten has a chance to gain ground as the preferred PM.


Today's Fairfax-Ipsos poll shows the Turnbull government has lost significant ground to Labor, with national support split 50-50 between the two parties. But while Turnbull's approval rating has dropped by 10 points in the last month, he still leads opposition Bill Shorten as preferred PM 54 to 27.

Tensions were high in parliament today from the opening bell. Governor-General Peter Cosgrove drew boos from the Labor side for apparently skipping deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek as he shook hands with the party leaders.

Labor Senator yells out 'know your place' after GG doesn't shake — Anna Henderson (@annajhenderson)April 18, 2016

Cosgrove was in parliament to recall both houses for a special sitting, allowing for a vote on two divisive bills. Whether or not you believe these bills should become law—much like whether you think the Governor-General deliberately snubbed Plibersek—largely depends on which side of politics you fall on.

Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy made his position clear, striking out at the Governor-General, and criticising his decision to prorogue the Senate for the first time in 102 years. "A strong Governor-General would never have agreed to this," Conroy said. "If the Queen had been asked to interfere in the British parliament in this way there is no way on earth this would have happened."

Turnbull's crackdown on the unions

The rejected ABCC bill relates to stamping out corruption within Australia's building and construction industry, which was recently investigated by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. The commission unearthed wide-ranging issues, from the use of slush funds to allegations of criminal activity by union officials.


In response, the Turnbull Government wants to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), an industry watchdog that is hugely unpopular with the Labor Party's union base.

"The Turnbull Government's attempt to re-instate this out of date agency has nothing to do with effective governance and is a blatant example of cynical political manoeuvring," Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney said today. "Australians deserve a government that spends its time addressing the issues that matter to workers, families and communities, rather than trying to double-bluff its way into an early election."

As neither major party seemed willing to concede to compromise about the ABCC, the deciding vote fell to the Senate crossbenchers. South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon told AM he had "no doubt this bill will ultimately fail," and he was right.

The Senate voted down hearing a second reading of the bill just before it broke for dinner: 34 in favour versus 36 opposed. Jacqui Lambie, Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus, and John Madigan all voted against the bill, while Bob Day, Nick Xenophon, Dio Wang, and David Leyonhjelm voted for it.

Polling by iSideWith suggests this decision reflects broader community sentiment about labour unions—that being they help Australia more than they hurt.

Royal Commissions as political footballs

As the Coalition pushes to reinstate the building industry watchdog, Labor is calling for another Royal Commission—this time into Australia's major banks. If elected, Bill Shorten says his party will launch an investigation into the banking and financial sector, which has been plagued by allegations of misconduct over the past year.


"There have been too many troubling incidents over recent times for them to simply be dismissed," MP Shorten said during an address at WestPac's 199th birthday earlier this month.

The government has rejected the idea of a commission into the banks, instead arguing the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) should be trusted to do its job. "ASIC has all the powers of a Royal Commission plus much more," PM Turnbull told reporters over the weekend. "It has the power to initiate prosecutions, to take action, to issue fines, to ban people from trading."

Former NAB chief Don Argus labelled the commission a "political witch hunt."

BREAKING: Parliament has abolished the — Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm)April 18, 2016

So what happens next?

The ABCC bill has been passed by the House of Representatives twice but rejected each time by the Senate. While Turnbull is largely ignoring this, and focusing on the passing of another bill yesterday providing better conditions for truck drivers, he now has an election trigger. The PM can ask the Governor-General to dissolve both houses of parliament at any time and call for an election. This will be the first double dissolution since 1987, when Bob Hawke defeated John Howard by a strong margin.

In a double dissolution election every seat in both houses will be contested, as opposed to a regular election when only half the Senate faces re-election. After the passing of the Senate voting reforms early this years, it's likely many of the minor parties—such as the Palmer United Party, and the Motoring Enthusiasts Party—will be swept out of the upper house.

So it seems the real winner in #auspol yesterday was Barnaby Joyce, who somehow managed to wrangle the most deeply weird apology video and/or customs infomercial from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.


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