Why Kevin Rudd doesn’t want a double d
Call me naïve if you will, but I believe the Prime Minister when he says he doesn’t want a double dissolution election.
“I have not the slightest intention of going to an early poll. I don’t think people like that. I think they want you to serve the term that you’ve been elected for,” he told 3aw’s Neil Mitchell yesterday.
The prospect of using the recent rejection of the ETS legislation in the Senate is being talked up as a double dissolution trigger among us trigger happy media folk but, strange as it might sound, a double dissolution election would be an unnecessary risk for a Government in cruise control.
First of all the necessary three month break between legislation getting rejected by the Senate would not be reached till Parliament’s final sitting in late November.
So if the Prime Minister was to call an election then we’d be looking at a poll around the Christmas break, which would be about as popular, well, as an election at Christmas I suppose. So count it out.
The other thing going on December is the Copenhagen Climate Conference which, assuming there is an international agreement, is likely to give both parties impetus to reach a deal on ETS bill next year.
If the status quo were maintained and Kevin Rudd got really cranky he could call a double dissolution election for around March - but why would he?
Sure they’re almost certain to win with an increased majority in the House of Representatives but what happens in the Senate could be strange.
Rudd Government II will almost certainly be free of the troublesome Senator Fielding, but if it was an election fought over the issue of the ETS the Greens could well increase their Senate majority.
This could leave the Government in the uncomfortable position of the Greens having them over a barrel with their own demands on an ETS.
Does Kevin Rudd really want to be dealing with calls from the Greens on 50% emissions cuts over the next ten minutes?
Labor could find itself with its own majority in the Senate, but as the last Howard term proved, be careful what you wish for in that regard.
The ABC’s Anthony Green gives a great breakdown of the possibilities on his blog, and thinks it more likely that Labor will wait for a normal election.
The other point, which has been widely made, is that double dissolution elections are rarely fought on the legislation for which they are called, meaning that strange things can happen.
In 1987 the Australia Card legislation was the trigger for the double dissolution but not the subject of the election, it focussed on Joh for Canberra and John Howard fight and ended in increase majority for Labor in the House of Reps but still no majority in the Senate.
But the question remains why go early with a DD if, as a popular Government, you can go a couple of months later with the less disruptive half senate/full house election?
The obvious answer is there is no guarantee that things will still be that way six months down the line, especially after the May budget, so by going early you take advantage of Rudd’s sky high popularity and the Coalitions total disarray.
Well not quite.
Rudd could call a regular election on July 1 at the earliest, meaning an August or September election is a possibility.
As Glen Stevens’ remarked yesterday the recession is unlikely to be in nearly as bad as we first thought, so the longer till an election the longer it gives the economy a chance to improve and the longer the Government has to talk up its management of the financial crisis.
The other point is that while November is a deadline for the ETS it may be looming as one for Malcolm Turnbull as well.
If Turnbull is replaced by a new leader, say a Hockey, then why go to an early election with a new Liberal leader on the back of an inevitable honeymoon?
Surely it would make more sense to wait and let the guy sweat in the leadership spotlight for longer.
There’s also the complication of redistributions of seats in NSW and Queensland which may not be finalised in time for a double dissolution and would mean a complicated kind of vote.
At any rate the redistributions are set to favour the Labor Party so it would make sense to make sure they’re locked in.
Finally there is a nerdy but important point. If there were a double dissolution before July it could mean that the Senate would have to have a half-senate election by itself sooner to bring it back into the normal three year electoral rhythm.
And if people don’t like regular elections you can imagine how they’d feel about putting up with a half-senate election less than 18 months after the double dissolution.
So while journalists may love an election (myself included), most people generally don’t and it is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth for Kevin Rudd.
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