- Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull has offered the Senate crossbench a stay of execution by promising not to hold a double dissolution election if they pass two bills cracking down on unions.
One bill, the Registered Organisations bill, which would establish a Registered Organisations Commission to replace the Fair Work Commission as the enforcer and investigator of unions, has already been blocked twice by the senate, and therefore forms a DD trigger.
The second, a bill to re-establish the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, has not been put a second time to the senate. In fact Ricky Muir this week moved a motion to bring it on, which was voted down by the LNP and The Greens to give priority to senate voting reform. This was a tactical move to take it out of play in the DD stakes. Xenephon offered to keep the senate sitting to consider both bills, but the LNP and the Greens thought otherwise.
Leaving aside these bills, if Turnbull wants to go to a DD election, which must be called on May 11, he needs to secure supply. If the budget is on May 10, he would need to get supply through both houses on the same day, which is thought to be impossible.
Michelle Grattan reports that Labor has said it will not block supply, so Turnbull still has the option of bringing on the budget a week early, on May 3. However, whether the senate comes back early or not is up to the senate. Phillip Coorey at the AFR explains. I think we can assume that the senate won’t cooperate. Turnbull would then need to present the supply bill to the senate on May 10, having put it through the reps during the week before. He could also present the ABCC bill on that day, but I’d think filibustering would prevent it coming to the vote.
Last week Laura Tingle pointed out that “faffing about” was costing Turnbull votes. He needs a decisive election win, to establish the authority he doesn’t have with his own conservative rump, let alone the Nationals. Bernard Keane says he wants to go early, because he’s not getting anything done, and the longer he goes the mote his faffing is on display. Yet Mungo MacCallum thinks his dithering already has cost him a chance of an early election. Clearly not, but it won’t be with both industrial legislation bills as triggers.
Contra to Tingle, on Monday the Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed a bounce back to a lead of 53-47 two-party preferred. The next day Essential Report came in again at 50-50, for the third week in a row. Considering Newpoll is at 50-50 most think the real result is around 51 or 52 to the LNP, leaving the LNP on a slide and Labor competitive. Moreover, Peter Lewis, who is a director of Essential Media Communications, thinks that digging deeper, Turnbull’s popularity plunge has redefined the election.
“Plunged” is probably too strong but since the end of 2015 the number of strong approvals for Turnbull has halved, while strong disapprovals have doubled. Furthermore there are quite sharp drops in key character indicators.
Bill Shorten may have a spring in his step, but as best leader of the Labor party at 15% he is only one point ahead of Plibersek and Albanese, with Chris Bowen at 7%. Bill actually comes third, trailing “don’t know” at 32% and “someone else” at 18%.
While the HoR was faffing about over nothing in particular, emotions got quite raw in the Senate when David Leyonhjelm proposed bringing forward a bill on marriage equality formulated by Sarah Hanson-Young. This was voted down by the LNP and The Greens, with a meaningless sop of one hour’s debate to be scheduled on Thursday. Apparently Richard Di Natale got to speak, but Penny Wong was gagged, which could only be done with Greens’ support.
Certainly the Greens did not vote against their own bill. The vote was on timing and procedure. But on social media Andrew Bartlett was repeatedly quoted as asserting that Leyonhjelm’s move was “simply a tactic to try to prevent voting reform.” Apparently Leyonhjelm’s desire to do something about marriage equality is sincere and long-held. He would have known that it wouldn’t prevent senate voting from being considered.
In any case no-one is entitled to be sure what was in Leyonhjelm’s head. Indeed Leyonhjelm may have thought it could be his last chance to promote the matter.
The bottom line for the Greens is that it wasn’t a good look. On social media some were ferociously supporting the Greens, but some were saying, never again will they vote for them. While the issue exploded on social media the MSM largely ignored it. Fleur Anderson in the AFR wrote of “abominations such as the Greens and Liberal senators – like Cory Bernardi – working together to kill off the chance to debate same sex marriage.” Di Natale said that if you concentrate on policy the politics will look after itself. That didn’t work too well on Tuesday.