At the end of an article on the Governor General’s offer to resign, a journalist wrote that there better not be a Double Dissolution before March, which is when Quentin Bryce is due to finish her term. This struck me as odd. I realise that there are a lot of people who don’t understand the Constitution, or the rules surrounding such things. But this was a political journalist writing for a major newspaper.
So let’s look at why this comment was either sensationalism or stupidity. For a double dissolution to occur certain conditions need to be met. The first is that there needs to be a “trigger”.
The conditions stipulated by section 57 of the Constitution are—
The trigger bill originated in the House of Representatives.
Three months elapsed between the two rejections of the bill by the Senate (“rejection” in this context can extend to the Senate’s failure to pass the bill, or to the Senate passing it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree).
The second rejection occurred in the same session as the first, or the subsequent session, but no later.
Now, the first point is that Tony Abbott has been in no hurry to recall Parliament. We don’t have a date but let’s say it’s in November sometime. A Bill has to be introduced, debated AND rejected by the Senate. Generally speaking this is not a quick process. The Senate could use a number of means to slow down the outright rejection of the Bill, such as amending it, and sending it back to the House of Representatives. But for the sake of fairness let’s say that the Bill is rejected by end of November.
Parliament won’t sit again until February, so assuming the Bill is rejected at the end of February – again it needs to be three months after the first rejection, so that’s the earliest before the conditions for Double Dissolution can be met. From this time, even if Tony Abbott picked the shortest possible time to campaign, the election would still be a month later.
So, the END of March is the EARLIEST a double dissolution could be held. There is no way that Bryce will still be there when the election is held. Well, unless you consider the possibility that Abbott will ask her to stay on for a while longer.
Now, let’s just consider the politics of this for a second. It looks possible that Clive and his PUPets will suppoort the end of the Carbon Pollution Tax. (Once they can get people to drop the “Carbon” entirely, Labor have won the Framing battle. See my previous Framing blog, if this doesn’t make sense.) Would Abbott risk reducing his majority just to get the Carbon Tax through a few months earlier? In terms of balancing the Budget, returns from any tax are helpful – particularly a “great big tax on everything” – and when you can collect revenue while blaming the previous government, why would you be in a rush to end it?
For several months, I kept pointing out there was no way that the charges against Craig Thomson would bring down the Gillard Government. He may resign because he just didn’t want the pressure, but there was no way that he’d be charged and convicted before the election, even if one ignored the possibility of him staying in Parliament, pending an appeal. The Courts just don’t work that quickly. Compared to the idea that a double dissolution could be held by March, at least there was some scenario where that was possible.
Newspapers complain that the Internet is dangerous because ordinary people can put out misinformation. Before they can be even remotely be taken seriously, they need to stop presenting gossip and ignorance as news.