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Why an Election in 2018 is more than likely

Notwithstanding the issue of foreign citizenship facing both the Liberal and Labor parties, which could trigger an election in 2018, there is another more pressing issue looming for Malcolm Turnbull, one that he created all on his own.

It concerns the senate, the Constitution and the double dissolution Turnbull called in 2016. It may well be that 2018 turns out to be a federal election year, by necessity.

The Constitution states that after a double dissolution, there must be a half senate election no later than 30th June, three years later.

This means that those currently serving a three-year term will see their tenure expire on 30 June 2019. Allowing for a minimum of 33 days for campaigning prior to that date and finalising other necessary matters, the next half senate election must be held no later than 18th May 2019.

And herein lies the dilemma for Malcolm Turnbull. Given that he will not want a half senate election on one date and a House of Representatives election on another date in the same year, Australia will go to the polls no later than 18th May 2019 for both houses.

But will he wait that long? South Australia will go to the polls 17 March 2018. Victoria goes to the polls on 25 November 2018. The next NSW state election is scheduled for 23rd March 2019. None of these fixed dates make it any easier for Turnbull. Adding fuel to the fire, Tasmania must go to an election no later than 19th May, 2018.

There is little to no time available between Victoria going in November 2018 and New South Wales going in March 2019. Either way, at least one and possible two states will face both a federal and state election in the same year.

Running the risk of local state issues coinciding with federal issues makes for a messy campaign trail and one in which some issues could become hopelessly confusing. Turnbull and his government, will want to avoid that and provide as much breathing room as possible.

That suggests sometime in August (Sat 4th being the earliest) or early September 2018 as the least damaging, one that allows the dust to settle in South Australia in March and before Victoria votes in November, with the possibility that Tasmania will go earlier. Tasmania will also be dealing with the Jacqui Lambie factor.

The South Australian election is the most interesting, because of the popularity of Nick Xenophon and his party. If both Labor and Liberal were to lose primary votes and seats to the Xenophon party resulting in some form of coalition, a honeymoon period would still be in play by the time an August poll was held.

Either way, it could influence the result in a federal poll, although not as seriously as one held too close to either NSW or Victoria. Current polling suggests the government will be struggling to survive either way and the timing of an election will be crucial to their chances.

Keen election watchers will be looking for the signs. If the Coalition begin offering big incentives to South Australia early in the new year, it could point to an August election nationally. Apart from the pork-barrelling, it’s all in the language and the activity in key seats. We should also be watching for signs from the mainstream media, particularly the Murdoch press.

Labor will be keenly aware of the timing and begin ramping up the pressure as well. There is a huge amount at stake for both parties as well as all four states involved, not to mention the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.

19 comments

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  1. ol' 56

    why does he have to call the election by mid May 19 ?
    Yes, the Constitution requires a 1/2 Senate poll by 30/6/19, so can’t he call the election the required number of days before and go to the polls on the last Saturday before 30/6/17, which happens to be the 29th ?
    or does the Electoral Commission and the GG have to have it all sorted by the 30th ?
    notwithstanding the possibility of the High Court having to arbitrate again !
    But it probably doesn’t matter anyway as taking the state with the largest number of electors back through the campaign mill soon after, whether it be mid May or late June, is not going to appeal to every interested party.
    Bah Humbug !

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    He can do as Menzies did, have single chamber in lower house. Menzies improved his numbers, can’t see Turnbull achieving similar result.The S44 issue continues to fester. Can’t understand actions of PM.

  3. John Lord

    Agree entirely. September this year for me.

  4. Ross

    Malcolm is fast closing in on the magic number of 30 losing Newspolls in a row, around March or April I think it is.
    It will be amusing to see how he and the media spin it, plus Malcolm would not want an early election with that sparkling little gem fresh for Labor to use against him on the campaign trail.
    With the polls seemingly set in concrete against the coalition and no policy to speak of you would expect Malcolm to go as late as he possibly can. If for nothing else to remain PM for as long as he possibly can.
    The main stream media will do their best but may not be able to pull his chestnuts out of the fire this time around, whenever he decides to call the election.

  5. John Kelly

    Ol’ 56, it’s a complicated process. Writs for a general election must be issued within ten days after the dissolution or expiration of the House (section 32).
    The Commonwealth Electoral Act fills in the process with a series of minimum and maximum boundaries. The significant provisions are for a minimum of 33 days and a maximum 68 days from the dissolution of the House to polling day.
    So, we have a minimum of 33+10=43 days before 30 June 2019. Thus we calculate 18th May 2019 as the latest polling date.
    To further complicate the matter, The latest that a half-Senate election could be held must allow time for the votes to be counted and the writs to be returned before the new senators take office on 1 July 2019. This took over a month in 2016, so practically, the half-Senate election needs to be held no later than 18 May 2019.

  6. John Kelly

    Ross, that is an option for Turnbull. He could call the half senate election in isolation and then a House of Reps election as late as November 2019. But that would be an act of desperation and unlikely to succeed.

  7. Jack Russell

    So many balls in the air – so few skilled hands – so little nous – so many waiting petards …

  8. Andrew J. Smith

    He’s dog whistling, sorry, campaigning already. ABC 774 radio news in Melbourne had him dribbling about Premier Andrews allowing Apex gangs supposedly getting out of control; reinforcing the Hun’s (Herald Sun/NewsCorp) editorial line. Apart from some Lib voters in eastern suburbs, it won’t impress many in Vic. I wonder who the target audience is?

  9. Freethinker

    IMO Malcolm & Co will use the next budget to purchase votes and depending on the reaction of the electorate he will call an election sooner than September.
    If the reaction is negative, we will have a party-internal revolt and a new PM

  10. @RosemaryJ36

    I can hardly bear the thought of this mob for another 12 months or more but I am anxious that the ALP still lack a decent policy for the offshore refugees, are lukewarm about an ICAC, do not seem to even consider MMT and have a leader many trust less the Turnbull.

  11. Matters Not

    @RosemaryJ36 re:

    do not seem to even consider MMT

    Indeed! They don’t even mention it.

    On The Drum tonight, the expert economist the one who:

    has many years of experience providing economic, financial market and policy advice to public and private sector clients.

    She has a keen understanding of macroeconomic trends and the diverse effects of social and investment policies. Nicki applies this knowledge to shape business and government strategies that provide positive economic, environmental and community outcomes

    Nicki Hutley made any number of normative claims that were accepted without question. If the ALP want to lose the next election, then they should advocate MMT. But I hope they don’t.

  12. Harry

    Matters not: agree that Labor best not mention MMT because it is difficult to explain and they will be attacked relentlessly. But they should implement policies that are MMT rather than neoliberal.

  13. Harry

    John Kelly I know you are one of the still relatively few who understands MMT. Assuming Labor is aware of MMT ( and that’s a huge assumption) do you believe they should advocate it by rejecting the dominant paradigm of macroeconomics or should they take a more pragmatic approach and make no commitments to “return the budget to surplus” and instead concentrate on policies that will improve the lot of most ordinary Aussies?

  14. John Kelly

    Harry, I don’t know if you remember back in Paul Keating’s time, a program was launched called, “Working Nation.” At a time of 8% unemployment it was essentially a job guarantee and/or training guarantee designed to get people off welfare. The government guaranteed a job in the private sector which they subsidised. It worked beyond their wildest imaginings creating over 500,000 jobs and bringing the unemployment rate down to 5%. When John Howard won office in 1996, he immediately stopped it. It was, by any other name, straight out of the MMT manifesto. Bill Shorten could revive that program as a start without creating too much doom and gloom. He could also appoint Bill Mitchell as an economics advisor and have him play a high profile role in educating the public at a pace they could cope with. They should not plan to bring the budget to surplus, not promise it and not get sucked into corners on it. Bill Mitchell could be their back-stop.

  15. Freethinker

    John Kelly, if Shorten appoints Bill Mitchell as an advisor will be a conflict with Bill Owen.
    IMO, the two cannot work together.
    I just wonder if even Shorten agree with Mitchell views and solutions regarding macroeconomics.

  16. Harry

    John, thanks for the reply. I do recall “Working Nation” but was unaware it was effectively a Job Guarantee and clearly successful in achieving a substantial reduction in those out of work. Of course mainstream economics posits that a certain “buffer stock” of the unemployed is necessary to avoid a wage breakout. Once we get to 5% unemployed, which is still hundreds of thousands who have to somehow survive on the pathetically low Newstart, the RBA tends to increase interest rates on the logic that 5% is “full employment”.

    I am sure you are aware that MMT does not advocate paying subsidies to the private sector to employ those out of work. But I do think a “working nation” program would be a huge step in the right direction. I’d like to see Bill Mitchell appointed to advise Labor as Stephanie Kelton was appointed to advise Bernie Sanders.

    Totally agree that Labor should neither plan nor promise to bring the budget back to surplus; they should stress that the priority will always be on adequate funding of public programs that benefit us all and returning to genuine full employment (about 2%) consistent with maintaining relatively low inflation.

  17. Harry

    Freethinker, I do not know of Bill Owen. Is he a senior Treasury officer? Whilst I do not want a politicised bureaucracy, if a senior official cannot work with a government advisor he/she will have to be either moved aside or advised to seek alternative career options elsewhere.

    To me, Labor is till the best hope for change. It all hinges on Labor’s preparedness to ditch or soft-pedal their rhetoric on balanced budgets the same way that the appalling Coalition is doing. They have dialled down the rhetoric but are still pursuing fiscal austerity and would probably go even harder except for one inconvenient problem: they are and have been on track to lose government.

  18. Rob

    Put simplistcially the LNP will be hoping for a new turbull v2.9 to emrge from the ashes of 2017. if the polls change drammatically then the LNP not turnbull will be keen to jump earlier. If mt 30 newspolls and his $850 shirts doesnt cut it then do the LNp go looking or newbie P? Or do they take old jellyback on again and push on. Turnbull ensured the S.44 debate will go on into 2018 with his insistance that the LNP will ‘report any and all ALP members to the High court. Parnell McGuiness the new LNP media queen must be wonder wtf she has to do each day. So far Ms Mcguiness has old jelly back on FM radio and morning tv. The new unimproved turnbull 2.9 is talking like a pompus stuffed ‘designer’ shirt with no idea from one day to the next wtf is really going on in Australia. oooh the rarified air of canberra getting even thinner everyday

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