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Tag Archives: Double dissolution

On a Road to Nowhere?

As we all wake up today from our election hangovers, and stagger bleary eyed to work, many are considering the real implication of living in interesting times… and the real possibility that the Governor General may be forced to call a second election.  The double dissolution election brought on by #stabilityMal has surprised everyone, not least the Australian voter; who, after casting their #rageVote now wonders what they were drinking, and who it was they spent those huddled, sweaty moments with in that election booth. Therefore, in another empty attempt to make sense of it all, it’s time for more analysis and conjecture!

Battle of the Bastards
updated 1800hrs 5 July The current count on the AEC website has the ALP leading in 69 seats, and the LNP with 66. The ALP is trending in a further two seats, and the LNP in three, though all five are too close to call… which should probably be the subtitle for this election.  The AEC has five seats undetermined; four Liberal and one ALP, which according to the current tally are likely to remain with incumbents. If that is the case we are looking at a 72/73 split  between the ALP and LNP.

updated 1800hrs 4 July The ABC (i.e. Antony Green) has a slightly different tally, with ALP at 67, LNP at 68 up from 64. Out of the 10 ‘seats in doubt’ the LNP is ahead on slender margins in four seats, the ALP on a similar knife-edge in five, and Xenophon party fairly comfortable in one. Giving us a House looking like this:

One of the key factors in this election is that traditional conservative voters have felt betrayed by the Liberal and National parties.  Mining, CSG, the NBN, foreign ownership, constant cuts and privatisation have been a catalyst for conservative voters to look at what else is on offer. Some have realised that the ALP has policies they support; others have turned even further right. As a result, immigration is likely to be a continuing flashpoint, though this time around even Pauline Hanson supports socialised healthcare and the NBN.

Greens and Andrew Wilkie have a record of voting with the ALP, though Wilkie has stated he will not enter into any deals.  Cathy McGowan tends to vote with the Coalition. Previously Katter aligned with the LNP, though this time there’s no carbon tax on the table this time. Key issues for Katter are CSG, energy privatisation and land sales, all of which the ALP have made murmurs about, while the LNP are unwilling/unable to move on either. If that will shift the pragmatic Katter away from traditional alliances remains to be seen.  Xenophon has already said he will take the number of seats either party wins into account when negotiating agreements, so if that second seat in Grey comes to Team X then he will truly be the kingmaker.

Stiff Upper Lip
The new senate is going to be a mixed bag. Media and politicians alike may decry the election results as a circus as much as they like; but the people have spoken, just not coherently.

There are two truths in democracy: The voter is always right… and you get the government you deserve… and based on and the AEC website, the senate is currently looking like this:


The trend for seats in doubt generally toward the right wing parties such as Katter, Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers, One Nation, and the various Christian groups.  As per predictions, the lions’ share will likely go to the major parties; though there is a chance that either Katter or One Nation will get across the line.

Given the wide range of voices represented in the senate, we need to ask the question: Where do the new senators stand on legislation?

The Sydney Morning Herald published this rough breakdown of each parties’ focus.  The Weasel takes a next step and looks at how the senators will likely vote on current key issues.

Positions garnered from official policy statements, news reports, and interest group websites.
Where there is no clear position, it can be assumed that senators will use the issue as a bargaining chip to further their own agenda.

Marriage Equality
Derryn Hinch:     Pro equality, parliamentary vote
Fred Nile:            Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Jacqui Lambie:   Anti equality, pro plebiscite, conscience vote for party.
Katter:                 Anti equality
Lib Democrats:   Pro equality, parliamentary vote
One Nation:        Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Xenophon:          Pro equality, parliamentary vote
see also Aus Marriage Equality site

Climate Change / Renewable Energy
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Sceptic, pro nuclear
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports action (in statements), pro nuclear, voting record unclear
Katter:                 Pro Action, stop CSG, extend emission target, boost ethanol production
Lib Democrats:   Sceptics, support mitigation, pro nuclear
One Nation:        Wants a Royal commission into climate science “corruption
Xenophon:          Pro Action, 50% reduction target by 2030

Recognition or Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Opposes Constitutional recognition, supports increased engagement
Jacqui Lambie:   Constitutional recognition, plus dedicated indigenous seats in parliament
Katter:                 Wants action, possibly prefers treaty
Lib Democrats:   Opposes Constitutional recognition
One Nation:        Opposes Constitutional recognition and treaty
Xenophon:          Supports Constitutional recognition

Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           Improve education by adding bible study, and cutting Safe Schools
Jacqui Lambie:   Boost TAFE, introduce national-service style apprenticeship scheme
Katter:                 Pro funding boosts, also wants systematic education reform
Lib Democrats:  Stop Federal funding, pro deregulation, cut Austudy
One Nation:       Government subsidised apprenticeship scheme
Xenophon:         Pro Gonski, anti university deregulation

Royal Commission into Banking
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position, may support
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports
Katter:                Supports
Lib Democrats:  No clear position, unlikely to support
One Nation:       No clear position, may support
Xenophon:         Supports

Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           No clear position, wants more infrastructure
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports FTTP
Katter:                Supports FTTP
Lib Democrats:  Prefers private competitive roll out instead of government
One Nation:       Wants high speed broadband, proposes wireless hubs for regions
Xenophon:         Supports FTTP

Federal ICAC
Derryn Hinch:    Probably Pro ICAC
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Pro ICAC
Katter:                No clear position
Lib Democrats:  No clear position
One Nation:       Probably Pro ICAC
Xenophon:         Pro ICAC

Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Mandatory detention, prefers Christian refugees,
Jacqui Lambie:   Wants children out of detention, strict monitoring & quotas
Katter:                 Turnbacks, faster assessment, and supply work while on TPVs
Lib Democrats:   Mandatory detention, on/off shore processing, strict entry requirements
One Nation:        Turnbacks
Xenophon:          Dislikes offshore processing, increase intake, speed up processing

Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Better spending, especially in aged care
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports socialised medicine, especially for combat veterans
Katter:                 Supports socialised medicine, wants more services for regions
Lib Democrats:   Abolish Medicare, privatise, The Market will provide… apparently
One Nation:        Supports socialised medicine
Xenophon:          Supports socialised medicine, focus on prevention

On the question of which senators get a six-year stint, and which three… well that is up to the senate.  There are two options:
1. Order-of-election; Out of the 12 state senators, whoever crossed the line first gets six years.
2. Recount; Votes are recounted treating the vote as a normal three-year cycle. Whoever would have been elected on that basis gets six years.
Which one the senate uses will likely depend on the three major parties, with Xenophon once again in position as king-maker. The inestimable Antony Green, of course, covers this question in more detail.

The anti-Islam voting block of Fred Nile, One Nation, and Lambie will bring up issues surrounding Muslim Australians and immigration generally; and likely to include senate inquiries into banning burkas or halal certification and labelling. The LNP could use this flashpoint as a major negotiating chip to pass other legislation; though that is unlikely to be the ABCC bill.

On practical and ideological matters of investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure such as the NBN, the balance is definitely leaning toward the ALP.  Lambie, Katter and Xenophon have shifted to the centre on these issues, and the LNP can no longer rely on social policies to wedge support for their neo-liberal economic programme. Accepting a Federal ICAC may present the ALP with a ticket to govern, but marriage equality is unlikely to get anywhere unless the ALP can push an open vote. Action on climate will be problematic, expect another senate inquiry into nuclear power.

As predicted Derryn Hinch picked up the PUP and Ricky Muir vote, though really has very little to offer beyond his pet name-and-shame project, and animal justice.  Populist by nature, he could decide or shift his vote if a concerted push came from his electorate…

…and that is important to remember. You can write to your MP and your Senator to express your preference. This parliament is an opportunity for voters and community to have a real impact on the nature of the parliament, and what agenda the parliament pursues. Given that the independent parties may decide who gets to form government, the time to start writing is now.

For The Sake Of Unity Why Don’t You All Agree With Me?

A couple of months ago, I read an amusing post on Facebook which basically said that the Left should stop fighting among themselves and work together to defeat the Abbott Agenda. The writer then went on to say that Bill Shorten was hopeless and the Labor was gutless for not forcing a DD.

Presuming that by “DD” he meant Double Dissolution, I calmly pointed out that there was no way that Shorten could “force” a Double Dissolution and that it seems strange that a call for unity should be followed by an attack on the Labor leader.

To which he replied that it was people like me who just posted on Facebook who were the problem and that we needed to do something instead of just talking about it. I resisted the temptation to point out that he was also posting on Facebook, and decided that I’d do my bit for unity by ending the discussion there before he ended up telling me that I was a nazi who was trying to limit his free speech by disagreeing with him.

Now, I don’t have a problem with anyone criticising any of our politicians. As far as Shorten is concerned, I think the jury is still out. As Leader of The Opposition, there’s always going to be a limit to what you can do. Some will argue that he should be making more of a fuss about this or that. Even when he’s said quite a lot about this or that, but it’s been buried on page 9 of the newspaper and not reported on the nightly news at all. Even when Labor is riding high in the polls.

Whether it’s fair or not, I think Shorten can expect to be criticised for whatever he does or doesn’t do over the next few months.

However, when people start to suggest that Labor is “gutless” for not forcing a Double Dissolution, I start to worry about the general public’s knowledge of our parliamentary system and the history of 1975.

I’ll start with the idea that Labor (with help from other parties in the Senate) could block supply. Let’s ignore the obvious hypocrisy of Labor blocking the Budget after their rhetoric when Fraser did it 1975 and argue that was a long time ago, so who cares? When it happened in 1975, it didn’t immediately force an election. Whitlam tried to tough it out, and it was only when Kerr dismissed Whitlam and appointed Fraser as caretaker PM that Fraser was able to go back to Parliament and dissolve both Houses. There is an argument that if Labor had acted quickly they could have gagged Fraser – they still had the numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives – and moved a motion of confidence in Whitlam.

At the time, the Murdoch press was pushing for an election and supporting Fraser, arguing that these were “extraordinary circumstances”. Can you imagine the media today supporting a Labor blocking of supply? Or would it be blamed for a downturn in consumer confidence or jobs, the shutting down of shops, increased obesity and any droughts or flooding rains in the weeks after?

Even if supply had been blocked by the previous Senate, Abbott would have still had the option of waiting for the Senate that took control from today. Palmer’s PUPpets and the Independents would have no wish to go to an election any time soon. After all, they do have considerable bargaining power at the moment. Would they be prepared to risk it? Can you imagine Ricky Muir giving up his moment in the spotlight? Mm, wrong example…

But even assuming that the Senate did continue to refuse supply, that alone wouldn’t force Abbott to an election. In all likelihood, he’d just blame Labor for any problems and wait for someone else to blink. The idea that Labor or any combination of the minor parties could “force” the government to the polls is just wrong.

Frustrating the government’s legislative agenda to the extent that they choose to call an election, however, is a possibility. But given the government’s standing in the opinion polls it’s fairly unlikely at the moment.

As many of you already know, a double dissolution requires a trigger. A Bill must be rejected by the Senate, then after three months rejected again. Bills that are rejected can then be used as the basis for the double dissolution, and if they are rejected again after the subsequent election, the government can call a joint sitting of parliament and try to get them through that way. (This was how Whitlam succeeded in setting up Medibank and passing a number of other things which had been blocked, until after the 1974 Double Dissolution). While there may be others in the near future, at the moment, the only trigger that I’m aware of is the Clean Energy Bill.

Abbott would only be likely to call a double dissolution under two circumstances:

  1. If there were a number of Bills he wanted passed AND he thought he was a good chance of winning the election.
  2. If Turnbull looked like getting the numbers to oust him.

So, by all means, criticise Bill Shorten and the Labor Party for their policies, for their lack of cut-through, for their hairstyles, for their poor behaviour in Parliament (they’ve been thrown out a hundred times more often), or their factions.

But please don’t criticise them for not calling a double dissolution. It’s just not something that’s in their control.

Hockey plays chicken with the back bench



Did Hockey really just “threaten” a Double Dissolution? Dare we hope? You can literally hear the collective gasp of anticipation rippling out over social media. The mere possibility we may be able to get out of our electoral contract with “Hobott” (yes I just made a couple contraction of Hockey/Abbott….), before they manage to totally wreck the joint has people right across the nation on the edge of optimism for the first time in months.

Much as I would love to join them in preemptive celebration, I’m fairly certain Hockey is bluffing. It looks to me like “Hobott” are, in the absence of any better plan, playing chicken with their own back bench, and what we have here is an empty threat designed to put the fear of impending unemployment into their own MPs.

Like all new parents, Hobott are deeply proud of their first born budget, and would do almost anything to save its little life; however I believe they will stop well short of a family suicide pact, and opt instead to turn off its life support, and hope their second child might fare a little better.

While Hobott have yet to give up on their first born, (like all good parents, they are prepared to fight like caged tigers to see their child survive, no matter what the collateral damage), Hockey’s recent rhetoric on the senate;

. . . it is disrupting the role of government but if it just continually says no without any capacity to negotiate an improved outcome, then the Senate becomes irrelevant,” he said. “It’s simply a roadblock. We either have to smash through that roadblock or the Australian people get the chance to change the government.

. . . is just their latest desperate salvo in a fight they are now beginning realise they may not be able to win.

Admittedly it’s a brazen move, playing chicken with a DD when the polls are looking totally hideous for them; but I predict Hobott will blink first and abandon their much unloved bruiser of a budget in favor of a more mild mannered progeny.

As Liberal elder statesman Malcom Fraser famously pointed out on QA,”Tony Abbott would do what he needed to do to have power“. According to Fraser Abbott is man who is capable of Olympic level back flips on policy… so watch this space!

More articles by Letitia McQuade:

Abbott’s war on the environment is facing some tough opposition.

Introducing the new “ABC free” AUSTRALIA… now with extra ignorance, selfishness and cruelty

THE CLIMATE OF DENIAL: Why real climate action will NEVER come from big business or government.

The Wheat and the Chessboard

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

As this government goes from bad to worse it appears that they have no vision. Sadly they do, suggests regular guest writer Sean Stinson. Their plan is simple: slash and burn. 

They certainly are out of control if that is their aim.

Sean urges that the momentum from the March in March needs to be not only maintained, but taken to a higher level.

So it looks like there is going to be a March in May. I’d have to say I’m a little apprehensive – or maybe just lacking in confidence. The March in March was an unprecedented display of people power, with over 100 000 of us taking to the streets across the country, and although largely ignored by mainstream media, it’s something our grassroots movement can be rightly proud of. Can we do it bigger and better in May?

The only shadow of doubt I have is that March was perhaps some kind of social anomaly, a novelty which may not bear repetition. Nonetheless I remain hopeful. I have hope because I know it takes a special commitment to participate in a public protest. I am no role model. Until March I hadn’t been to a protest since Iraq II. Back then it was to send a message to the government that we wanted no part in Bush’s unjust war. Twelve years on and we are protesting a whole range of issues. We want compassion and open borders. We want gender equality. We want protection for our oceans, forests and aquifers. We want jobs, education and healthcare. We want our government to direct its focus away from continued reliance on fossil fuels and to get behind a clean energy industry that has the potential create massive employment with minimal ecological impact. (Seriously, who hasn’t thought about this?). Some have criticised the March in March for having a lack of focus. I could not disagree more. Our message is loud and clear: The Abbott Government is not acting for the common good of the free and sovereign people of Australia.

Some have argued that this government never really had a plan beyond winning the election and punishing Labor. I think otherwise. We’ve seen six months of economic slash and burn. Their actions to date have been to talk down the economy to justify savage cuts in public spending, while talking up the ‘issues’ (carbon tax, mining tax, boats) to fuel public opinion. Driven by the blind ideology of market supremacy, they plan to sell off all our public assets, carve up our natural resources and sell them to the highest (foreign) bidder, while attacking wages and conditions at home to effectively create a new class of working poor. It is Thatcherism plain and simple, and we all know how that worked out.

Don’t be fooled. Operation Sovereign Borders is a fireworks display. Royal commissions and Knights and Dames are political noise. MYEFO was the official launch for another political lie. Apparently we now have a $667bn gross debt. (“Product image for illustration purposes only. Actual product may vary”). The actual figure is $123bn, which in a $1.5tr economy amounts to about approximately 8.2% of GDP – I wish my personal debt was as low. Abbott says he wants to raise defence spending to a whopping 2% of GDP, while Hockey tells us we can’t afford Medicare. Where is the sense in this?

You should be concerned. This government is out of control. Legalising hate-speech (repealing section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act), repealing the Future of Financial Advice laws, and dissolving the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission were not policies anyone voted for at the last election. Nor was signing off on preferential trade agreements giving foreign corporations the right to challenge our laws and sue our government for lost profits. We are starting to see responses from all sectors of the community and there is a foul mood in the air. This government has really managed to piss off a lot of people in just six months in office. It’s not news that the ‘haves’ in our society suddenly outnumber the ‘have nots’; it’s been that way for centuries. The news is that Abbott and his mates have gone too far in too short a time and people are waking up to them. The government stinks, and the peasants are revolting [sic].

Revolutions throughout history have been violent and bloody. Fortunately we don’t need a revolution, because we already live in a democracy. What we do need is to send a strong and clear message to the government and let them know just who is in charge. Governments have a mandate to govern for the good of the people, not to outsource responsibility to free markets, and certainly not to take away our liberties. We are already seeing our rights eroded at state level. Victoria and Queensland have both passed new laws threatening freedom of assembly and freedom of association. There is a wave of rightwing thuggery spreading like cancer though our whole political system, and we need to put an end to it now. We can’t afford to wait till the next election. At the rate we’re going in three years time there may be nothing left to save. To borrow a few words from a fellow flag waving leftie, we need another Protest in April, a May Moratorium, a campaign of Justice in June and July, Action in August, a Solidarity Walk in September, Opposition in October, Say No in November, and a Double Dissolution in December.

I am reminded of the mathematical problem of the wheat and the chessboard, and wonder if this simple formula could not also be applied to taking back our country? Imagine if everyone who marched in March brought someone else along in May, be it a friend, family member, work colleague or a stranger. Do you see where I’m going with this? We’ll take to the streets in regular protests calling for equality, sustainability and accountability. And if we are serious, by December we will be over a million strong, and then we will call for a dismissal. Maybe even a long overdue Bill of Rights.


Abbott’s Brilliant Moves, as told to me by the media!

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Yesterday, a reporter on Sky News was reporting that the Opposition was wrong-footed in Question Time and that they just kept trying to hammer the point about whether any school would be worse off.

Just let that sink in for a while. Don’t start complaining about Bill Shorten or the Opposition just yet. The Opposition was wrong-footed because the Government does an apparent back-flip? And this is because the Opposition keep asking about the actual detail of this back-flip?

Strange way of looking at things. That’s like saying the police have been completely confused by a criminal’s confession, because they still keep asking questions about the crime.

Make no mistake – the apparent back-flip from Abbott and Pyne promises nothing. It simply adds the funding for the states and territories who didn’t sign up, and promises to keep total funding the same. Something which they had actually been doing for the past week. It was just that nobody believed them any more.

As far as ensuring that the states distribute it as the Gonski report was recommending, well they’ve got rid of the “command and control” aspects of the funding. In other words, the states can slash their own spending on education if they choose to.

So it’s the classic pea and sell trick. We think we know where the pea is, but it’s actually in the hand, so whatever shell we pick, we’re wrong.

But instead of an analysis of exactly what their “backflip” means, we have various media outlets, attacking the Opposition for still asking questions about what it means in terms of individual schools.

“The announcement, however, left Labor with nothing but the questions it had written before the change in the wind, and apparently too little time to change tack.

Shorten and his colleagues forged ahead with demands for guarantees that no school would be worse off.”

Tony Wright “Shorten’s lack of agility leads to low trousers” The Sydney Morning Herald

Well, attacking Labor leaders has been popular over the past few years – even from within the party – but it does seem strange to be focusing on them at a time like this. The Coalition are the Government of Australia. They will be making the decisions, and it’s these decisions which will affect the lives of the people. An analysis of what the Opposition’s doing seems a bit like a navel-gazing exercise at the moment. Certainly, comparing Shorten’s day yesterday with Fraser’s decision to call an election, only to find that Hayden had been replaced by Hawke is a bit like comparing Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest with the decision by Freddy’s parents to ground him for the weekend. 

As for calls for a double dissolution, as I’ve pointed out on this site previously, it’s not actually possible yet. And certainly, in spite of one reader’s passionate demand = “Tell Bill and the rest of the ALP to pull their fricken fingers out of their asses and call a dbl dissolution NOW!” – it’ll be Abbott who calls it, not the Opposition. He certainly isn’t likely to call it, if he thinks that he might lose.

There are still plenty of questions about the Government’s alleged change of mind. Let’s hope that the MSM keeps asking them and not just sites like this.

(BTW –  compare today’s Age/Sydney Morning Herald editorial with my blog of a few days ago. Should I sue them for plagiarism?)

Double Dissolution Now! Well, no, that’s actually not possible…

Photo: Australian Electoral Commission

Photo: Australian Electoral Commission

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.


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