Electoral Reform Australia predicts that the next Federal election will be an early election held in October/November 2018 for the House of Representatives and half the Senate – a full twelve months before the Constitutional deadline of October 2019 for a House of Representatives election.
In 1963, Prime Minister Menzies called an early House of Representatives election without a corresponding half Senate election, despite not losing a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives.
This panicked decision by Menzies resulted in a series of half Senate elections (1964, 1967, and 1970) in which the government was subject to a free hit from the electorate while knowing that they could not lose office.
Since then no standalone House of Representatives election has been called and it is unlikely that a Prime Minister would ever voluntarily do so again.
Double Dissolutions are not much better and, if called in the second half of the year, may be much worse.
The Australian Constitution requires Senators to have fixed six year terms. After any Double Dissolution, these six year terms need to be re-established. The Senate divides the Senators elected from the States into long term and short term Senators, and the Constitution backdates the start of the terms of these Senators so that they are deemed to have commenced on the previous 1 July.
A short term Senator elected at the Double Dissolution held on 2 July 2016 will get a term of 2 years and 363 days. Had Prime Minister Turnbull called the 2016 Double Dissolution for 28 June 2016, this same Senator would have been elected for a term of 2 years and 2 days. Hence Turnbull’s extra-long 2016 election campaign.
However, the 2 July election date will still cause Turnbull to call the next election early.
A half Senate election will be required sometime between July 2018 and June 2019 and, because Turnbull will not repeat Menzies’ blunder, a House of Representatives election will be called at the same time.
It will not be in May/June 2019. It is winter and it is too close to the end of the term, which will give rise to too much speculation on the potential date of the election and make the PM look weak. Turnbull would also not want an election too soon after a good/bad NSW State election.
It will not be in February to April 2019, as this will clash with the next NSW State election, which is to be held on 25 March 2019. Turnbull’s Liberal Party colleagues would not want a Federal election campaign interfering with their re-election prospects.
It will not be in January 2019 – school holidays, and too hot.
It will not be in December 2018. The last December election was 1 December 1984. Retailers object to December elections as it interferes with Christmas shopping.
Therefore, we predict that the next Federal election will be held in October/November 2018, despite this being twelve months before the October 2019 constitutional deadline.
This is the consequence of the failure to support the proposed constitutional amendments that would have brought in simultaneous elections. Without such an amendment in place, the advantages of using a double dissolution to assist in passing a piece of legislation are greatly outweighed by the necessity of calling the next election early.
The advanced timetable also affects those of us looking for genuine Senate electoral reform, because the next Senate election will be in less than two years. We will need to move quickly.