Double dissolution election chances increase

The first two weeks of the new Senate have made the prospect of an early double dissolution election more likely.  John Quiggin is right to argue that “the rejection of the government’s changes to luxury car tax shortens the odds considerably.”

There are three main factors which make me think a double dissolution is quite likely, with the only caveat being that Kevin Rudd would need to be convinced he had a good enough justification to avoid being punished electorally for calling an early election.

First, the Senate looks very likely to deliver Kevin Rudd more than enough reason to credibly justify a double dissolution.  Secondly, all the smaller players in the Senate stand to come out a double dissolution better off. Thirdly, a double dissolution is very likely to produce a new Senate which will be much easier for Labor to deal with than the current Senate.

Every new federal government since at least Menzies has called an early election.  Having major measures repeatedly blocked by the Senate is a credible reason for a government to call a double dissolution election. Indeed it is the whole rationale behind the double dissolution trigger in the Constitution – to resolve a dispute between the two houses of Parliament.

If it is not possible for sufficient common ground to be reached to enable a measure like the luxury car tax to be passed by the Senate, it suggests the chances of getting majority Senate support for legislation around an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) are almost zero.

The ETS is a difficult issue politically, so Labor would probably be anxious about running an election campaign predominantly around that issue.  But if the Senate blocks a lot of other measures besides an ETS, Kevin Rudd can easily make an early double dissolution election all about the issue of enabling the government to implement their economic agenda, which is a much easier message to campaign on.

Labor has the added incentive that a double dissolution election would almost certainly lead to a new Senate which is much more favourable for them.   Even if Labor’s overall Senate numbers didn’t increase, simple mathematics says the Coalition would almost certainly lose some seats under a double dissolution even if their primary vote improves.  Labor’s Senate problem is not the high number of minor party Senators, it is the very high number of seats the Coalition has.  The more this drops, the greater the chance that Labor will have a Senate makeup where they would only need the support of the Greens to get things through – a far easier task than they have at the moment.

A double dissolution also suits the interests of all the smaller players in the Senate.  It would certainly suit Fielding, who has almost no chance of holding his seat otherwise. It wouldn’t hurt Xenophon at all, and could even give him a chance of getting a running mate in with him, it would almost certainly increase the Greens’ overall numbers. The Greens would be at risk of losing one of their two WA Senators, but would more than make up for that with gains in other states, including gaining their first ever Senators in Queensland and Victoria.

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  1. I personally think that,the ALP will be penalised Federally by calling the double trouble.Seeing Iemma and Costa have just resigned which horses have they chosen as their next careers!? Upwards ever upwards by Government candidancy,or political appointments,or b, private mug enterprise!?The ALP must learn to work,after all that’s still the basis of party and what they claim about themselves.If they do not follow through on any of the policies and directions before the last election,they cannot honestly escape because of Senate failure.Fielding’s decision was not a curtain call for the blatherers to say they were robbed by the same people they have given much tax help too.Sheer bloody greed. Which probably means economic matters like in Rudd’s last statement are going to peel a onion layer off the well catered for,and they want a method to rob again,those that cannot lift themselves up by their socks.Remember what the quack turd for emergencies said about a lack of something in the Australian character.Its an attempt to get the TV division between the major parties as in the U.S.A. even more formulated in Australia..if election mode begins nationally.Government can never ever be about the confidence of its practioners or some small group of self-important money grubbers,who should be heading for court rather than causing all sorts of problems by defying by shrewd means.

  2. As a supporter of the Labor Government I like the idea of dissolving the houses. Labor were given a mandate to implement their current pending legislation.

    Given the state of the opposition – and their pithy opposition for opposition’s sake – surely they will return from a double dissolution stronger. Moreover, the electorate has witnessed that the sky has not fallen in because of a Labor Government, nor does the argument, spun by the Coalition and their journalistic staffers, that Labor are ‘poor economic managers’, carry much potency. Instead of half-assed policy that is a mix ‘n’ match sham devised from the righteousness of Steve Fielding and the defuct ‘opposition for opposition sake’ doctrine of the Coalition, let the Government lead and the people can make up their minds at the next election.

    Mind you, I do appreciate the value of the Senate. However, if it is going to cintinue to be used for political point scoring by oppositions and ideologues then perrhaps it needs reforming. It worked perfectly in the Howard government. They were ejected.

  3. “the greater the chance that Labor will have a Senate makeup where they would only need the support of the Greens to get things through”

    If that happens, it will be intresting, eh? The Greens will then be under a lot of pressure to do continual deals with the government, many of which will be against their core principles — something they haven’t got a lot of experience of. (If I was a hyperbolist like Christine Milne, I’d say that until this week no minor party has ever done a deal with a government :-)

  4. Well, I did predict a double dissolution, but I don’t understand how Labor is going to come up with a less hostile Senate.

    Some people don’t like Rudd. If another election is held, we might get more Liberals back again. Heaven help us all if they start running the show again.

  5. Interesting stuff! A question about Fielding – how does a dbl dissolution work better for him if he is likely to lose his seat in a normal election? (I’m not up to date on the Family First stuff).

  6. I find myself wondering. In the event of a double dissolution election, would the Democrats field candidates? Or has that ship well and truly sailed, and the Democrats no longer in a position (be it for financial or other reasons) to do so?

    I’ll admit that I’m primarily a Greens supporter, but I’m nonetheless saddened to see the Democrats no longer a political force. It would be good to see them back in action.

    Julie: A double dissolution causes all seats in the Senate, instead of just half, to be up for election. This halves the normal quota (approximately), meaning that a given Senate candidate requires half the number of votes than would be the case in a “normal” election. So it becomes significantly easier for a minor party to obtain a Senator than otherwise.

  7. Julie: “how does a dbl dissolution work better for him”

    I am no expert but I believe what is being referred to is that in a double dissolution election the entire senate is up for election, rather than just half the senate, therefore the quota of votes needed to win a senate seat is halved.

  8. I disagree regarding Fielding. Suppose a double dissolution is held early next year. Fielding is quite likely to lose (he needs 8 per cent for a quota), and even if he wins he will only get a three-year term, which gives him an extra year or so relative to his current term

    So, unless he thinks he’s three to one on to get back, he should be hoping that there is no double dissolution.

    The benefit for Labor is that the likely outcome will require them to deal only with the Greens. If things go really well, they might be able to choose between the Greens and Independents.

  9. John, I think you’re underestimating Fielding’s chances in a double d. The combined CDP, FF and DLP vote is between 3.5-4.5% in Victoria (especially if the DLP is to the left of the ALP on the senate ticket), and both the DLP and FF have shown they have the ability to get good preference deals . It’s quite possible for either FF or the DLP to get to about 5% on micro party preferences, and then they are well placed to benefit from any overflow from the Coalition. However, in a half senate election, FF not only has a much higher quota to hurdle – they are also far less likely to get into a position where they finish ahead Coalition for the final spot and benefit from their preferences.

    A win in a double d, even if they only got a 3 year term instead of a 6 year term would boost FF’s morale, and give them more credibility in the media a year out from a Vic state election where they have chances in the legislative council. If they lose, they still have a year and a half to regroup before the state election. They also don’t have to deal with the strain of covering state and federal elections within a few weeks of each other. In these circumstances, they may think the risks in a double d are worth it.

    This also makes a double d extremely beneficial for the Greens. Not only will they pick up a swag of senators, as Andrew points out, they can also freely attack the ALP without having to worry about people thinking they have to vote for the ALP to get rid of John Howard (according to some Melbourne Greens I’ve talked with, this was a problem for them in the last couple of federal elections). They came second in Melbourne on preferences in the last federal election, and if a double d allows them to attack the ALP, then they could increase their vote in Melbourne, and have a real shot of winning the seat.

  10. Polly:

    I think what will happen if there’s a double dissolution will very greatly depend on the general public’s reaction to carbon taxes.

    I think there has been a significant backlash against Labor in WA, where they are heavily reliant on income from mining. Perhaps voters are afraid that China will send its 6 million strong army to collect more expensive mineral resources for free.

    I think Steve Fielding’s goose might be cooked. I don’t think most people would object to the downsizing of vehicles (or encouragement in that direction) which would reduce both personal costs and emissions. I think he is too wealthy and too UN-GREEN for nearly anyone.

    He could consider switching to LNP or start a new party called “The Browns”, but I bet Bob Brown wouldn’t be too happy with the name.

    I think Family First has Buckley’s chance of winning ANY seats after Fielding’s performance in the Senate.

  11. Lorikeet: As you’ve stated that Senator Steven Fielding is “too wealthy“, could you explain the basis for the belief? Also, can you clarify at what point one is “too wealthy“?

    Also do you think he had some sort of obligation to vote onside with the Labor government?

  12. GZG:

    Fielding is clearly backing ownership of luxury vehicles which burn more fuel. Who do you think owns them? The poor?

    A person is certainly too wealthy if he/she thinks like he does on this issue. The same applies to the Liberals (and others if any) that he voted with.

    Fielding can vote with, or for, anyone or anything he wants. That’s his democratic choice.

    Luckily we all have the same choice.

  13. Actually Lorikeet. I think a lot of poor people own cars that consume more fuel. Partly because they can’t afford to upgrade, and partly because some of them like having hotted up V8s. There may be other reasons.

    But while I have no idea why Fielding voted the way he did, I don’t think it’s because he’s too wealthy. I don’t think he’s really given much thought to families though.

  14. Lorikeet: So without basis, you said that Steven Fielding was “too wealthy“, but you really meant he was in some way guilty of the sin of supporting people more wealthy than yourself (assuming you don’t have the schmick car).

    Wayne Swan also deceptively put it that “essentially, what the Liberal Party is doing is supporting a tax cut for owners of luxury cars.

    Go figure!

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, luxury cars don’t necessarily burn more fuel by the way, and conversely as muzz’ says, poor people can be chewing through the petrol with their inexpensive cars.

    If I were to propose a 33% tax on, let’s say, diamonds over one carat in size, or alternatively, on the construction of houses to a contract value of over $250K, would it be unpopular to argue against such a tax (just because you’ve found a taxpayer with plenty of dollars up their sleeve)?

    I really am not especially arguing for or against Senator Fielding on the LCT issue, but higher & higher taxes on “luxury” items can’t always be right can it?

    Those not within reach of the targeted “objet du désir” may say “hit ’em hard”, but reason has to prevail at some point.

    Muzzmonster:</b“I have no idea why Fielding voted the way he did

    Fielding explains luxury car tax rejection

  15. Muzz:

    Would poor people be driving luxury cars? I guess you must mean the Rolls Can’ardly – rolls down one hill and can ‘ardly get up the next.

    The hotted up V8s can go as well. I don’t care if people like them or not.


    Thanks for the link, but I did also see the original interview. Fielding is in the enviable position of being able to tell the whole country any crap of his choosing.

    I have no problem with the leaders of government being supplied with luxury vehicles. I find the amount of money that has been spent on the fixtures, tiles and fittings in Parliament House much more disturbing.

    I don’t find Wayne Swan’s comment to be particularly out of step with the facts. Did the Liberals plus Fielding cut Labor’s new tax to shreds or not? That is the question.

    I don’t think taxation is a matter of picking on any individual person at all.

    No, I don’t own a car by choice. If I did, it would be small and serviceable, not schmick. Personal attacks will never pass as viable argument.

    It does seem fairly clear that you support camels trying to squeeze their way through the eyes of needles, so insensitive rich “Christians” can follow.

  16. Lorikeet:

    “Fielding is in the enviable position of being able to tell the whole country any crap of his choosing
    Indeed, just like any other politician, only under greater public scrutiny given the circumstances.

    Did my assumption that you “don’t have the schmick car” cause offence? No personal attack intended – I haven’t a flash car either :)

    The Liberal Party (or Senator Fielding) would be “supporting a tax cut for owners of luxury cars” if they proposed a LC tax cut from 25% to 10%, or to nil. We are all aware that this is not the case.

    You do like using the eye of a needle line out of context and in a manner that would honour Joh BP!

    Remember that I’m not arguing for or against Senator Fielding’s position, rather, for his right to make a stance, a right which some would seem to think as non-existent.

  17. GZG – “Remember that I’m not arguing for or against Senator Fielding’s position, rather, for his right to make a stance, a right which some would seem to think as non-existent.” Yes, I agree he has that right(every right has an accompanying responsibility – that’s what I taught my kids anyway) but doesn’t he have an obligation beyond just that, as he’s employed by the people of the country to represent them(in his state at least?). Further, he’s claimed(on many occasions) to undertake to scrutinize legislation re its effects on families (I took it to mean most/average or, those closest to the bottom of the financial ladder? not those who are well off) and when he behaves in this manner, he leads people like me and others to question his motives, and his ‘fair dinkumness’? There’s also a feeling(me included) that he’s sold out to the conservatives, who support big business(including the more prestigeous car making industry).

    I can make a stance, and put forward my own views, but if I was in Parliament, I’d have to think of those I was elected to represent, and it wouldn’t be the ‘big end’ of town, that’s for sure. To me, $59,000 is a heap of money(full stop) that much a year would be a luxury, and to spend it on a car would be an irresponsible indulgence? Apparently, the Coalition has submitted its ‘shopping list’ to Govt totalling $6-8 billion???And then vote against this??Typical!

  18. A luxury car tax provides the perfect reason to hold a DD. Most Australians will react against those seen to be upholding privilege, so it would hurt the Libs and Fielding especially.


    That makes a lot of sense.


    I think the religious context is good. It was you who slung mud regarding Fielding committing a sin.

    To my knowledge, the only person trying to undermine his democratic rights is Naomi.

    I suggest you find a chimpanzee to pick nits with, and leave Wayne Swan to his financial machinations, now that the Liberals and Fielding have tossed a spanner under his bonnet.


    Politicians who belong to a party can’t just do whatever they want. They have to tow the party line. Family First belongs to the conservative religious right as far as I can tell, with an umbilical cord firmly attached to the Liberal Party.

    A Family First candidate doorknocked my house once. I wasn’t impressed with what he had to say. I’d suggest putting their candidates near the bottom of the voting order, one step up from Liberals, Nationals and Labor. A person in your circumstances should probably keep Liberals/Nationals right at the bottom.

    I think all of the major parties want to privatise education (mostly by default), and probably health also, using the same methodology.

  20. Andrew Bartlett:

    If there is a double dissolution – which I think is unlikely at present – I do hope you can throw you hat into the ring again. You’re definitely woth feeding.

  21. GZG – . Naomi”A person in your circumstances should probably keep Liberals/Nationals right at the bottom. ” My goodness, I’d hate to think I’ve given the impression, that I’ve ever supported any of those! I certainly put them and their ilk at the bottom. In NSW we haven’t had FF in my electorate, fellow travellers perhaps, and they’d certainly go to the bottom. And I agree that the major parties would like to privatise as you stated. I think they’ve started already? Look at Federal funding for both these areas for example? 70% of funding to 30% of schools (private) while public schools receive the 30%? As for towing the party line – I’m always amused by the “conscience” vote on some issues(usually relating to sex or euthanasia) – it’s good to see that they have one, even though they only trot it out, occasionally! How do they operate the rest of the time? Usually supporting big money!
    I think Brendan Nelson is an opportunistic person, engaging in populist politics.Look at his hypocrisy over pensions. I’d like someone to show me when he ever spoke out re the lowest income strugglers during the Howard years! This $30 pw increase he’s advocating(not that I couldn’t use it or want it) is not thought out, and if he was PM he’d have 100 reasons why he should wait until the next budget – “do it properly” etc.On a personal level, he gives me the ‘creeps’? Doesn’t pass my ‘sleaze barometer’?
    The biggest negative re a DD is the peoples’ attitude to ‘unnecesssary elections’ – note the backlash to Allan Carpenter in WA, not the only negative reason, but one of them. However, I’d understand if the Rudd Govt got incensed over the ‘opposition just because’ tactics being used now. Pretty childish too! Nelson and his mates aren’t displaying leadership. They’re behaving like spoilt brats! ‘If we’re not in control, we won’t let you govern either!’ attitude is tiresome & boring after 10 months! I’ve got sick of yelling at the TV, I just switch to another channel or???

  22. Naomi:A person in your circumstances should probably keep Liberals/Nationals right at the bottom

    I’ve become a little disengaged with your ongoing diatribes, but would like to mention that it was Lorikeet you quoted

    Didn’t the pension increase year by year under your despised Liberal government?

    I guess Kevin’s “wait for a review (though we’ve already had one)” is better than your imagined “100 reasons why he should wait until the next budget”.

    “I’ve got sick of yelling at the TV”

    Turn the TV off Naomi, look for an animate object on which to vent your anger (way more satisfying, but I’d recommend cats in lieu of people, let alone babies or politicians).

  23. Naomi:

    Yes, I agree with most of that.

    I think the amount of income support single pensioners receive is atrocious. An increase of $30 per week is long overdue and will still not bring them up to par with married pensioners.

    Pensions are based on 25% of average male weekly earnings. I think they should be based on 25% dual household income. Times and household incomes have changed, but pension calculation hasn’t.

    Yes, I think Brendan Nelson is a hypocrite, but he doesn’t particularly strike me as a sleaze.

    In Queensland, our school students are doing abominably poorly. People who are renting are almost being forced into sending their kids to private sector schools, because the public system is overflowing with students.

    I think governments (both state and federal) intend to privatise education by continuing to give large sums of money to private schools, which are double dipping from both government and parents. This means they have the wherewithal to build MORE PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

    At the same time, Education Queensland is amalgamating state primary schools, and despite the best efforts of politicians, they will not build any new schools where they are desperately needed.

    Rudd gave only 13 computers in total to the 2 high schools in our area, which must be servicing at least 2500 students, possibly quite a lot more.


    When Howard gave a $500 bonus to pensioners, it was only to buy their votes. No similar bonus came the way of disability pensioners, even though many of them needed it more.

    Under Howard, pension increases were somewhat akin to waving a teabag over your cup and still expecting to drink somewhat more than thin air.

    Assets test limit increases make a snail’s pace appear fast.

    If you have any money invested, you get “taxed” on the interest by Centrelink for up to a year before it is even received, and you have to survive on quite a bit less than an average pensioner in between times.

  24. GZG – “Didn’t the pension increase year by year under your despised Liberal government?” (I despised Howard for more reasons than my own personal financial position. He was a cruel, ruthless, hateful meglomaniac). We receive approx $5 pw in March & October – then our rent goes up, about June/July. The Pharmaceutical Allowance has been the same since I was first put on a DSP – approx $5.50 -even NHS scripts have doubled in that time. Also, people on a DSP didn’t get the $1000 at the time of the introduction of the GST, and until this year, didn’t receive the utilities payment/s either. Howard’s the first government to tax the aged – and the NSW Labor govt increased our rent from 20% of income to 25% – over 5 years.(2000-05) When it’s all added, pensioners, all of them, are worse off. I do agree that the govt needs to get it ‘right’ for now & for the future! In 12 yrs of Opposition, they didn’t have access to all relevant Treasury info, but does it have to take so long?Perhaps a ‘one off’ bonus prior to Xmas could be considered, or reduce the ‘service fee’ on gas/electricity – I have to pay $39 service fee on about $17 worth of gas, and about the same on electricity – that’s about $300 per year for pensioners!
    GZG- How much do you live on per week smarty? What Howard & Costello did do prior to the election, was ensure that they and their wealthy mates got a good deal during their retirement -$2 million extra for those 2 while we live way below the poverty line! Defend that!
    LORIKEET- I agree about education. How many politicians send their kids to a public school? How many politicians didn’t have to pay for their Uni degrees? None of the Vice-Chancellors did! (4 Corners program last yr – each one was asked?) Our whole society is now based on a ‘user pays’ ideology – part of Coalitions ‘freedom of choice’ as espoused by Malcolm Turnbull today,no doubt. They should add, ‘if you can’t afford to pay, tough luck, die then, but do it quietly’

  25. Naomi:

    The Pharmaceutical Allowance is currently $5.80 per fortnight. It certainly hasn’t increased in years.

    Yes, the government has a “user pays” ideology – but not when it comes to double income couples seeking a huge baby bonus – and not when it comes to paying for child care when both parents work.

    Combine the “user pays” ideology with empowerment of children and legalised euthanasia, and you know what we’re going to get in our old age.

    Yesterday I was reading my copy of “50 Something” which is a publication of National Seniors.

    They say some of Rudd’s new health initiatives will take more services (and tax dollars) away from the elderly and those with mental health problems.

    Whenever pensions and personal hardship are discussed anywhere, disability pensioners seldom seem to warrant a mention.

  26. NC: How much do you live on per week smarty?
    You would not like the answer Naomi (nor would I if I worked it out … there’s no Centrelink in there, but probably should be if I applied).

    Lorikeet: re: “double income couples seeking a huge baby bonus”
    Is it seeking when it’s offered (or would you “seek it” if it was available to you?)

    re: “and not when it comes to paying for child care when both parents work”
    I think I may be “on your page” re childcare Lorikeet, but I have to ask, why would one want to pay for childcare if only one parent was working?

  27. GZG:

    Yes, I would seek the huge baby bonus if it was offered. Who wouldn’t? If people didn’t apply for it, I don’t think they would get it.

    For many years now (might be about 20), the average stay-at-home Mum of possibly 1 or 2 children has believed herself to be entitled to “her break” from parenting. I have a sister like that.

    Child care is heavily subsidised by the government, and so the parents’ contribution in one income families is often low.

    I once had an argument with some of these mothers in the local newspaper. Believe me, there was no convincing them to look after their own children, even when working women needed the child care places.

    Sometimes children go to child care a couple of days a week if they have no siblings at home. If you join a play group instead, chances are that a large number of women will not discipline their children, do their share of the supervision, bring a cake for morning tea, or an activity for the children when it is their turn.

    I have found most modern mums to be unreliable volunteers in schools also. They promise to help teachers with fairly ambitious craft classes, for example, but keep letting them down. For example, if they should bump into a friend at the shopping centre on craft afternoon, they will stay there and have a coffee while letting teachers and students down.

    I think the purveyors of “Me Syndrome” have a lot to answer for in relation to many modern social ills.

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