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When is Australia’s next Federal Election?

That’s a harder question than it seems.  The complex interaction between laws relating to double dissolution elections, half Senate elections, House of Representatives elections, State elections (coming up in New South Wales and Victoria), and the timing of football finals and more, mean the earliest reasonably possible date is 4 August 2018, for which the election would have to be called by 2 July – only two months away – and the latest reasonably possible date would be May 18, 2019.

Making a judgement about which Saturday, between those dates, might be Election Day was complicated enough, and we were going to post this article which credibly suggests 20 October 2018:

Until the events of Wednesday 9 May 2018 made it much more complicated, that is!  Four ineligible “Members” of the House of Representatives flagged or delivered their resignations, to join Tim Hammond who recently resigned because of the impact of frequent travel on his young family:  All four (plus Mr Hammond) are non-Government MPs.

We’ve now got 5 by-elections across 4 states, and as Paula Matthewson notes in her newsletter* Despatches on 9 May:

“Somewhat surprisingly, the AEC website advises that “there are no constitutional or statutory requirement that writs … be issued within any prescribed period”.

“Interestingly there’s precedent for a Speaker to decline to issue a writ when a federal election is ‘pending’ to avoid having two elections in close proximity.”

This opens up the possibility of the Prime Minister (OK, notionally the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but let’s be real) waiting until 2 July or a couple of days before, and an early Australian general election would then be called for 4 August.

As Matthewson further noted:

“If opinion polls show that voters have responded favourably to the Budget, would this be a path that Turnbull would take to an ‘early’ election? The option would have to be tempting given it’s expensive to participate in a by-election, and the Coalition isn’t exactly cashed up when compared with the combined election war-chest that has been created by Labor and the union movement.”

Other things which might push Prime Minister Turnbull towards one Election Day or another include:

  • Voters can get cranky if they are sent to the polls too frequently or too early: with whom would the voters of the five by-election seats get angry, if required to vote in a general election shortly after a by-election? Maybe Labor, whose MPs/processes have caused four of the five by-elections, or maybe the Prime Minister who chose the schedule for both.
  • Four of those 5 seats are on a knife-edge, and campaigners in Liberal HQ will be urging the Prime Minister to do nothing which might alienate the voters.  Don’t forget he’s governing with a one-seat majority, and the prospect of doubling or tripling that margin must be appealing.
  • As noted by Ms Matthewson above, the Federal Budget has just been brought down, and no-one knows how the electorate is reacting: one thing for sure is that much of the media for the next day or two, at least, will be consumed with discussion of the resignations and by-elections rather than the budget.
  • The by-elections are a real opportunity to thoroughly test how well the parties campaign, and whether the budget is an electoral plus or minus.
  • If the timing of the by-elections means the general election needs to be further away, not calling that general election on 4 August means the general election might have to be called at time at which the political landscape is somewhat unknown and unpredictable: for example, when polling is less propitious for the Liberal-National Party Coalition, and fewer election date options are available, as Ms Crosby lays out in her Begin Rant article linked above.
  • Does Labor want an election now or next year? While it isn’t up to them to decide, they can put the Prime Minister under a lot of pressure over many of the choices he might make – and there will be concerns within the Coalition at their capacity to withstand sustained populist pressure.
  • The media – and some in the Australian Labor Party – are characterising these by-elections as a test of Labor Opposition Bill Shorten’s leadership: the incumbent Government would probably prefer to face Mr Shorten in a general election rather than a new Labor leader enjoying a honeymoon with the electorate.

So, our best bet:

Prime Minister Turnbull is most likely to wait and see how well his budget is received in the community over the next week, and then choose both by-election and general election dates.

Which ones? On balance, probably by-elections now (say, June) which maintains some flexibility to call a general election for late October, May 18 2019, or February 28 2019, or less likely another date in 2019 albeit identified in Ms Crosby’s article as somewhat unfavourable … but if by-election dates aren’t announced in the next couple of weeks, get ready for a general election on 4 August 2018.


PS … Thanks to everyone who has been debating these options on Facebook et al – the discussion has provided plenty of food for thought!



* You should subscribe, via this page




New Australian Government Ministry 2016

min-vs-opp-160724The new Australian Federal Ministry has been announced, and the Shadow Ministry as well, in the last few days, in consequence of the Australian Federal Election held on 2 July 2016.

Ethical Consulting has done the hard work of matching up Government office-bearers against their Opposition counterparts, for you to download, here

If you prefer, here’s the Ministry and here’s the Shadow Ministry for you to download, also.





Last Week in Queensland – 25 July 2016

last-week-logo-2This week in Queensland we saw who’s in the new Federal Ministry and Shadow Ministry; we heard about State Parliament’s Estimates Committee hearings, and the Government made each Minister a “champion” for a major indigenous community.

Federal Government

  • In consequence of the recent Australian Election, the new Federal Ministry has been announced, and the Shadow Ministry.  We’ve done the hard work of matching up Government office-bearers against their Opposition counterparts, for you to download, here
  • If you prefer, here’s the Ministry and here’s the Shadow Ministry for you to download, also.




MP for Bundamba Jo-ann Miller


The Opposition and Crossbench

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls



Independent candidate for Toowoomba South Di Thorley

Independent candidate for Toowoomba South Di Thorley




Economy and Infrastructure


ParliamentOpening Parliament 2015

  • Queensland’s Parliament is busy but not formally sitting: we’ve had Estimates hearings on the State Budget this week, and again from 26 to 28 July: the schedule for hearings is here:
  • The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here
  • The Federal Parliament was prorogued for the Federal Election held on 2 July, and the first sittings days for the new Parliament are Tuesday 30 August to Thursday 1 September – see


Sleeper Issues?






* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.



Last Week in Queensland – 4 July 2016

last-week-logo-2The Federal Election Campaign continues to dominate news* because we don’t yet know who’s won, and Queensland’s Infrastructure Pipeline Report generates debate … and focus … last week in Queensland.

Federal Election

  • Even in Queensland we noticed there was a Federal Election – it’s been increasingly dominating the local news as we’ve got closer to Election Day.  At the time of writing, the state of play is this:
    • Most likely there will be a very small Liberal-National Party majority in the House of Representatives.
    • There’s some prospect of a minority Liberal-National Party Government with support from cross-bench Members of Parliament, and a small chance of a minority Labor Government.
    • Each of these is likely to produce quite unstable Government and a degree of daily political uncertainty.
    • The Senate will be beyond anyone’s consistent control and quite unpredictable, with a very big Senate cross-bench (maybe as many as 19, some commentators say) made up of a multiplicity of parties.
    • Final Senate results may not be known until August.
  • The ABC’s Queensland summary as of Sunday:
  • Ben Rau’s summary of the in-doubt seats
  • Tim Colebatch’s summary of the uncertainties




The Opposition and Crossbench

  • Opposition scores hits on State Government over Cross River Rail funding: see below under ‘politics’



Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls




Economy and Infrastructure



  • Queensland’s Parliament sits again from 19 to 22 July, and 26 to 28 July, for Estimates Committee hearings on the State Budget
  • The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here
  • The Federal Parliament has been prorogued until after the Federal Election on 2 July – see


Sleeper Issues?

Police Minister Bill Byrne

Police Minister Bill Byrne





* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.



Labor Party National Conference – Preview

Don’t believe what you read in the mainstream media (e.g. or what’s on Facebook.


The Australian Labor Party’s triennial National Conference* is in Melbourne in a month – 24 to 26 July – and most analysis you’ll see is desperately shallow, aspirational, malicious, and/or tainted by faction, politics, or Rupert Murdoch’s evil.

The real dynamics of the Conference are much more nuanced than commentators are so far acknowledging.

It is true that all but about 1.5% of the 397 voting delegates are lined up with either the Right or the Left factions, and on raw numbers no group has majority support.  Solid numbers for each of the Left and Right sit somewhere in the 190s, but each are below the magic 199, and unaligned numbers are around four to six.


BUT it’s also true that on many issues the numbers float, hence “somewhere in the 190s”, and on key issues there is often a leakage of votes: the factions are pretty rigid at National Conference, but there is plenty of scope for votes to fragment.  For example, there are two Right factions in Queensland,** but the smaller of the two pride themselves on some degree of autonomy, and might be attracted to vote with the Left on several issues.  And there are at least two Lefts and two Rights in Victoria.

When you add in the unions who sometimes split from their usual factional colleagues when they see an issue as being of particular interest to their members, and the restiveness of some unions who are increasingly attracted to autonomy, there is plenty of scope for votes to be determined other than along strict factional lines.

So what does that mean for the Conference, for the ALP, and for Australia?

Both factions will see the imperative of unity and discipline, to maximise their influence: this will be more important than at past Conferences because of the tighter numbers, and impose greater strains on both Left and Right, over specific policy and Party reform issues, as they try to craft positions that will keep “their” votes united.

Numerical uncertainty will force negotiation and compromise – no one wants to go to a vote if they don’t know what the outcome will be.  That’s likely to mean very few real debates or fights on the Conference floor – consensus around difficult compromises, and tense behind-the-scenes negotiation is probably the order of the day.  While these deals will often involve the non-aligned delegates, their rejection of caucusing or voting collectively makes it difficult to get enough of them on board any particular proposition, so it is much more likely that the Left and the Right will be the most frequent deal-makers.

Those passionate about heart-felt issues will do everything they can to win over the handful of votes that might secure success, and will be furiously lobbying anyone who can command a handful of votes – which is mostly union officials, as union members at the Conference often vote in a bloc with their union’s leadership.

The Right’s past dominance of Conference has meant they sometimes dump a controversial issue on the agenda with little notice and no negotiation, and claim the Left are party-wreckers if they oppose whatever it is.

While that might be tried at this Conference, it’s already been discussed within the Left that no such manipulation should be accommodated, regardless of the proponent – that bad behaviour should not be rewarded, but punished.  On the other side of the ledger, Right faction leaders have been discussing how they ensure Conference isn’t seen as moving the Party leftwards.

This Conference is the last before the next Federal Election, so delegates will be aware that it needs to positively position Labor and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for the campaign – so taking procedural or policy risks may prove unwise.

Every delegate will have their favourite issues and passions, but the imperative to negotiate, and to demonstrate unity in the run-up to the next election, might well mean that very few of those passions and issues-based divisions are paraded publicly.  There will be at least one issue, and often more, in every chapter of the draft Platform where the differences between and within Left and Right will make it very hard for agreement to be struck.

Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water is the newly elected National President, in a ballot that confirmed the Left’s appeal to the Party’s rank-and-file membership – Left candidates secured 67% of the vote.  He’ll be chairing the Conference, and can influence the agenda and process – his strength as a factional leader means he can to some degree force the factions to behave.

The draft Platform was considered by Labor’s National Executive on 19 June 2015 and should be released the week that this is published, and while the Rules report is likewise close to completion, many key participants are barely ready to list the key and potentially divisive Party reform or policy issues, let alone working out what can be done with them.

Of the ballots to be conducted at the Conference, the Left seems likely to increase their representation on the powerful National Executive, from nine out of twenty, to ten.



* This is the supreme governing body of the Australian Labor Party, and the decisions of the conference are binding on all members.  It elects the National Executive, and determines Rules and Platform.
** Some members of the “soft” Right, the smaller Labor Unity faction, will vigorously dispute this description, but historically they have been part of the Right in Labor’s Federal Parliamentary caucus and at National Conference.  Labor Unity, though, has developed a positive and stabilising relationship with The Left in Queensland, and recent history – a loooooong story – is likely to make them less comfortable siding with the national Right caucus on some issues.