With the Federal election upon us, and the first Double Dissolution election since 1987, I have had many people ask me what is it all about.

Why are we having a Double Dissolution election?  What does it all mean? What is the likely outcome?  Why is the campaign so long.  These are a selection of the questions that I have been asked.

I hope you enjoy the question and answer, and if you want to ask me any further questions regarding the longest election campaign since 1984 please don’t hesitate to do so.

For those interested in the Senate and the likely outcome, I will be providing an analysis on this within the next week.  All I can say at this stage is, the Senate will be ugly!!

2016 Federal Election Q&A

Why has the Government chosen to go to a Double Dissolution early Election?

The Government has seen its legislative agenda frustrated by the Senate crossbench made up of eight minor party Senators elected in 2013.

In order to try and get rid of them, the Government firstly changed the Senate voting rules to make it harder for minor parties to get elected, and secondly had a Bill which the Government claimed was vital to cleaning up the Australian construction sector, twice rejected by the Senate.

This has allowed the requirements of section 57 of the Constitution to be met, thus allowing the Prime Minister to advise the Governor-General to dissolve both the House and the Senate and call a Double Dissolution election for 2 July.

What is the advantage of a Double Dissolution Election?

In a normal Federal election, all 150 members of the House of Representatives face election and only half the Senate, being six Senators from each of the States.

In the Double Dissolution election called for 2 July, which will be only the 7th since Federation and the first one since 1987, all Senators are up for re-election being 12 from each of the states and the 4 from the Territories for a total of 76.

By holding a Double Dissolution election, the Government is hoping that the minor party Senators that were elected in 2013, will essentially be wiped out under the new Senate voting rules.

Why will the Election campaign be so long?

When a normal Federal election is called, the usual length of a campaign is approximately 5 weeks from the dissolution of the Parliament to election day.

This campaign will be the longest since 1984 for two reasons.  The Prime Minister flagged in April that he would recall the Senate early to reconsider the ABCC Bill to clean up the construction sector and if this was rejected again by the Senate (which it is was) then he would seek a Double Dissolution election for 2 July.

This set in train the quasi-election campaign before the formal election campaign which will total approximately 3 months.

Why will the Double Dissolution Election be held on 2 July?

The Constitution sets the manner and timing in which a Double Dissolution election can be called.

Under the Constitution a Double Dissolution election cannot be called within six months of the end of the Parliament from when that Parliament first sat.

The current Parliament was elected in September 2013, but first sat on 12 November 2013, meaning its three year terms ends on 11 November 2016.

Consequently, the latest a Double Dissolution election could be called was the 11 May 2016.

Based on provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, a maximum of 68 days is allowed between the dissolution of the Parliament and election day.  Election day must also be a Saturday.

Given this timing it would be possible only to have a Double Dissolution election on either the 2, 9 or 16 July.

If Bill Shorten does not win, will he remain Opposition Leader – What about Malcolm?

In politics there is no prize for coming second.  What happens then to Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull should they lose the election?

For Bill Shorten, he will be judged not necessarily by whether he wins the election but by how many seats the ALP win from the Government.

If the ALP were to win Shorten will be feted as a modern day Labor hero.  The more likely outcome is that the Government will be returned with a reduced majority.

Labor currently hold a notional 57 seats.  For Bill Shortens leadership to be considered relatively safe, he needs to win between 6 and 10 seats from the Government.  Anything less will make him vulnerable to a post-election challenge.

It would be very hard for a challenger to justify disposing of Shorten if he has put the ALP within striking distance of winning the next election after only one term.

As Labor leader he has seen off Tony Abbott and while he was written off in regards to going head to head with Malcolm Turnbull he was put the ALP into a competitive position, something no one thought possible.

In regards to Malcolm Turnbull, his one job is to retain Government and minimise seat losses.  If he were to lose its doubtful he would continue as Opposition Leader.

Given the consensus view that the Government will be re-elected with a reduced majority, the issue for Malcolm Turnbull will be the strength of his mandate and will he face internal pressure to take the Government more to the right on policy.

How has Senate voting changed? How will it work and what is the impact?

Recent changes to Senate voting have basically made it incredibly difficult for many of the micro party Senators to be re-elected.

The Government with the support of the Greens and Nick Xenophon, changed the Senate voting system such that the parties can no longer control where the preferences of voters go, but rather voters will now determine where their preference go.

Previously a party would lodge a group voting ticket which meant that when a voter placed a 1 in the box above the line for a certain party, his/her vote would be distributed in accordance with the Senate voting ticket lodged by that party.  That will no longer be the case.

The most extreme example in 2013 was the election of Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party who with 0.5% of the Senate primary vote and won a Senate seat, whereas Nick Xenophon in SA whose party received 24% of the primary vote also only won one Senate seat.

Who will hold the Balance of Power in the Senate after the Election?

The most influential balance of power parties after the Double Dissolution election will be the Australian Greens and Nick Xenophon, with some crossbenchers Senators also likely to be elected as well.

The Greens currently hold 10 Senate seats and are likely to be returned with between 7 and 9 Senators.

Nick Xenophon given his popularity in SA is likely to win 3 Senate seats.

It is also very likely that Jacque Lambie will be re-elected in Tasmania and Glenn Lazarus in Queensland.  There is also talk about the possibility of Pauline Hanson winning a Senate seat in Queensland as well.

Given the new Senate voting system, it is near on impossible to predict the outcome of the Senate.  What would appear to be clear though, is that the Government will not win a majority in the Senate as some have speculated and it will again have to rely upon support from the crossbench to secure passage of legislation.

The Government will be hoping that it will win enough Senate seats to only have to negotiate with Nick Xenophon for a workable majority.  This would require the Government winning 36 Senate seats an increase of 3 on current numbers.

If the Government secure less than 36 seats, then it will once again have to rely on not just Xenophon but other crossbench Senators or parties to secure passage of its legislative program.

What will the Government and the ALP campaign On?

The Government will be keen to campaign on its natural strength of economic management.

‘Jobs and Growth’ has been the central campaign theme from the Federal Government as they seek to present themselves as the only credible party to be able to transition the economy from the resources boom.

As part of reinforcing its economic management credentials it will seek to paint Bill Shorten as beholden to the union movement and hence in the thrall of union masters who will pull the strings of a Labor Government.

The Government will also drive home that Bill Shorten would be nothing more than a tax and spend Prime Minister, highlighting Labors policy to abolish negative gearing and reintroduce an emissions trading system which to the Government is nothing more than a resurrected carbon tax.

With the Budget out of the way the Government now have an economic narrative to argue, which it had been lacking.

With the Government offering tax cuts to individuals that earn over $80,000 a year and company tax cuts on offer and a crackdown on high end superannuation concessions and having multinationals pay more tax, the Government will be seeking to blunt the ALPs message built around fairness.

A part of its fairness theme, the ALP will still campaign strongly on the issue of multinational tax avoidance and frame the Government as still being soft on this issue.  Also the ALP will not support the company tax cuts for those turning over $2m a year and have said they will reinstitute the 2% deficit level for those earning over $180,000 a year.

So the key issues will be around the key themes of:

Economic Management:  The Government will frame this as who do you trust to run the economy, whereas Labor will frame it around fairness and the Government failing on debt and the deficit.

Leadership:  The Government will promote the Prime Minister Malcom as the successful self-made businessman who understands how the economy works against Bill Shorten the discredited former union leader who is not fit for the office of Prime Minister.

Taxation:  A major battle ground during the campaign.  The Government having floated many different tax reform proposals, has settled on a crackdown on high end superannuation concessions for the wealthy, making multinationals pay more and a Google tax.  This is matched with company tax cuts and some tax relief for those earning over $80,000 per year.

Labor alternatively has been promoting its crackdown on negative gearing, superannuation tax concessions and its’ intention to make tax avoiding multinationals pay their fair share.

The Opposition will claim that the Government have adopted Labor policy on superannuation and multinationals and hence it is only the ALP that is leading on tax policy and not the Government.

Health: Seen as a traditional ALP strength, the ALP will campaign hard on its support for Medicare and more public health funding versus a Government it will claim that wants to privatise Medicare and has ripped billions of dollars out of the healthcare system.  The Government currently have major disputes with both pathologists (now settled) and GPs over remuneration, which the Opposition will seek to use to their advantage during the campaign.

Education:  Seen as an ALP strength.  The debate in education is all about funding and the Gonski funding model in particular.  Labor has committed to the full Gonski funding whereas the Government have only committed to partial ongoing Gosnki funding.  When set against the backdrop of the Prime Minister musing at the last COAG meeting whether the Commonwealth should still fund public education, it is a sensitive issue for the Government.

National Security:  An undeniable strength for the Government and an achilles heel for the Opposition.  The Government can campaign on its record of having ‘stopped the boats’ against Labors record in Government of seeing tens of thousands of refugees try and enter Australia by boat.

Stability: If the nation were to change Prime Ministers this would mean Australia would have had five Prime Minister since 2010 when Julia Gillard became PM.  The issue of stability has to be a key pitch for the Government.  Despite the disappointment the community may feel in regards to Malcolm Turnbull, does the nation really want to change Prime Minister again?  This issue will play in the Governments favour.

Who will win?

The 76 seat question.  76 seats being the number required to form Government.

Currently the LNP hold 90 seats, the ALP 55 seats and crossbenchers 5 seats.

But due to the recent electoral redistribution, the LNP hold 88 notional seats, the ALP notionally 57 seats and the crossbenchers 5.

This means on a notional basis; the Government can lose no more than 12 seats to retain Government on a uniform swing against it of 3.2% whereas the ALP have to win 19 seats on a uniform swing of 4% to win Government.

There are some individual seat dynamics though such as the seat of Fairfax in Queensland held by Clive Palmer going back to the LNP, so the Government effectively starts with 89 seats and then there is the seat of New England in NSW held by Barnaby Joyce being re-contested by Tony Windsor which could result in a very tight contest.

Added to the mix, the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) is targeting lower house seats in South Australia and elsewhere for the first time.  The NXT will not only secure up to 3 Senate seats in SA, but could also threaten some lower house seats as well, held by both the Government and Opposition.

This election is essentially the Governments to lose.  The consensus political view is that Malcolm Turnbull will be returned with a reduced majority.  Having a notional 12 seat buffer is not the strongest of positions to be in when the published polls have the major parties around 50:50.

The bigger concern for the Government is not necessarily a Shorten victory, but the prospect of a hung parliament.

So while the electorate may not want to embrace Bill Shorten and the ALP, given the sense of disappointment with the PM and Government, if the electorate decide to give the Government a ‘wake up call’, losing 13 seats and ending up with a hung parliament is not something that can be ruled out.

According to at least one betting market, the Turnbull Government is a 70% chance of re-election versus 30% for the Shorten Opposition.

Interestingly, the same betting market has the chance of a hung parliament at 38%. Before Christmas, the discussion was whether Bill Shorten would be dumped by the ALP in the new year.  Now he is polling even with the Government and is a 1 in 3 chance of winning the election.

For more information in regards to the election or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with don’t hesitate to contact me:

Jody Fassina |Insight Strategy |Director

W: (02) 9238 1944

M: (0405) 103 493

E: Jody.Fassina@insightstrategy.com.au

Web: www.insightstrategy.com.au


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