Constitution sez “No”

Shorter Antony Green: Nothing that is happening in Parliament right now is capable of providing a constitutional trigger for a double dissolution.

A double dissolution is a significant constitutional event, not just an excuse for an early election. The power to dissolve both houses of the Australian Parliament is unique to the Australian Governor-General and is one of the few powers of the Governor-General that does not derive from the traditional powers of the monarch.
A double dissolution requires a trigger. Any legislation passed by the House that is defeated, unacceptably amended or fails to be passed by the Senate, and then after a delay of three months is again defeated, unacceptable amended or fails to be passed by the Senate, becomes a double dissolution trigger. A government is permitted to accumulate a number of triggers. At any time in the first two and a half years of a House term, any trigger can be used by the Prime Minister to advise the Governor General for a double dissolution.

I find it almost impossible to see the circumstances under which the Gillard government would call a double dissolution. To achieve a trigger for a double dissolution, the government would need to have negotiated legislation through the House with the support of the Independents, and then find the legislation opposed by the Coalition and the Greens in the Senate. This would have to happen twice three months apart to become a trigger.
I can’t see why the Gillard government would work at creating double dissolution triggers, let alone even considering asking the Governor General to call a double dissolution.

So, not only have there not been any eligible double-dissolution trigger circumstances yet, but there is virtually zero probability that the Gillard government will ever produce one trigger, let alone two in such a short time period as the Constitution requires.

Adding all this together, a double dissolution in the current term of the House must be held by 27 March 2013, but it seems this is highly unlikely unless the Coalition can form government before the middle of 2012. If the current government fell before its term, it would be in the Coalition’s interest to come to office after a separate House election, giving itself an electoral mandate with which to threaten the Senate, and also allowing a double dissolution to be put off until early 2014 at a time when a separate half-Senate election would already need to be held.

The Juliar carbon-tax protestors are just displaying their vast ignorance by demanding their “double dissolution now”.

The full post by Antony Green is the usual informative parade of interesting facts, listed possibilities and legal limitations on various political options. Highly recommended reading.

Categories: culture wars, education, law & order, parties and factions

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. It must really burn Tony Abbott that he can’t force a double dissolution election. I take a sort of savage comfort in that.

  2. Oh gods. I’m half-tempted to let the bastards have the election they want, and then start a citizen’s campaign against the folks who are busy refusing to accept our answers in the first place, and instead believe we all have the time and effort to spare on constantly re-doing the election of 2010 until we get what Tony Abbott and his chums in Mr Murdoch’s papers think would be the “correct” result.
    The election happened last year. It elected a hung parliament, which is rare enough. It gave us a number of independent members of parliament in the House of Representatives, which is equally rare. However, it was still a valid result. It was still the much-vaunted “Will of the People”. The fact that said will didn’t come out in favour of the choices of the Liberal Party of Australia does not make it invalid. The fact that changing circumstances led a politician to change their position regarding a particular policy does not make the election result invalid – it just means that yes, circumstances altered. I seem to remember a certain Mr Howard promising we wouldn’t get a GST at one stage – funny how we seem to have one now. I also remember a lot of talking from both of the major parties about how they’d have to change tactics to deal with the situation as it stood now. Well, looks like the ALP did so – they’re negotiating with the Independents and Greens, they’re listening to what’s needed, and they’re doing the hard yards required. The Liberal Party of Australia, meanwhile, appears to have refused to either fish or cut bait in this new political environment, and are instead throwing temper tantrums, stomping their feet, and holding their political breath until they turn blue, in an effort to make the clock run backward and undo the last election result.

%d bloggers like this: