What do we definitely know about this year’s election?
- A House of Representatives election can be called at any time. Provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act require a minimum of 33 days notice. A January election is now impossible. No federal election has ever been held in January or February. Given the holiday period underway now, an early March election is probably the earliest possible date.
- A double dissolution is now constitutionally impossible. No legislation has been twice rejected by the Senate with the requisite three-month interval. The option formally expires on March 27.
- A half-Senate election cannot be called until after July 1. See Section 13 of the Constitution. A House-only election held between February-June 2013 would require a separate half-Senate election sometime before June 30, 2014. A Gillard or Abbott government would be forced back to the polls within a year of any House election held before June 2013.
- The earliest possible date for a joint House of Representatives and half-Senate election is August 3.
- A House election can be held as late as November 30, if every requirement of the Constitution and Electoral Act is stretched to the maximum allowable time.
- The House of Representatives will expire on September 27 if it hasn’t already been dissolved. This is because the three year term of the House dates from the first day the parliament met – September 28, 2010. If the House expired on September 27, the writs for the election would have to be issued within 10 days.
- Antony Green has written a couple of informative pieces about the historical timing of elections and the constitutional and legislative requirements. See here and here.
Is an election in March, April, May or June entirely out of the question?
- No. An upturn in the government’s fortunes could encourage Gillard to go early to capitalise on favourable conditions. In this event, the half-Senate problem would probably be lost in the general melee of an election. Besides, the Opposition has been demanding an early poll for most of the past two years.
- There have been suggestions the government might go early to avoid bringing down a May budget. This seems less likely since Wayne Swan announced that the government has all but abandoned its budget surplus promise. It is just as likely that the government will aim to use the Budget to establish its priorities for the election campaign and to engage in some electorally strategic spending initiatives.
Is a March-June election likely?
- No. As is well known, the government is not travelling well in the polls. In these circumstances governments do not go early. They hang in until the last possible moment in the hope that the Opposition will stumble or that something else turns up to rescue them. John Howard did this in 2007. Members facing defeat don’t want to go any earlier than they absolutely have to for political and possibly financial reasons.