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Would A Double Dissolution In Early 2014 Be Unconstitutional?

Tony Abbott has made it clear that the first legislative act of his government after September 14 will be to introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax.  The mining tax is also up for repeal.

The obstacle in Abbott’s path is the composition of the Senate.  Until July 1 next year, the balance of power in the Senate remains with the Australian Greens.  Without the support of their 9 senators, neither the ALP (31 senators) nor the coalition (34 senators) can command the 39 votes needed to win a vote.

Abbott and his shadow ministers have made it clear that they are prepared to call a double dissolution election if the Senate rejects their legislation.  This can take place if the requirements of Section 57 of the Constitution are met. [Read more…]

The 1974 Joint Sitting Of Parliament

The 1974 joint sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament is so far the only one in the history of the federation.

When the Liberal-Country Party opposition threatened to block Supply in April 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam called a double dissolution for May 18. He used five bills on electoral reform, Medibank (Medicare), and petroleum and minerals as the grounds.

Returned at the election, Whitlam immediately resubmitted the five bills that had been the basis of the double dissolution. They were passed by the House but again rejected by the Senate. On August 6, 1974 the parliament met in a joint sitting and the five bills were passed over two days. [Read more…]

Dirty Simon Crean Calls On John Howard To Make My Day

Opposition Leader Simon Crean has called on John Howard to “make my day” with a double dissolution election. [Read more…]

Double Dissolutions, Joint Sittings And Reserve Powers

This is a paper produced by the Parliamentary Education Office.

It provides an excellent overview of double dissolutions, joint sittings and the reserve powers of the Governor-General. [Read more…]

Bob Hawke Announces The 1987 Double Dissolution Election

Prime Minister Bob Hawke rose in the House of Representatives at around 5pm on Wednesday, May 27, 1987 to announce a double dissolution of the parliament and an election on July 11.

Hawke had been prime minister since March 1983. His Labor government was seeking election to a third term.

The Leader of the Opposition was the Liberal Party’s John Howard. He responded to Hawke’s announcement, as did the Leader of the National Party, Ian Sinclair.

The double dissolution election was Australia’s sixth overall and its fourth in 13 years. The Hawke government was returned and Hawke went on to win a fourth election in 1990, before being overthrown by Paul Keating in 1991. John Howard and Ian Sinclair were both toppled as leaders of their parties in 1989. Howard returned as leader in 1995 and went on to win the 1996 election, ultimately becoming the nation’s second longest-serving PM. Sinclair briefly served as Speaker of the House before retiring in 1998.


Statement from Prime Minister Bob Hawke to the House of Representatives.

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —by leave- Within the past two weeks two events have taken place of fundamental significance for the future of Australia. I refer to the May statement and to the Premiers Conference. Those events must be placed firmly in the context of the continuing work of this Government. The great need now is for certainty and continuity. In the past two and a half years and especially in recent months, the people of Australia have demonstrated a willingness to shoulder and share burdens and a sense of responsibility in the face of the huge difficulties imposed upon us by the changes in our terms of trade which have wiped $9 billion from our national economic capacity since December 1984. [Read more…]

Malcolm Fraser: Double Dissolution Election Statement

This is the official statement released by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announcing that he had called a double dissolution election for March 2, 1983.

The announcement came at the end of a day of drama which saw Bob Hawke replace Bill Hayden as leader of the ALP. [Read more…]

“Australian Labor Prison” – Liberal Party 1975 Election Leaflet

This is a leaflet produced by the Liberal Party during the 1975 federal election campaign.

The leaflet refers to the bills that were twice rejected by the Coalition in the Senate and which became the technical grounds for the calling of the double dissolution election. [Read more…]

Sir Paul Hasluck’s 1974 Proclamation Dissolving Parliament

The Twenty-Eighth Parliament was dissolved after only 18 months as a result of the controversy over the appointment of the DLP Senator Vince Gair as Australian Ambassador to Ireland.

The subsequent announcement by the Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Snedden, that the coalition parties would block the goverment’s Supply Bills in the Senate caused Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to respond by calling a double dissolution election for May 18, 1974.

  • Listen to the Governor-General’s Official Secretary, David Smith, read the dissolution proclamation on the steps of Parliament House at noon on April 11, 1974:
  • This page also appears on, along with other information on the Whitlam government and the 1975 Dismissal.

Governor-General of Australia

WHEREAS by section 57 of the Constitution it is provided that if the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously: [Read more…]

1951 Double Dissolution Correspondence: Menzies And McKell

These are the 1951 double dissolution letters exchanged between Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Governor-General Sir William McKell.

Menzies’ Liberal-Country Party government was elected in December 1949. Within 15 months, he called a double dissolution election, using the rejection of a banking bill as the trigger. In his advice to McKell (a former Labor Premier of NSW), Menzies argued that the Senate’s referral of the bill to a Committee constituted a “failure to pass”.

The correspondence is interesting for what it reveals about Menzies’ relationship with the Governor-General. [Read more…]

High Court Strikes Down Communist Party Dissolution Bill

The High Court of Australia invalidated the Menzies’ government’s Communist Party Dissolution Act on March 9, 1951.

The bill to ban the party was passed in 1950, the first full year of the Liberal-Country Party government Robert Menzies brought to office in December 1949.

The legislation was ultimately allowed through the Labor-controlled Senate, denying Menzies the opportunity to use the bill as a double dissolution trigger. However, Menzies secured a double dissolution election on April 28, 1951 due to the blocking of the Commonwealth Bank Bill. The government was returned to office with a slightly-reduced majority in the House, but it gained control of the Senate. [Read more…]