Kevin Rudd is off and campaigning so hard that he’s giving the appearance that Australia might well have an election this year that will not be a double dissolution of both houses of parliament. The case for doing the unorthodox and holding a poll for the House of Representatives alone for the first time in 40 years can certainly be made. It would catch the badly divided Opposition parties completely off guard, yet allow the Australian Government to go to the Copenhagen climate change conference towards the year’s end with the firm policy position Labor believes is so important.
The mechanics of what kind of election can be called when get a bit complicated and those really interested should look at the excellentpaper on the subject prepared by the Federal Parliamentary Library but the options can be summarised in this way:
A double dissolution can be called at any time once the same piece of legislation has been defeated in the Senate twice with three months between the defeats. No piece of legislation yet provides such a trigger and to get one, and hold an election before Copenhagen, when you do not have the numbers to control procedures in the Senate, would not be easy. A House of Representatives election can be called at any time provided the Governor General agrees and the convention is that a Governor General would give such agreement provided a year had passed since the previous poll which it has.
It would be a daring move on Kevin Rudd’s part, but calling an election when the Senate first fails to pass the carbon trading legislation would almost certainly be rewarded with an electoral victory.
Sure things would get a bit messy down the track with a half Senate election having to be held sometime between 7 August 2010 and 21 May 2011, but Labor has no prospect of ending up with a Senate majority whenever a Senate election of whatever kind is held.