Australia approves voting reforms, signals snap election

Australia’s Senate approves voting reforms resulting from 28 hour-long session, making easier for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to dissolve both houses of parliament and call snap election

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) speaks with Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 17, 2016. [Reuters]

Australia’s Senate on Friday passed voting reforms following a 28-hours session, strengthening Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s hand to dissolve both houses of parliament and call an early election to end a hostile Senate.

Independent and minor party senators elected at the last election in 2013 have blocked main parts of the government’s agenda which they say would make higher education and health care more expensive and limit access to welfare.

The Senate voting reforms would make it more difficult for smaller parties to enter parliament through vote sharing deals.

Turnbull is now considered likely to decide a rare double dissolution of both houses of parliament. It would change delayer senators and allow long-stalled economic reforms.

The debate session on voting reforms commenced on Thursday morning in the Senate and continued on Friday as lawmakers, at least one dressed in pyjamas, employed delaying tactics aimed at breaking their opponents' will.

The reforms were eventually approved and parliament disbanded until May when the annual budget is due.

"It's a reform which will help ensure that future Senate election results truly reflect the will of the Australian people," Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said.

Turnbull has consistently led opinion polls following coming to power last year and his ruling Liberal-National coalition is leading the opposition Labor party comfortably in recent polls. There has been speculation that an early election may take place.

An election is due to take place by January 2017, but it is expected a snap election may be called in the second half of 2016.

According to Australia's constitution, Turnbull faces a May 11 deadline to call a double dissolution election and the earliest it could be held is in June.

To trigger a snap election, he needs the approval of the Senate.

TRTWorld, Reuters