Australia signals early polls, electoral reform introduced

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduces bill on electoral reform, indicating early election with parliamentary double dissolution

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull listens during a ABAC dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a bill on electoral reform on Monday, indicating a potential early election and dissolution of parliament.

Independent and minor party senators elected at the 2013 election had allegedly stalled key aspects of the government’s agenda, including changes that would increase costs for education and health care while also imposing limited access to welfare.

The proposed reforms will make it difficult for smaller parties to enter parliament through vote sharing deals and are seen as necessary for the government to terminate both houses of parliament and call an election.

"Before the bill hit the floor, an early election was hypothetical. It is on the table now," said political scientist Peter Chen from the University of Sydney. "There is no way they can negotiate with any of the senators any more. Legislating for this parliament is over."

Independent and minor party members will be angered by the changes since the government will no longer rely on them to pass legislation opposed by the opposition.

Although Australia passed more than 180 bills last year, which imposed limitations on education, health and migration benefits, this figure may increase in 2016 if changes take place. Turnbull is expected to rush to an early election to accelerate the number of parliamentary bills passed.

Turnbull, in an attempt to push out minorities, alleged that “the system had been taken advantage of”.

Turnbull, who overthrew former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a party coup last year, told ministers earlier this month a double-dissolution election was a “live option”.

A double dissolution, not seen in Australian parliament for almost 30 years, allows for snap elections for all the seats in the house to end a deadlock.

The earliest a double dissolution election could be held is in June, yet Turnbull said on Monday he plans to hold a regular election later in the year.

"Calling an early election could help Turnbull consolidate his support within the party, but there is also a big risk it could backfire," said Chen.

Turnbull has been consistently leading opinion polls since he came to power last year, but there are signs the honeymoon period may be ending.

TRTWorld, Reuters