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Malcolm Turnbull's double dissolution election call decisive but not without risks

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cunning announcement on Monday could have been pulled from a House of Cards script despite his press conference statement that "the time for playing games is over".

Within a day he moved to take control to give his once foundering narrative a clear sense of direction.

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Malcolm Turnbull's election ultimatum

Parliament recalled, the budget moved, the blowtorch applied to the senate - Mark Kenny analyses the Prime Minister's early election ultimatum.

In setting up a double dissolution election for July 2 – not a fait accompli but seemingly likely – he has provided more certainty for voters and rescued them from the drawn-out, imitation campaign between now and the alternative September-October date.

Admittedly his trigger, the bill to reintroduce the construction industry watchdog, was merely an excuse to call an early poll. Mr Turnbull played his own game to set up a larger match.

There is no way Labor wants the watchdog's return. Crossbench senators are in a difficult position either way. Back-pedalling now on proposed changes that have already been long debated and rejected will only highlight extreme self-interest.

The Greens have so far opposed the watchdog's resurrection, although unions recently and perhaps prophetically complained the Greens deal to  pass the senate voting reforms would lead to crossbenchers being blackmailed over the re-introduction of the construction industry watchdog.


The broader strategy is the prime minister's attempt to clear out an obstructionist senate and, either way, this plan stings the crossbench senators.

All senators face re-election if the July 2 poll goes ahead.

Because of legislative changes it will be harder for micro-party representatives to be elected or, in the case of some current crossbench senators, to be re-elected to the red chamber.

The reforms scrapped group voting tickets, a move brought in to deal with the rise of micro-parties and preference whisperers whose numerical maneuvering has had senators elected with as little as 0.5 per cent of the primary vote.The Coalition can use the platform of a construction industry watchdog to roll out a litany of damning and sometimes horrifying stories of union corruption.

These could include examples put forward by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, such as the flyer which said "to all the dogs out there, remember when you pick up the phone to the ABCC rats, we will know about it ... and who will protect you when the rats can't even protect themselves?".

And the one about the female building inspector who received an anonymous phone call from someone threatening she would be gang raped.

An early election is a bold, attacking move by the prime minister which will bring some challenges for his side.

It sets the Coalition up for a long winter campaign with less cheery photographs at sausage sizzles than might have been.

A dreary day at the ballot boxes day could make voters grumpy with the incumbent government.

But his announcement has put the Coalition in a strong strategic position while giving the electorate certainty about the timeline along with the opportunity to decide whether micro-party senators are truly representative.