Don't pay a deposit on renting a BBQ for your July 2 election day fund-raising sausage sizzle just yet.
Listening to comments from some of the independents in the Senate, one might think the whole early sitting is all about them, getting rid of them if they don't support the government's union clean-up legislation. Obviously these independents seek to cast themselves as victims, as the badgered and the blackmailed.
Heated interview between PM and Tony Jones
The ABC's Tony Jones puts pressure on Malcolm Turnbull in his first Lateline interview since becoming PM.
That's not how I see it. The people of Australia elected this government. Governments can't be dictators for three years; the Senate is there as a house of review. The increased size of the House of Representatives and thus of the Senate makes the likelihood of either major party having control of the upper house remote (because the proportion of votes, or quota, needed to get elected is reduced and it is therefore easier for minor candidates to win a spot). Thus there is a creative tension between the two houses. Any opposition can use the independents to cause havoc.
This is what Bill Shorten has done. Labor in future gets the benefit of the revamped voting system and in the meantime he can tell the independents he really loves them. Thus, they may side with him to block the union clean-up.
The constitution provides a mechanism for resolving deadlocks. The Prime Minister can simply say "OK, let's let the people decide". That sounds good to me. Why do these independents think us having the deciding role is not a good thing?
There are two groups of senators for whom a double dissolution is a threat, and one for whom it's a risk. First, those who are not likely to get back even when they only have to earn half the quota they ended up with at the last full Senate election. In other words, those who without complicated preference swaps have not a hope in hell of getting elected. There won't be much weeping for them. Second, those senators who vote against something the public really want. Boo-hoo if they lose their seat, because the people will have spoken.
The third group, about whom we hear little, is the Senate candidates from the major parties – Liberal, Nationals and Labor – who are not the highest on their party's ticket. They could lose their seat to an independent because of the smaller quota required under a double dissolution. It doesn't suit the independents who want to be seen as the victims to have any focus on the fact that these senators from the major parties face the same challenge.
In any event, self-interest is the horse running hardest in any race. As the time draws near I have my doubt that these independents will choose to put another four years in the Senate in the bin. The temptation to vote for the legislation and keep their seat will be overwhelming.
Yes, they would have to swallow some humble pie. But they may see the merit in doing that so that they can stay on and make life difficult for the government for the duration of their terms. It will be painted as altruism – "I have to keep representing the views of those who voted for me". We know that's rubbish because they collected a whole bunch of preferences from voters who didn't personally select them. The pool of voters who actually did select them was pitifully small. But they nonetheless might want to stay on and annoy the government.
If there is a double-D, the independents, Bill Shorten and the Greens will be stuck trying to explain why they don't want to clean up the union movement. They can offer whatever reasoning they like but successive royal commissions have made it clear we need a clean-up, and the government will give Parliament a chance to do it. If they reject the bills they can answer to the public for leaving the rorting and thuggery in place. Workers who have been ripped off are not likely to be impressed. Likewise other Australians.
Labor is in an impossible position. The unions just about own them. They are stuck in an ocean of muck and will be trying to pretend they have just stepped out from the dry cleaners. They will look laughably stupid.
If the independents deny Malcolm Turnbull the double dissolution, he will get the legislation he wants. He will be a hero. If they force the double-D they give Turnbull a bespoke election platform and run the risk of losing their seats.
Labor people are stuck in an ocean of muck and will be trying to pretend they have just stepped out from the dry cleaners.
The option to bring forward the budget was known of by all the senior people in the government. Some have tried to make an issue of this or that person being told or not that the decision had finally been made. It's just desperation on the part of the media. These things are always in the end the Prime Minister's call. If you know there's a real chance it is going to happen, that's all you need to know. In the Howard years, most of us heard through the media that the button had actually been pushed for an election. Who cares who knew when? It's just ego management.
We can expect Turnbull to get a tough time from the media during the campaign. We can expect anything Tony Abbott says to be seized on and given more importance than it deserves. Then, having exaggerated the importance of whatever Abbott says, the media will turn on him for being disloyal. Unlike most people, the media get to have their cake and eat it too. We need to remember the media are more prone to the tall poppy syndrome than most of us.
Turnbull, having caught them off guard, might just have got up their noses. Watch out for the reaction.
Amanda Vanstone is a Fairfax columnist and was a minister in the Howard government.