View from the Street: Early election more important than democracy, economy

Oh, and we're all doomed. Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

Early mark!

Since everyone else is pretty much assuming that Australia will go to the polls on July 2, V from the S would be rude not to join in, right?

"Yep, these blurry preliminary figures look fine to me. Call the election."
"Yep, these blurry preliminary figures look fine to me. Call the election."  Photo: Jesse Marlow

After all, that would explain why the government have put aside other things they're so gosh-darn worried about - like re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, for example - until after the Senate sign off on reforms to the upper house ballot, thereby limiting the amount of independents and microparties that could fill the crossbench.

And then they can give it another try and then pretend that this election is all about fighting union corruption instead of barefaced political expediency of getting to the polls before Malcolm Turnbull's fractious government actually devours itself.

Now, we've talked before about how the Turnbull government have big problems with calling a double dissolution and also with not-calling a double dissolution. And the government is also aware that it's going to lose seats not least because the polls are still deadlocked between Labor and the Coalition.

And marginal Coalition seat holders should be terrified, because they're going to be the ones that lose: partially because they mainly got their seats thanks to last election's anti-Labor swing, and partially because an extra-long election campaign means an extra-expensive one, and some fights are going to absorb more than their share of campaign cash - like that of Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who'll be desperately attempting to keep his seat against popular returned independent MP Tony Windsor.


So you'd assume some would jump before the electorate pushes them.


On an entirely unrelated note, Teresa Gambaro has announced that she won't be contesting her seat of Brisbane.

Her reason is, naturally, because "The time has come to be available to my family and to pursue other opportunities," and definitely not because she's cranky about being overlooked for a ministerial position (as her colleagues have suggested) or because she's looked at the polls and gone "yeah, nuts to this".

But the guaranteed erosion of his support base of younger, more progressive MPs within the party aside, there's no reason for Turnbull not to go to the polls early.

Oh, except for two teeny-tiny little things: the functioning of the economy, and the functioning of democracy.

Budging the Budget

The first is connected with the need to bring the Budget forward a week from May 10 to May 3, since it's not practical (nor politically smart) to release the budget and then call a DD the following day.

Moving the budget is no easy task for a bunch of reasons, mainly practical (like the physical writing, proofing, printing and distributing of the actual information in said budget, which is frantic enough at the best of times), but also political because the government desperately needs Scott Morrison to not make a complete goose of himself.

And there are plenty of reasons why that's an issue: he's never delivered a budget before and he's not exactly distinguished himself in the portfolio so far.

After all, he failed to notice that a report he cited underreported the size of the Australian economy by 90 per cent, and he's been a major contributor to the government's strident argument that negative gearing reform would drive house prices up and also down.

That's not someone you can be entirely confident will be able to correctly interpret policy that's been written on the fly using figures compiled with little hope of oversight.

And then there's the small matter of the election itself.

Who counts the counters?

Voting's not just a matter of shoving paper into a box and heading out to the sausage sizzle. Those ballots have to be collected, scrutinised and collated - and that takes time, training and very carefully designed software.

So the question remains: how the hell can the Australian Electoral Commission can get things in place for the new ballot by July 2?

In theory, the AEC could tell Turnbull that there's no time for them to guarantee that a ballot change could be processed within the time frame. However, he's under no obligation to act on that advice.

If the AEC decide they can't do it correctly, their only available option is essentially to suck it up and do it anyway - and that's not great as far as responsible oversight of the process goes.

While some of the advance work is almost certainly already happening, the AEC can't do much until the new ballot is actually legislated, since things could still change before Parliament sign off on it.

And the election would have to be in early July, as a double dissolution can't be called within the last six months of a government's usual term. But there's another reason for the government's unseemly haste…

Timing is everything

The new Senate legislation will involve new registration requirements for minor parties - and the less time they have to fulfil the new requirements, the harder it's going to be to get on the ballot in the first place.

And sure, the Greens and Nick Xenophon could make their support for the changes contingent on guaranteeing the AEC time to make the change - for example, by legislating the new ballot to only apply from say, September - but that would only make sense if they were genuinely worried about preserving voter choice, and not so concerned with clearing competing minor parties out of their way.

So let's see how that shakes out, shall we?

The bigger picture

And all of this might be not quite so important after all, because something fairly important happened a week ago.

You might be aware that climate scientists have been saying stuff for the last decade or so along the lines of "a global temperature rise of two degrees would be bad but manageable - anything above that is going to start involving strategies that assume certain bits of the world will no longer be inhabitable by humans". Ring a bell?

Well, last Thursday the Northern Hemisphere breached that two degrees barrier.

It was only for a few hours, but this is the highest temperature for the region at this time of year in recorded history. So that's really not good.

In a sane world this news would be accompanied by mad freakin' panic as governments slash emissions, rapidly fund the development of solar and wind energy, and pour resources into education in the hopes of getting as many smart people as possible onto the task of saving human civilisation.

So that's what's happening in Australia, obviously, because to do otherwise would be irresponsible and incredibly fu… oh, beg pardon?

What's happening in Australia

Actually, the government is spending $15.4 million to fund a fossil fuel advocacy centre while slashing funds to the CSIRO to the point where they're looking at outsourcing climate science to the UK, and while the NSW Liberal Party is insisting on a series of national debates on whether or not climate change is real. So the opposite of what we need to do, in other words.

Meanwhile, we're currently seeing increased coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, thanks to higher ocean temperatures, and the pitiful emissions reductions theoretically achieved by the government's asinine Direct Action strategy (such as spending $670 million to bribe - sorry, incentivise - farmers to not cut down trees) are set to be comprehensively wiped out by the amount of land clearing approved by the government in Queensland alone.

And V from the S will just remind everyone, yet again, that there's no actual debate over the science. Climate change is horrifying and real, and anyone that insists otherwise in 2016 is a fool, a fraud, or both.

The cocktail hour: vale, Jon

This year has had no shortage of rock legends passing away, but the news that Jon English is no longer with us after complications with surgery at the age of 66 seems particularly unfair.

Let's be shot of this week with something evil, strong and smashable, friends, and let's see if Sunday heralds any sort of improvement in the human condition. Cheers!

The top stories on on Thursday:

1. Malware hijacks big four Australian banks' apps, steals two-factor SMS codes
2. Singer songwriter Jon English dead at 66
3. Sydney weather: Worst of heatwave still to come as humidity climbs
4. 'My four-year-old gets jacked up to shoot': mother brags hours before he shoots her
5. While his parents slept, this seven-year-old boy's life was saved by Jedi, his diabetes-sniffing dog

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