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Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull throws caution to the wind

Have no illusion, this is less bluff, more statement of intent. And it represents strong leadership of the kind some had worried might have abandoned the Prime Minister.

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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.

A suddenly determined Malcolm Turnbull has loaded and cocked the election gun, aimed it directly at his opponents promising he will indeed pull the trigger for an early double dissolution unless they come to heel.

In so doing, he has thrown caution to the wind, dismissing the orthodoxy that an extended election - and one held in winter - would be foolhardy.

Yes, he has offered those crossbench senators who will likely be wiped out by a double-D the lifeline of passing the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill and his already twice-rejected registered organisations bill, but this is largely gestural. There is no realistic prospect that the bills will pass, and no real chance of amendment either.

Indeed, passing them now would be seen as rank self-interest by those legislators on the crossbench so implacably opposed to the legislation to date.


In one fell swoop, the Prime Minister has taken control of a sea of floating imponderables, transforming uncertainty into certainty. That certainty is that Australia will indeed have an early budget, will indeed have an early election, and will indeed have that in the form of a double-D on July 2.

To his credit, Turnbull has declared enough is enough. As he said, the time for playing games is over.

Having last week secured the voting reforms needed to make the double-D viable, Turnbull has caught his opponents napping.

The move to advise the Governor-General to recall Senate to ensure the upper house has the time to debate the bills surprised all and will make it impossible for the Senate to avoid the truth: it is frustrating the government's program. Now that truth will become clearer to all.

More importantly for Turnbull's longer term prospects, the government will now have the dedicated theatre to establish firmly in the public mind, why this election is required, and what it will be fought over: blocked union corruption legislation - with all the spin-off associations for the union-dominated, union-funded ALP; and, Labor's negative gearing / capital gains tax changes, or "housing tax" as Tony Abbott has called it.

Turnbull's bold play came as the latest Newspoll showed his authority sliding, and his government wearing the costs of a perceived drift. Turnbull's frustration at these perceptions has been as evident as it has been pointless. Having so many unknowns in play at once has done the new PM no favours.

This special sitting / early budget / early double-D election announcement will change all of that smartly.

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