Turnbull to Seek July 2 Australia Election as Union Bill Fails

  • Senate rejected bill to bring back building industry watchdog
  • Government to call double dissolution election after budget

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he intends to hold an election on July 2 after the Senate blocked legislation aimed at curbing trade union powers.

Rejection of the legislation to bring back a building industry watchdog has given the government a constitutional trigger to call the early ballot, Turnbull told reporters Tuesday. He said he’ll visit the governor-general to seek approval for the ballot some time after announcing the May 3 budget.

“I will be asking the governor-general to dissolve both houses of the parliament for an election which I expect to be held on July 2,” the prime minister said.

An early visit to the ballot boxes is a risk for Turnbull, who has seen his government’s lead in opinion polls over the opposition Labor party dissipate since seizing the Liberal Party leadership from unpopular predecessor Tony Abbott in September. Turnbull must now overcome voter perceptions that his government lacks direction, and he has little in the coffers to offer as pre-election sweeteners in the budget.

Defeat of the legislation to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission means industrial relations is set to be a major issue during the election campaign, along with management of an economy transitioning away from a mining boom. The government says militant trade unions are sapping productivity in the building industry and hampering growth.

Labor has already started running television ads accusing the government of stripping back workers’ rights.

Double Dissolution

The ballot will be a so-called double dissolution election in which all 150 seats in the House of Representatives and all 76 Senate seats will be up for grabs. In a normal election, only half the Senators from the six states are replaced.

The last time Australia held a double dissolution election was in 1987, when Prime Minister Bob Hawke held onto power amid a swing against his Labor government.

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