Malcolm Turnbull announces plans to bring budget forward and threatens double dissolution election

Quick Wrap

  • PM Malcolm Turnbull has announced a special sitting of parliament on April 18 to consider industrial relations laws.
  • If the Senate rejects the bills the Prime Minister will call a double dissolution election for July 2.
  • The budget will be moved forward by one week and handed down on May 3 regardless of the outcome.
  • The bills would reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission and establish the Registered Organisations Commission.
  • Both bills have already been rejected by the Senate once.
Where do the crossbenchers stand on the industrial relations bills?
Family First Senator Bob Day


Independent Senator John Madigan
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie


Independent Senator Nick Xenophon (has been broadly supportive in the past)
Palmer United Party Senator Dio Wang 
Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir
Independent Senator Glenn Lazarus
Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonjhelm

Two bills at the centre of the double dissolution threat:

  • The ABCC legislation, officially called the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013, was passed by the House and rejected by the Senate after being considered by a committee in late 2015.
  • In February 2016, the bill was again passed by the House of Representatives. It was introduced into the Senate on February 4 and again referred to a Senate Committee.
  • The other bill due to be debated is the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014, which aims to establish the Registered Organisations Commission and “provide it with investigations and information gathering powers to monitor and regulated registered organisations”, such as unions. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has strengthened the chances of an early election, with both houses recalled next month to debate a potential double dissolution trigger.

What is a double dissolution?

  • It allows an elected government that has legislation blocked by the Senate to call an election
  • All the Senate seats are up for grabs
  • If the government still can't pass the laws after the election, it can call a joint sitting, where the two houses of Parliament sit together.

Mr Turnbull will bring back both houses of Parliament for an extraordinary sitting in April to deal with industrial relations legislation, and says he will call a double dissolution election to be held on July 2 if the bills are not passed.

He called a snap media conference in his Canberra parliamentary courtyard this morning to make the announcement.

The Prime Minister said he would also bring forward the federal budget by one week to May 3, saying he had informed his Cabinet colleagues shortly before addressing the media.

"The time has come for the Senate to recognise its responsibilities and help advance our economic plans, rather than standing in the way," he said.

"The restoration of the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission] is a critical economic reform. The time for playing games is over."

Under the existing schedule, the House of Representatives was set for an extended break until May 10, when the budget was due to be handed down.

Now both houses will be sent back to Canberra on April 18 to deal with the ABCC legislation and the registered organisations bill.

If the bills are rejected by the Senate during the three-week sitting period, Mr Turnbull is adamant he will call a double dissolution election.

Follow reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement on our live blog.

He said the budget would be handed down on May 3 regardless of the outcome.

Coalition MPs held a party room meeting by teleconference following the announcement, to discuss the logistics of bringing back Parliament.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is to due to respond to the announcement later this afternoon.

But Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen issued a statement criticising the Prime Minister for outlining an election strategy "without enunciating an economic or tax policy".

Mr Bowen said this was the first time the budget had been brought forward since 1952, and Treasurer Scott Morrison had been "thrown under the bus" in the process.

"The Treasurer has been completely emasculated and has no influence over tax policy or even the timing of his own budget," Mr Bowen said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Mr Turnbull's announcement should come as no surprise.

"We have been ready for a July 2 election because we have been ready for any election this year. The closer you get the more you have to prepare for it," he said.

"We have been basically in campaign mode, making sure that people clearly understand our message, for quite some time."

Where do the crossbenchers stand?

In February, crossbench senators Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and John Madigan sided with Labor and the Greens to send the ABCC legislation to the Education and Employment Committee.

Senators for and against the IR bills


  • Family First's Bob Day


  • Independent John Madigan
  • Independent Jacqui Lambie
  • Independent Glenn Lazarus


  • Independent Nick Xenophon (has been broadly supportive in the past)
  • Palmer United Party's Dio Wang
  • Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir
  • Liberal Democrat's David Leyonjhelm

Fellow senators Nick Xenophon, Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm and Ricky Muir supported the Coalition.

The Government needs six of the eight crossbenchers to pass the bill through the Senate.

Family First senator Bob Day is in favour of the bill, while independents John Madigan, Glenn Lazarus and Jacqui Lambie are against.

Senators Dio Wang, Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus and David Leyonjhelm are yet to firm up their position.

Senator Xenophon said he would support a second reading of the bill, but wanted to move a series of amendments.

He spoke to the media today, saying "if you thought last week was ugly in the Senate, you ain't seen nothing yet".

Drum: Election trigger all but pulled

Get ready for a 15-week festival of finger pointing, writes Paula Matthewson.

"It's a nifty and cunning manoeuvre on the part of the PM but I suspect it will cause fireworks in the Senate from April 18," he said.

Senator Leyonhjelm today described the Prime Minister's announcement as "an ambush".

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told the ABC she would continue negotiating with the crossbench to pass the bills.

"I will be negotiating, as I have always done, in good faith with the crossbenchers," she said.

"Our intent is to see these bills passed because they are good policy … I will negotiate in good faith but I'm not about to tolerate amendments just for amendments' sake. These bills must be passed."

Senator Cash said the Senate was "in a state of paralysis, in particular when it comes to this legislation".

What's in the ABCC laws?

The ABCC legislation, officially called the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013, was passed by the House of Representatives and rejected by the Senate after being considered by a committee in late 2015.

The bill itself aims to resurrect the ABCC, which was initially created to monitor and promote appropriate standards of conduct throughout the building and construction industry. It was axed by the Labor government.

In February 2016, the bill was again passed by the House of Representatives. It was introduced into the Senate on February 4 and again referred to a Senate committee.

The other bill due to be debated is the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014, which aims to establish the Registered Organisations Commission and "provide it with investigation and information gathering powers to monitor and regulate registered organisations" such as unions.



The Polls

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt has played down a dip in Malcolm Turnbull's approval rating, which has fallen for the first time since he became prime minister six months ago.

But the latest Newspoll shows the coalition leading Labor 51-49 per cent after preferences.

The poll of 2049 voters also shows 55 per cent of voters think the coalition will be returned at the next election while only 25 per cent believe Labor can win.

Satisfaction with Mr Turnbull's performance has fallen to 39 per cent, well down on his 60 per cent rating in mid-November.

Mr Hunt said the government was building a road map for the nation.

'We're actually very calm and very focused,' he told Sky News on Monday.

The public did not tolerate complacency, so the government was concentrating on the lives, jobs and futures of voters.

Dissatisfaction with Mr Turnbull has risen three points to 44 per cent, leaving his net satisfaction rating at minus five points.

But he remains by far the preferred prime minister, leading Bill Shorten 52-21 per cent.

The poll also shows 54 per cent think Mr Turnbull is most capable of handling the economy as opposed to the 20 per cent who favour Mr Shorten.

On tax reform, 45 per cent of voters back Mr Turnbull compared to 25 per cent for Mr Shorten.

Source: ABC News and Sky News

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