The federal government’s chance to use the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bill as a trigger for a double dissolution election appears to have faded.
The ABCC bill is not on the list for the next sitting, week beginning on March 15.
That means the government looks to have run out of time to have it voted on a second time.
It already has two other potential triggers for a double dissolution, but the ABCC was the issue it was widely expected to use as part of an election campaign fought on industrial relations.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash argued for the ABCC in the Senate this week, saying there is an “entrenched culture of industrial unlawfulness with the CFMEU on building and construction sites in Australia”.
But despite its intense lobbying for the bill, the government does not have the numbers in the Senate to get it through.
However, it could still be politically helpful if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants to be able to call a double dissolution election.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said that was probably now out.
“We are pleased it is not going to be debated in the final sitting week in the March period,” he told ABC’s AM radio program on Friday.
“My reading of it is that a piece of legislation needs to be voted against on two occasions by the Senate.
“It does not appear that that is the case for the ABCC legislation, so it is hard to see the government could use it as a double dissolution trigger, and that is a good thing.”
July election would be risky, but advantageous
A double dissolution election in July would be seven weeks long, which is a risk, but it would give the government the advantage of probably wiping out much of the Senate crossbench.
Not being able to debate this bill means the government would lose the political theatre of a Senate defeat to generate campaign momentum for that lengthy fight.
The government already has two other bills it could use as double dissolution triggers — one is legislation that abolishes the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that the Greens strongly support.
But that has been a potential trigger for nearly two years and the government has not used it.
Mr Di Natale said he did not believe the government would proceed with plans to scrap the corporation.
“When it comes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, it is very clear from the government’s own words that they have no intention of going to a double dissolution with that as a trigger,” he said.
“I think that would be a political mistake, a big one.
“It is a popular reform, one that invests in clean energy, one that makes a good return for the tax payer.
“So I am very, very confident that there is no chance that the clean energy finance corporation will be used as a trigger for a double dissolution.”
That still leaves the government able to have a double dissolution election with an industrial relations theme because the registered organisations bill has been rejected twice. But that has been sitting as an unused trigger since August last year.
Mr Di Natale said it was up to the Prime Minister, but he challenged him to let the parliament run its full term.
He urged Malcolm Turnbull to have a long and genuine debate about issues including tax reform and the budget.
“Don’t be a coward. Don’t run to an early election. Let’s ensure that we see this parliament run full term,” the Greens leader said.
Some Coalition frontbenchers have strongly hinted at a double dissolution in early July, but Mr Turnbull has been more cautious highlighting his intention to have an election in August, September or October.