The federal government is indicating it could release the budget early, an unconventional move that would boost the chances of a double-dissolution election.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is considering a double dissolution and calling an election for as early as July 2.
The budget is due to be handed down on Tuesday, May 10, which would leave Mr Turnbull just one day to dissolve both houses of Parliament if the government wanted a July election.
Asked whether he was open to bringing it forward, Mr Turnbull said: “The budget will be delivered in May.”
May 10 is Parliament’s first sitting day after a seven-week break and the second Tuesday in May is traditionally when the budget is handed down.
By not guaranteeing May 10 as budget day, the Prime Minister left the door open to recalling Parliament and delivering it a week early.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government bringing the budget forward would be a political stunt.
“I don’t want Mr Turnbull wasting taxpayer money on political stunts to try and keep Mr Turnbull in power. Australians already know that division and dysfunction is at the heart of the Turnbull government,” he said.
“It seems that the only decision which is keeping him up at night is when can he call an election to best suit Malcolm Turnbull. This is a distraction from the real issues.”
Such a move could allow the government to pass the supply bills and debate a bill to reinstate the Howard-era construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
The Senate is expected to reject the ABCC bill for a second time, giving the government another double dissolution trigger.
Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer has also indicated the budget could be brought forward.
“These are all matters to be considered,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“But we are looking at the ordinary timetable in relation to the budget.
“The timetable in relation to election timing is obviously a matter for the Prime Minister, that’s a question you’ll have to put to him.
“We’re working to the timetable that everyone would expect in relation to the budget and honestly, all of the speculation is just that: speculation.
“In circumstances where there is a different election timetable, obviously there are consequences that flow from that.
“I’m not aware that there is any different election timetable.
“We’ll definitely be bringing forward a budget.”
Attorney-General George Brandis said on Sunday the Coalition’s same-sex marriage plebiscite would be held this year, fuelling speculation the election would be held earlier than September or October.
Double dissolution idea was slammed by Turnbull in 2009
— ABC News (@abcnews) March 8, 2016
The potential for a double dissolution elections comes seven years after Mr Turnbull, as then Opposition Leader, slammed Kevin Rudd over the threat of a double dissolution.
In his budget reply speech in May 2009, Mr Turnbull said that “an early election process proves to all of us what this budget is really about”.
“It is not about protecting the jobs of Australians, least of all the one million Australians it says will soon be out of work – it is about the job security of one man and one man only,” he said.
“A prime minister frightened of the consequences of his mismanagement now wants to cut and run before he is found out.”