Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied his government is considering a plan to ask Australians to cast their votes in two federal elections next year in a bid to improve the Coalition’s chances of defeating Labor.
Some Coalition MPs were reportedly open to the idea of holding a Senate election early in 2019, followed by a separate election for the House of Representatives several months later, Fairfax media claimed on Tuesday morning.
After the reports surfaced, the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement denying any plan for a split election in 2019.
“The government has no plans for a dual election. The election is due next year,” the PM’s office said.
Mr Morrison and his cabinet have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of an early poll, with most expecting an election of both houses by May next year.
The assurance comes despite the Coalition losing its parliamentary majority after Kerryn Phelps was declared the winner of the Wentworth by-election Monday in Mr Turnbull’s formerly safe Liberal seat.
The Morrison government faces further pressure over reports that Liberal MP Chris Crewther could be ineligible to sit in parliament under Section 44 of the Constitution after buying shares in a Commonwealth-supported pharmaceuticals company.
Some government MPs reportedly believed dual elections would give the Coalition time to deliver a federal budget early in the year and rebuild support after a drop in opinion polls since August, when Mr Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in a chaotic Liberal leadership coup.
Another option, first considered while Mr Turnbull was prime minister, was to call an election soon after Australia Day in January for elections of both houses of Parliament in March.
However, a March federal election would conflict with the NSW state poll due by the end of that month.
Split elections for the upper and and lower houses of parliament have been rare in recent decades, but are not new to Australia.
Voters went to separate elections for the house of representatives in 1966, 1969 and 1972, while deciding the Senate in 1964, 1967 and 1970.