The threat of a double dissolution hangs over Australia like a massive sword over Ned Stark’s head. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues to pressure the Senate’s independents into bringing back the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission dissolved by Labor in 2012. But Ricky Muir, Nick Xenophon and the remaining PUPs are about as likely to agree on the bill as the Starks and Lannisters are to enjoy a nice high tea together. And after all, why should they? Five more different politicians have rarely shared a motorcade, and besides, Malcolm Turnbull has made it pretty clear he’s not interested in discussing any amendments. With Turnbull threatening to dissolve Parliament when it reconvenes to vote once again on April 18, we could be facing an election as early as July 2.
The polls show the majority of Australians are about as clued in to what’s really going on as Robb and his bride at the Red Wedding. Why is this single piece of legislation important enough to warrant dissolving both houses of Parliament including the entire Senate? Why should young people care when they’ve got Sydney rent prices and the impending prospect of marijuana legalisation to worry about?
The truth is, that while Abbott campaigned to bring back the ABCC at the last election, it’s not so clear that Turnbull should want to follow through with that promise. After all, he’s repeatedly disavowed Abbott’s legacy, and like young Joffrey he’s keen to establish his own right to rule. Abbott, however, isn’t going down without a few passive aggressive parries, insisting on taking full credit for his own disastrous reign. He’s got nothing to lose after all, and at least in his spacious head, everything to gain.
Of course, everyone knows the ABCC legislation is just a front. Laborites generally claim that the ABCC did nothing but attack the unions, and would do so again if reconstructed. While Turnbull claims that the building industry is so rife with corruption that we need the Commission back, why now? And why not work with the disobedient senators on their legitimate concerns?
History tells us (shocker) that Turnbull is probably not being genuine about his love for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, with all six of our country’s previous double dissolutions being based on legislation that never featured prominently in subsequent campaigning. But who cares about that when your job is on the line? For the first time since dethroning Abbott, Turnbull has dropped below Shorten in the polls, which is probably the real reason he wants to get to an election as soon as possible.
So where does that leave us, the Australian public who just want our country to run while we have our backs turned for one minute to enjoy season six of Game of Thrones? On the one hand, we have Shorten who really should be using Turnbull’s floundering to deliver a killer blow to the Liberal Party. But he’s doing nothing much except taking potshots and as usual we continue to ignore him. He certainly can’t compete with the negative bulldogging that took Abbott from opposition to office. Meanwhile Turnbull, who looks suspiciously a lot like Shorten in glasses (conspiracy???!), is trying desperately to bring something of his own to the game. It’s a confusing, and also pretty boring time in Australian politics, especially compared to Netflix. Even worse, winter is coming, and with it – sigh – election campaigns.
Words by Mat Drogemuller. Follow him on Twitter.