Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated the next election will be a referendum on the Australian Building and Construction Commission, after legislation to bring back the union watchdog was rejected a second time in the Senate.
Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would recommend the Governor General dissolve both houses of Parliament and call a double dissolution election for July 2.
The ABCC – a commission targeting union corruption in the construction industry – should be the main focus for voters, the PM said.
“When we go to election, the Australian people will decide whether there should be an Australian Building and Construction Commission,” Turnbull said.
“You see, a double dissolution election is about giving the people their say.”
Turnbull is able to call for the double dissolution thanks to the Senate’s second rejection of the Coalition’s bill to reinstate the ABCC.
The ABCC was originally created by the Howard Government in 2005, before being abolished by the Gillard Government in 2012.
Turnbull’s bill to bring back the watchdog was passed by the House of Representatives, but was rejected twice by the Senate, with the second rejection coming on Monday, 36 votes to 34.
A day later, Turnbull confirmed he would request a double dissolution.
“After the budget, I will advise the Governor General to dissolve both houses of parliament and I will advise him to call an election on the second of July,” he told the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
“The Governor General will consider that request – that advice – and he will make a decision.
“That is why I say I expect there to be an election on the second of July, but of course my constitutional duty … is to advise the Governor General of my wishes in that regard, and it is up to him whether to agree to dissolve both houses, and issue the writs.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor was ready for an election.
“Despite all the tactics and the political games of the Government which has seen the Parliament with absolutely nothing to consider today, Labor is ready for this election,” Shorten told reporters on Tuesday.
“The Labor Party has spent the last 900 plus days preparing our positive plans for Australia’s future.
“Australians are getting increasingly sick and tired of a prime minister who dithers and does not deliver.
“Seven months ago, I believed that my job would be harder when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott, but I thought we’d be in for a better standard of politics.
“Instead in the last seven months plus, we’ve seen a prime minister slowly shrink into his job.”