With Tony Abbott having made a "commitment in blood" (but we don't know if it is written down) to repeal the carbon tax, the question has been raised whether it is possible to do so.
The issue rests on timing and our weird electoral system.
In his Media Watch Dog Gerard Henderson takes Richard Dennis to task. Denniss it is claimed said on the BCs The Drum
Richard Denniss: …Even if there’s a 2013 election, the new Senate doesn’t take office until 2014. And you can’t use your double dissolution triggers until the new Senate arrives, you’re not going to have a double dissolution before 2015. The idea that we introduce a carbon price, scrap it in 2015 or 2016, even Greg Hunt says the direct action scheme is an interim measure and by 2020 the Liberals might support a carbon tax. It’s good politics, it’s good theatre. But we’re putting politics ahead of democracy and politics ahead of the economy here.
Henderson's reply is
What a load of tripe. Richard Denniss reckons it is putting politics ahead of democracy to respond to the wishes of a majority of electors. Fancy that. And his political calculations are simply incorrect. If, say, a Coalition government won an election in August 2013 it could put legislation through both the House of Representatives and the Senate by the end of the year. If the legislation is defeated, it could be re-submitted after three months. A further defeat would set up a double dissolution trigger – which could be held by mid-2014.
And Richard Denniss reckons that double dissolution triggers do not apply until a new Senate is in place. Can you bear it?.
My problem is that the position advanced by Denniss I heard being advanced after the 2007 election on Rudd's prospects. He is also not alone in advancing it now.
Two clauses of the constitution matter;
The first is the one that determines a Senator's term;
13. As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall be vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.
The election to fill vacant places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant.
For the purpose of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election.
The second is the rules for double dissolution;
57. If the House of representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
If after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be taken to have been carried, and if the proposed law, with the amendments, if any, so carried is affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, it shall be taken to have been duly passed by both Houses of the Parliament, and shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen's assent.
Nothing in the second clause seems to specify an earliest date at which the double dissolution can be triggered. I suspect, however, the issue is that the Governor-General can't dissolve a house before it has formed. The Senators elected due to take office in July 2014 would not have been "dissolved" by the GG in any dissolution before they take office.
The current version of the definitive Parliamentary document makes no reference to an earliest dat, but that could be because it was written after the new Senate sat.
Antony Green on his blog makes the assertion "With the new Senate taking its place on 1 July, it is now possible for the next election to be held as a double dissolution where the House and the whole Senate are dissolved together."
He goes on to note;
While it is not explicit in the Constitution, I believe it is implicit in the fixed terms of the Senate that a double dissolution trigger can only apply to legislation first blocked by a Senate in place after 1 July 2014. The Constitution states the Senators take their place on the 1 July after their election. Any double dissolution triggers attempted before new Senators take their seats would not allow the new Senators to vote on the legislation.
Ultimately there is the issue. The Constitution is unclear and the constitution only refers to the GG may call a double dissolution. I'm prepared to take a bet that NO GG will be prepared to agree to a Double Dissolution before the new Senate assembles. I'd also be prepared to be that following a November 2013 election Abbott couldn't get the Bills twice to a vote before July 2014, and I think it needs to be "the same Senate" that rejects the Bill.
Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est