Enough already with the talk of a 2019 election. It won’t be 2019. And I’m not just saying that hopefully and wistfully because my PhD is stuffed because if it is 2019. Walk with me through the dates and I’ll explain why I’ve built the Voter Choice Project around the most likely date of October 20.
Lets begin with the legalities. The earliest date for a joint (both House and Senate) election is August 4, 2018. The last possible date is May 18, 2019. The term of this parliament is not due to expire until August: the earlier ‘last date is caused by the Double Dissolution bringing the term for the Senate forward a full year. The Senators must be elected by May 18, thus, that’s the last date for a joint election.
Yes, it is possible to split them, have the Senate election by May 18, in which case the stand alone House of Representatives election must be held by 2 November 2019. Read more on this fun rule stuff here. It’s very unlikely, it hasn’t been done since 1974.
There are two state elections in the fray, mucking up the available dates, and they happen to be the two biggest states. Victoria is set for November 24, 2018 and NSW is set for March 23, 2019. As well as draining time, money, people, and likely candidates, there are legal reasons why the federal election campaign either shouldn’t or cannot clash with those state election campaigns, best explained by Antony Green. The tl;dr version:
- Federal cannot be the same day as state election (Section 394 Commonwealth Electoral Act)
- If federal election is announced for any date that results in overlapping campaign periods, NSW election must be moved to another date (unless NSW Parliament is already dissolved).
- Green suggests election likely September/October 2018.
Alrighty. So I started with a list of all the Saturdays between August 4 and May 18. I’ve ruled out Mid December to February because we don’t do election campaigning in Cyclone/Flood/Bushfire/Holiday season for what should be self evident reasons. I’ve then noted all the issues that make campaigns/elections undesirable – school holidays and public holidays – people aren’t home, aren’t focused, and pre-poll or postal more which means you can’t campaign to them: campaigns in holiday season is bad, hard to avoid, but if you must give them at least a week to get home and resettled to make their choice. Then the major religious and social events, and the clashes with the two state elections. There will be things and events I missed, but once a date was excluded I didn’t labour it. That process leaves the following clear Saturdays:
- August 11
- August 18
- September 8
- May 18
I can give a few back for minor observances, religious holidays only, or close to the margins:
- August 25 (Eid al-Adha, Islam’s holiest festival, runs from 21-25th, but the main day – where thousands will line the streets in prayer around the major mosques – is the Wednesday)
- September 15 (Sits in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days – 8 days from Rosh Hashona to Yom Kippur… Saturday’s are always Shabbat, that’s never the issue with the Jewish holidays… and it’s difficult to explain, but it depends how much Turnbull thinks he’s going to need the support of the Jewish community in the last week – most of them will be eating. Islamic and Coptic New Year also fall that week.)
- 20 October (the Hindu major festival of Vijayadashami/Dasara is on this date, and the Invictus Games begin)
- 27 October (clear aside from the Invictus Games)
- December 1 & 8 (Both are within the eight days of Channukah, but this is not a ‘work forbidden’ Jewish festival so should not create any problem in Turnbull’s backyard, although may undermine the OTT ‘look how Jewish we are’ nonsense that’s been going on in Melbourne. They’re also very close to the Victorian election so highly unlikely.)
- 15 December (cutting it very close to Christmas and into peak bushfire season in particular, school holidays will have begun for some, and still too close to the Victorian poll)
- 28 February (Last date to be called before NSW restrictions come into play, would require the election to be called before Australia Day which makes for very unhappy politicians and voters – especially given the extra long weekend for Australia Day in 2019)
- 11 May (Mother’s Day the following day, and they’d lose a huge chunk of the most important campaigning window to Easter.)
Malcolm Turnbull is not going to snooker himself into a choice between crashing Mother’s Day and literally the last available date on the calendar, with a compromised campaign window. Nor tempt God with a late December or February election and be likely to have Victoria and NSW on fire and cyclones across the entire north of the map (Chas v’Shalom).
August is probably going to feel like it’s an ‘Early’ election, called first thing in the window, and the budget may not be passed.
That leaves September 8. As Antony Green, and Barrie Cassidy, and many others who have been watching elections for a very long time have said… it’s unlikely to be a 2019 election. September 8 is probably the optimal date, but may too be hit with being called an ‘early’ election, and I think the Libs might want a bit more time.
I have modeled the VCP around October 20 as strategically, if I were running the campaign, I would want those images of being at the footy finals etc at about 3 weeks out – right in the middle of the campaign – and I would want as much distance from the Victorian poll as possible, while still giving people a week back into the routine after school holidays, and ‘feeling’ like it’s towards the end of the year to avoid the ‘early’ perception. Also, the Invictus games are on October 20-27, which means while you might squeeze in election day prior to the opening ceremony on the 20th, you’ll lose a lot of attention that week – and strategically, you don’t want that kind of competition when trying to hammer home your message, so deepest apologies to the Hindu community, the 20th is better than the 27th. September 8 is also a bit cold, and people tend to vote against the Government when they’re cold, wet and miserable.
(I should say the study has alterations already built in for every possible date through to May… it’s not a problem, but the calendar on my wall is for an election on October 20.)
Yes you can see the list of election dates and my notes, but as above, it’s not comprehensive, just as much time as I thought needed to be spent on it.