Why Hasn’t the 2022 Election Been Announced Yet?

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According to a little thing called the Australian Constitution, the Federal Election can be held no later than May 21 this year. That is less than two months away and yet we’ve not heard a peep as to the actual date of the thing.

What is going on here?

Granted, the date is unlikely to be a surprise. Given it has to be held on a Saturday, at least 33 days after being called and will be chosen by the Prime Minister on a date that most benefits the ruling party, there are really only two dates on which it could be held.

Either May 14 or May 21 is all but guaranteed to be the date of the election in 2022.

To be fair, the government is under no obligation to announce an election until just over a month before it, but common courtesy and history suggest that it would be announced with at least a little more breathing room than April 18.

There are a few possible explanations as to why they haven’t called the election yet, and most of them reflect pretty poorly on the Coalition government.

Here’s what we know.

Why Hasn’t the Government Announced the Election Yet?

There’s been running commentary and prediction articles on the date of the election for over a year now and probably a lot longer. It did look like Morrison was going to call an early election once the vaccine rollout got going but he squashed those rumours with an interview in September of last year.

Here’s the thing; the Prime Minister alone (sort of) has the power to call an election. Much like picking a wedding day based on weather patterns, it’s hard to know when exactly the perfect date will be. Generally, you want the sun to be shining on you and you’ll take a red hot guess at when that might be based on the information available.

Ministers and MPs have been waiting for what looks like a gap in the clouds for a long time but the rain keeps pouring (both figuratively and literally), dashing their hopes of getting a clean run to Polling Day.

Morrison’s bungled jab rollout meant there had to be some distance between that and the election announcement in the public consciousness. Then you had the emergence of a new variant which again pushed the date out. Following a spike in cases over Christmas and into the new year, next came the war in Ukraine, then the floods, and then the floods again.

All of this has reflected badly on Morrison, who appears to be slipping in the polls. Labor leader Anthony Albanese has equalled him as preferred PM for the first time recently, while Labor has been leading as the preferred government for some time. Unless there’s a serious reversal in fortune for Morrison, the election isn’t going to be called any time soon.

The budget, given by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on 29 March, was very much an election budget and probably the announcement that the Coalition was waiting for before announcing the ballot.

Frydenberg dished out quick wins like a $250 one-off payment to pensioners and veterans, an increase in the low-and-middle-income tax offset of $420, and a halving of fuel excise. These are all tempting, headline-grabbing offers that divert attention from the cuts to the fight against climate change, the arts sector, education funding, and the upcoming annual cuts of $9075 to those earning over $200,000.

The government has also set aside $13.8 billion of taxpayer money to get themselves reelected at the upcoming election – you know, more than they’re spending on the Great Barrier Reef or women’s equality.

The budget has however received luke-warm reviews, and political analysts are saying it’s unlikely to sway the election one way or another in that it doesn’t massively change the direction of politics over the last few years.

Morrison has also recently been embroiled in a racism scandal, with allegations that he weaponised the Lebanese heritage of former Liberal candidate Michael Towke in order to become the Liberal selection for the seat of Cook in 2007.

There was also the uncertainty around whether he was legally allowed to intervene in pre-selection choices for NSW federal MPs for the upcoming election, a challenge that was ruled fair on Tuesday. With that out of the way, it’s likely an election announcement is imminent.

When Will the 2022 Federal Election Be Held?

As to when that date will be, May 21 looks likely, however, May 14 is also an option.

We’ve known for some time that a federal election, which sees a vote on members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, has to happen between August 7, 2021 and May 21, 2022.

This is because members in the House of Representatives are elected for a three-year term and polling day must be held no later than 68 days after this date. For the current lot, their expiry date is July 1, meaning the election has to happen before September 3.

However, Senate representatives are elected for six years, with a three-year cycle for half of the house to avoid having more elections. The current half nearing the end of their term in office will see their time run out on June 30. Because there have to be 40 days, or six weeks, between the election and the start of Senator’s terms, May 21 is the last possible day that an election can be held.

Of course, May 21 is cutting it very fine, as it’s actually a day short of six weeks. As 1 July is a Friday, we could see the Senate sit on Monday 4 July, but it does complicate matters. For that reason, 14 of May looks like the safer bet.

We are very likely to have the starting gun fired on the 2022 federal election this weekend. If the election is not announced by Tuesday, May 12, it will have to be held on May 21. One way or another, we’ll have the date soon.

A Half Election?

The split in term dates between the House and the Senate does bring up the interesting idea of a half election in which we could see voting take place on half the Senators on May 21 and another election for the House of Representatives in September.

Antony Green, Chief Election Analyst at the ABC and arguably the greatest authority on elections in Australia, says that this idea is “highly improbable.”

“If the government doesn’t call a May election for the House in conjunction with the required half-Senate election, it would be an admission by the government that it is too frit to face the electorate,” he argues.

Splitting the election would be an admission from the government that they fear losing the election. No Prime Minister has ever delayed an election in this way before and Green says that doing so would be the “worst possible option for winning re-election” and would “guarantee” defeat.

Aside from that, it would also pause Parliament for months necessarily and cause some difficult constitutional issues so it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

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