"The only poll that matters is the one put to the Australian people."
- Every cliché speaker, 9th Apr 2018
I heard variations on that at least a dozen times yesterday, after the news had been splashed over just about every daily in the country, that the Turnbull Government had lost the 30th Newspoll in a row, for the title of preferred government and preferred Prime Minister. Naturally the Fairfax newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age thought that this was objective news, the News Ltd tabloids ran attack pieces on Bill Shorten and trying to make the case that it could be worse, and Uncy Rupey's own little doyenne of The Australian ran several stories making the case that Malcolm Turnbull should be fired and that the Coalition was in danger of losing the next election.
So I in my noggin, tried to game out when that next election will be called, and like almost every prediction that I've made over the years, I expect that it will be completely wrong. As a political prophet I am as good as that dude on the 13th of March who told Caesar that he would have a long and glorious life, and then on the 16th claimed that I was wrong but was in the right spirit by saying that he would be remembered for a long and glorious time.
I don't have a crystal ball of prophecy but a steel can of prophecy which is frequently full of mud.
Assuming that the election was held tomorrow, the 9% gap in the Two Party Preferred stats, would translate to an 1% swing and a result of Labor on 77 seats (which is a majority of 2) and the Coalition on 69. Clearly this is terrible for the government and so they wouldn't call an election for a while.
By my reckoning, the earliest that a normal simultaneous Half-Senate and House Of Representatives election can be held is on the 4th of August 2018 and likewise the absolute latest that it could be held is the 18th of May 2019.
If I was Mr Turnbull, I would kick that can as far down the road as I possibly could but that means that you run into an instant problem. The write for the last possible date would have to be presented to the Governor General in the we ending the 13th of April 2019. As the writs are the instruments which request the Governor General to dissolve parliament, parliament would not be sitting during that most special of Tuesdays in May when the budget is handed down. A May election would become by default an election for the Federal Budget. If the Budget was to be handed down in April (which is acceptable because the Constitution makes no specific regulations on specific matters of supply) then the risk is that the if power changes hands, then the next government could sweep aside the previous one. If no budget was handed down, then you risk losing the power of the purse to the enemy which would be backed up by mandate, by virtue of there literally just being a de facto election on the matter.
A sneaky government would send the Australian people to a Half-Senate election in April 2019 and continue to kick the can down the road to the very last possible date of 2nd of November 2019. That way the Coalition would retain the power of the 2019 budget, take its chances with whatever Senate that resulted, and hopefully wait for the storms of the winds of Newspoll to pass.
I personally think that there will be no election in 2018 because the Coalition is hoping that their friends at News Ltd do a sufficiently good enough hatchet job on the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the meantime that they can ride out the storm of unfavourable Newspolls and then claim some sort of moral victory by declaring that it has been strong and stable amidst the storms of public opinion.
Even if there is a swing of 0.3% towards Labor on current results as of today, the Coalition would still retain government because a Federal Election is really 150 by-elections which are held at the same time and an overall swing might not necessarily produce a general result - there are a few notoriously sticky seats.
My inkling is that there will most likely be a May 18 2019 election, with the Appropriation Bill No.1 having been presented to the House in April. Precedent for this exists with the 1954 election that returned Menzies to power, although a Royal Tour and the end of the Petrov Affair also helped. That and the fact that Doc Evett couldn't fight his way out of a wet election paper bag, which was open at the top and had giant rips in the side. Of course if there is an uptick in public opinion and the streak of unfavourable Newspolls is broken, then we might see an earlier election but I doubt it.
I daren't make any prediction about who would win the next election because I have nowhere near enough data to determine trend lines towards an unknown date. That's like asking me to look into my steel can of prophecy which is filled with mud, when I don't even know how far down the road it will be kicked. I can say for certain though, that when it is kicked, mud will splatter in all directions; so if you are wearing your favourite team's jersey before the kicking and mud splattering starts, it will get dirty.