The 8th of April came and went; this means that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has until 11:59pm of the 15th of April to announce a May 18 election. A particular class of political pundits and watchers (I include myself in the latter category) have been expecting that the election would be held back until the last possible date for some time and that meant May 18 or so we thought.
It would appear that we're living on so narrow a premise that reality itself is fraying before our very eyes.
The Commissioner of Australian Elections at the Australian Electoral Commission, Tom Rodgers, was before Senate Estimates last week according to ABC Elections Analyst Antony Green, about the possibility of delaying the election until May 25.
Now you and I and everyone including Antony Green have been working on the assumption that the AEC which has given the same advice about Senate elections since 1972, has provided a time frame of six weeks before the expiry date because of a legal requirement. We were wrong. It turns out that that was only ever because of a regulation and that we've been quietly sitting with our fingers up our nose for the past 49 years.
You shouldn't assume - it makes an ass out of u and me.
In the 119 years since Federation, the closest that we have ever held a Senate election to the expiry date is 31st May 1913; which admittedly is still closer than either an 18th or 25th May election but that was under First Past The Post Plurality voting. If the Morrison Government is hoping to get the Opposition offside through the element of surprise then they are playing with a deck of 34 cards, some Draw Twos and a Draw Four Wild, a Blue Eyes White Dragon, and the Kamchatka card. Their game box is in disarray and they are hideously short of resources.
This would also explain why we keep on getting Australian Government adverts on the telly.
My suspicion is that the Liberal Party in particular is broke. The New South Wales branch of the party is still trying to fill the tills following on from the state election which was in March. Internally the Liberal Party has had a factional war; which must have affected the rate of donations to some degree.
The perpetual junior partner in the coalition, the National Party, is probably also bereft of cash, following on from an insane period where the former leader of the party was thrown out of parliament subject to Section 44 eligibility and then replaced as party leader after a marriage fidelity malfunction.
On the other side of the chamber, the Labor Party changed its rules, so now we have a party which has hid its internal squabbles effectively and although it has a leader who is somewhat lacking in the charisma department, he makes up for it in stability.
The term which came to prominence in US politics in 2017 was 'dumpster fire'. We don't exactly have a dumpster fire going in Australian politics but we do have our own unique kind of weirdness going on.
It is like the AEC is the landlord who has come to do an inspection of the house but the current tenant is desperately trying to tidy up. The landlord is jingling the keys on the outside of the door and Mr Morrison is frantically looking for a banana to push into the front door lock¹.
What we do know if the law isn't explicit on the subject, the sheer practicalities of counting millions of votes must eventually come into play. The Morrison Government can possibly keep the landlord outside for a little bit longer by throwing donuts out of the window and giving them extra resources to count votes faster but the expiry date of the Senate is fixed according to the Constitution. At some point whatever the Morrison Government is trying to say with donuts² is legally pointless. I don't even think that the Morrison Government can wait until the next Newspoll before announcing the election.
A look at the Ipsos, Galaxy and Newspolls for about the last eighteen months has had a theoretical Labor Government being installed with between 82 and 95 seats. Given the amount of faffing about being done right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they got a supermajority.
We are probably going to be going to the polls on May 18, although I don't really know what's right and real anymore if we can't even trust the advice of the Australian Electoral Commission who runs elections.
¹Pushing a banana into a door lock is a good way of temporarily lubricating the lock until you get something like WD-40.
²Actually about the only thing that you can physically say with donuts is Oooooooooo.