A double dissolution of parliament, now that would be impossible in India, but seems like a definite possibility here in Australia in the coming months
In India, the Lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha can be dissolved, but the Upper House or Rajya Sabha, as a continuing house, is not subject to dissolution. (Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected for six-year terms. A third of its member retire every two years and hence the continuity.)
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated his slogan of “Congress-mukt Bharat” (Congress-free India). While that did eventuate in the Lok Sabha, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies winning 335 of the 543 seats, it did not translate into similar numbers in the Upper House where the Congress is still the largest group, with 67 of the 245 seats. Along with its allied parties, the Opposition controls 132 votes, the BJP and its allies 60. Twelve members are nominated and usually side with the government which nominated them. The balance 41 are votes that can swing either way. With these numbers, the Upper House can block passage of key bills, as has been seen with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill recently.
Prior to the next election in India in 2019, it is expected that the ruling BJP will increase its numbers in the Upper House, but will still struggle to gain control.
One can only imagine that an option like what has been tabled by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of dissolving both houses of Parliament and seeking a public mandate to re-elect both houses, would have been a welcome option by PM Modi, should that option be available through the Constitution of India.
The next few months will be fascinating for those who enjoy the hurly burly of politics. While in distant lands, the emergence of potential Republican candidates for the US Presidential elections will dominate our media, the start of the election campaign in Australia will also make for great debate and banter for those interested. While some believe that this is a big gamble by the Australian Prime Minister, history seems to be on the side of the incumbent government. Double dissolutions have been called six times in the past; of these, the government has won four times and lost twice.
As to what happens this time depends on a number of factors. If the ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill are not passed, a double dissolution election will be called. By taking this series of steps, it seems that Malcolm Turnbull has framed the debate on the grounds of union power, a battle ground the Liberals would be comfortable on. The Australian Labor Party would be far more at home to bring the debate to their strengths of education and health care, and will work towards a strategy of painting the Liberals as wanting complete dominance of both Houses of Parliament so that they can revive the 2014 budget measures of a Medicare co-payment, increasing university fees etc. The Liberals may like to visit the ghosts of Prime Ministers past, such as when Paul Keating famously described Australia’s Senate as “unrepresentative swill”.
Be that as it may, with this long lead up to the federal election, it does give the Indian Australian community an opportunity to maximise any election opportunities for the local community. It will be great to have the local politicians walk the talk rather than just talk the talk.