Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened to call early elections if the Senate fails to pass key bills to curb corruption. The bills, which seeks to curb union corruption, calls for the introduction of a building construction industry watchdog.
In what is seen as a rare move, the Australian premier has warned of a double dissolution on 2 July unless the bills are passed by the Senate. During a hurriedly convened press conference, Turnbull said the government would convene both the houses of parliament for an extraordinary sitting on 19 April when the bills would be taken up.
"The time has come for the Senate to recognise its responsibilities and help advance our economic plans, rather than standing in the way," said Turnbull. "The restoration of the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission] is a critical economic reform. The time for playing games is over."
So far, it appears unlikely that the bills will be passed in April. Several senators have reacted sharply to Turnbull's announcement.
The double dissolution — a constitutional move to break the gridlock between the two houses of the parliament — has not been used since 1987. The Senate and the government have been sparring on several issues, with the former stymieing much of the latter's agenda.
Shortly prior to the press conference, Turnbull said he was also bringing forward the budget on 3 May, regardless of the outcome of the April parliamentary sitting.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said: "Today Mr Turnbull has decided to put his own future ahead of Australia's future. Today Australians have seen a PM in full panic mode."
"There can be no better demonstration of the chaos at the heart of this dysfunctional and divided Government than the fact that the Treasurer of Australia thought that the Budget was going to be on a different day to his PM." If the snap elections are avoided, the polls for the lower house and half of the Senate will take place at the scheduled time either in August or September.