2018 a busy year for elections

A spate of elections in 2018 could well change the Australian political landscape. There is the strong possibility of a Federal election, and the states of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania will definitely be going to the polls. There will also be local government elections in Tasmania and South Australia.

The Federal Government does not have to face the people until November 2019, but an election must be held by 18 May 2019 if the House of Representatives is to be synchronised with an election for half the Senate, as is the norm.

The half Senate and House elections can be held together at any time after 4 August 2018, so it is almost certain the next Federal election will be held between August and May 2019. Given the fractious nature of Australian politics, and the fact that the timing of the election is at the discretion of the Prime Minister, it is altogether possible that we could go to the polls in late 2018, barely two years since the last election, which was a double dissolution.

The issue of fixed terms and election dates for Federal Parliament has been revisited from time to time, but it would require a successful referendum and nothing is likely to happen for many years. A 1988 referendum on four year fixed terms for both the House and the Senate was resoundingly defeated, with less than one third of voters in favour.

An earlier referendum, in 1984, proposing that Senate and House elections be held on the same day – which would have meant that Senate terms would automatically be that of two house terms rather than the current six years – was also defeated, despite a majority of Australians supporting it. (It failed to gain a majority in a majority of states, as required by the constitution).

More definite is the timing of state elections, as most states now have fixed terms. First will be South Australia, due to go the polls on 17 March 2018. Australia’s longest running government, headed by the ALP’s Jay Weatherill, could finally be defeated.

The candidacy of Nick Xenephon means an uncertain result. Based on current polling, the man could even become Premier. Whatever the case, it will be an election to watch.

Next is Tasmania, where the Liberal government of Premier Will Hodgman is well behind in the polls. The election is due on 19 May. Tasmania’s Hare-Clark electoral system, which sees five members elected from each of the state’s five federal electorates, makes it difficult to achieve a majority, and a Labor-Greens coalition is the most likely result.

Victoria will hold its election on 24 November. Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor government is ahead in the polls, but far from certain of winning. Much may depend on the timing of the Federal election.

The local government electoral scene is much quieter. Only Tasmania (in October) and South Australia (in November) are having council elections in 2018.

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