Speculation is swirling that an early federal election is on the cards, with July 2 seen as the likely date for a possible double dissolution poll.
The Coalition government has continually hosed down speculation of going to the polls early, but a shaky opening to the parliamentary year seemingly has Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull considering the option. Less than a month ago, the PM was promising "August, September, October" for the poll, and government ministers have shot down the chances of an early election in almost every interview they have done.
Turnbull has previously told cabinet colleagues an early election is a "live option," but news on Friday has given the strongest indication yet that we might be heading to the polls in July; the Herald Sun is reporting government sources discussing a July 2 election, to be called right after the federal budget in May, and government ministers are also hinting.
Speaking at a conference in Sydney, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said "[an early election is] possible because it is possible, but it doesn't mean that it is probable, possibilities and probabilities are getting confused in this issue".
Speaking on TODAY, frontbencher Christopher Pyne also hinted at the possibility.
"The election is due in August, September, so an election in July would not be regarded by the public as an early election," he said.
"We haven't had an election in July since 1987. So it's as good a time as any, but I don't think that there is any plan to have an election in July."
Senator Glenn Lazarus, speaking on 3AW Radio, also tipped an early poll.
"I think that's what will happen," he said.
The government must hold an election by the end of the year, but has the option of forcing a double dissolution election, where both houses of parliament are vacated and every MP and Senator is up for election. The Prime Minister can ask the Governor-General to dissolve the houses of parliament if the same bill has been rejected twice by the Senate.
The government currently has a "trigger" bill that has been rejected twice by the Senate -- legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission watchdog -- which Turnbull could choose to reintroduce and force a double dissolution. Such an election would likely move on many of the senators who have helped block many government bills, with a reported $36 billion of government savings held up in the senate.