Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has organised for Parliament to be recalled three weeks early, to debate a series of Bills that, if not passed, will result in a double dissolution election.
Turnbull said he on Monday called upon the Governor-General, requesting he recall both houses on April 18 to debate the reinstatement of a construction industry watchdog.
"I make no apology for interrupting Senators' seven-week break to bring them back to deal with this legislation. This is an opportunity for the Senate to do its job of legislating rather than filibustering.
"The go-slows and obstruction by Labor and the Greens on this key legislation must end. The Senate will have an additional three sitting weeks to deal with the ABCC and registered organisations legislation.
"(There is) plenty of time to pass these important laws. If the Senate fails to pass these laws, I will advise the Governor-General to dissolve both Houses of Parliament and issue writs for an election."
Key points of his statement include:
- The Governor General has been asked to "prorogue" the Parliament and summon it back on April 18, under section five of the Constitution;
- If the ABCC Bill and the Registered Organisations Bill are not passed, a double dissolution election will be called;
- A double dissolution election would be held on Saturday, 2 July;
- The Government will be bringing the Budget forward to Tuesday, 3 May;
The announcement was made in a last-minute press conference in the Prime Minister's courtyard at Parliament House.
As recently as one hour before his statement, Turnbull's senior colleagues were unaware of the PM's strategy. Turnbull made them aware late on Monday morning via a conference call.
Turnbull exercised section five of the Constitution, which empowers the Governor-General to recall Parliament while it is out of session.
The Prime Minister said he would release the constitutional advice he received to empower this move.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said the PM's move was set to prompt a fierce legislative debate in the Senate, even compared to last week's all-night sitting to pass voting reform laws.
"Last week was pretty ugly. This debate will be even uglier," Xenophon said.
He flagged adding "sensible" amendments to the bill.
However, Turnbull would not rule in, or rule out, whether he would be willing to compromise on amendments to get the Bills passed.
"I don't know what (possible amendments) are. I suspect the Senators you're talking about don't know what they are. Our commitment is to getting the Bills passed."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Turnbull was not so much concerned about the issues, as about keeping his job. While Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the ABCC was "bad legislation" and Turnbull didn't have any agenda set despite bringing the budget forward and risking an early election.
However, the Prime Minister did have one fan in Frank Underwood.
Turnbull featured on the House of Cards Twitter account on Monday morning with the line "If you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table."