The Turnbull government appears to have given up its most plausible double-dissolution trigger, with legislation establishing the new building industry watchdog left off the list of bills it is insisting be passed in the final Senate sitting week before the May budget. The legislation to re-establish the Building and Construction Commission has been widely assumed to be the government’s preferred trigger for a double dissolution, building on findings and allegations about construction unions raised during the Heydon royal commission. The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, has held several meetings this week with the Senate crossbench about the building watchdog bill, but it has appeared unlikely to pass – particularly since the government angered the crossbenchers with the Senate voting changes that will make it extremely difficult for them to be re-elected.
Crossbenchers suggested various amendments and say they have not heard back from Cash. Now a notice moved in the Senate listing all the bills the government is demanding be passed in the final week of sittings before the autumn break does not include the construction watchdog bill.
It leaves the Senate voting reform as the major piece of legislation to be debated in the final sitting week and also lists a number of other non-controversial bills, saying the Senate will continue to sit past the scheduled final date of 17 March until they are all passed.
The government has one other potential trigger – the Registered Organisations bill – but the absence of the building watchdog bill is being interpreted as a sign the government may be cooling on the double-dissolution option and preparing to go to a normal poll, which cannot be held before early August.