In an address to the National Press Club on 30 January 2013, the Prime Minister made a surprise announcement that the Federal Election will be held on Saturday, 14 September 2013, providing for an effective 7 1/2 month election campaign. The PM said that “announcing the election date now enables individuals and business, investors and consumers, to plan their year”. The PM said that later this year, she will advise the Governor-General to dissolve the House of Representatives, with writs to be issued on Monday 12 August 2013 for an election for the House and half of the Senate, to be held on Saturday, 14 September 2013.
While referencing savings changes already announced and implemented, such as tax changes concerning golden handshakes, superannuation for high income earners, FBT and LAFHAs, and means testing the private health insurance rebate, the PM said that in the lead up to and in the Federal Budget, the Government would “announce substantial new structural savings that will maintain the sustainability of the Budget and make room for key Labor priorities”. Ms Gillard said that this year, the Government would “make the tough, necessary decisions to ensure our medium-term fiscal strategy is delivered, and our centrepiece plans for Australian children and Australians with disability are funded, in this new low-revenue environment”.
The 2010 Federal Election saw a 5-week campaign, so an effective 7 1/2 month campaign this year will be a test. Under the current Parliamentary sittings schedule, Parliament’s last sitting day before the Election would be Thursday, 27 June 2013 (ie the end of its Winter 2013 Sittings). It is understood that the Government could introduce Bills up to and including that day (of course, Bills not passed by then would lapse). The House of Reps is scheduled to sit for only 9 weeks and the Senate only 7 weeks up to 27 June 2013. This all makes for “action-packed” Parliamentary sittings in the Autumn and Winter Sittings.
Once the writs are issued and the House of Reps is dissolved, the Government will be in “caretaker mode”. The caretaker period extends from the date of dissolution of the House of Reps to the day the election result is clear or, in the event of a change of government, until a new government is appointed. During the caretaker period, the business of government continues and ordinary matters of administration still need to be addressed. However, successive governments have followed a series of practices, known as the “caretaker conventions”, which aim to ensure that their actions do not bind an incoming government and limit its freedom of action. In summary, the conventions are that the government avoids: (i) making major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government; (ii) making significant appointments; and (iii) entering major contracts or undertakings.
Obviously, the scheduled resumption of Parliament on 20 August 2013 will not now occur. However, Parliament will resume after the Election for a shortened Spring Sittings.
Also, speculation has been rife that the Government is looking at the possibility of winding back the tax-free status of withdrawals from superannuation for the over 60s for those with high superannuation balances (suggested to be around $1m). Many in the wealth and superannuation industry are suggesting this would be counter-productive (as being a disincentive to people to put funds in super thereby meaning they would move on to the Age Pension earlier) and in any case, that the purported $1m figure is too low.
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