ALP fury at Turnbull’s party trick
ALP fury is mounting over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's party-pooper trick of calling five by-elections on the day of the Labor Party's biggest celebration.
Labor today will have to decide when to hold its national conference after it was announced the special elections would be held on the gathering's scheduled finale on July 28.
And it is not expected to rein in the fury over the issue directed at the Australian Electoral Commission, the body which oversees election fairness.
The date for elections technically is decided by the Speaker Tony Smith who takes advice from the AEC. But in reality it is a government decision made for its own best advantage.
The Labor accusation, which is not supported by evidence, is that the commission gave the Government the date it wanted and was an accomplice in causing major disruption for Labor.
Senior shadow minister Anthony Albanese today said the Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers appeared to be confused about the effect of school holidays on voter turnout.
"The Electoral Commissioner doesn't seem to have taken into any account the fact that these days one-in-four voters pre-poll," Mr Albanese told ABC radio from the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, one of the five seats where a by-election will be held.
He said: "So it is incomprehensible to me why it is that this one day of the term is the day in which five elections have been called, deliberately."
Last night ALP federal president Mark Butler said the date "appears to have been deliberately designed to disadvantage the Labor Party, given our National Conference is scheduled for that weekend".
The ALP national conference, the party's most senior decision-making body whose deliberations will set policies for the federal election expected early next year, was planned to be held over three days with the important final day set for Saturday, July 28.
However, Speaker Tony Smith yesterday announced July 28 would be the date for five by-elections, four of them in seats previously held by Labor, three of those four caused by breaches of the constitution related to the dual nationality of the former MPs.
Speaker Smith, quoting advice from the AEC, told Parliament on Thursday the July 28 date provided sufficient time for the commission to implement changes to prevent further dual citizenship problems for the 50 by-election candidates.
Labor protested that its 500,000 voters in five seats would not be represented in Parliament for two months.
Anthony Albanese said the selection of July 28 was not a coincidence.
"The date they appeared to have picked is the one date in three years when Labor has a democratic process, it has election of delegates right around the country, it's shown live, it's broadcast." he told ABC radio.
And as for new forms and regulations for candidates aimed at preventing a repeat of dual citizenship problems, Mr Albanese said: "I've seen more-difficult forms to get a library card."