Alcopops Bill Takes Aim at Double Dissolution

In what could be described as a masterstroke of political tactics, the Federal Government is set to reintroduce its previously failed Alcopops Bill to Parliament.

The move will simultaneously paint the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull as an Obstructionist – a perception that is beginning to take shape in the public domain – as well as potentially bring on an early election if the Bill is once again knocked back.

The Australian reports that if the Liberal leader refuses to reverse his opposition to the $1.6 billion tax increase, Senate rejection of the bill could provide a constitutional trigger for a double dissolution of the parliament and a fresh election, depending on the nature of the bill and the timing involved.

While the Treasurer stressed that the Government was not planning an early election, his deliberate move to raise the possibility, combined with a savage attack on Mr Turnbull as obstructionist, heralded a marked shift in government tactics to paint the Opposition Leader as negative and out of touch.

As health groups applauded the Government’s push to revive its rejected tax increase, Mr Turnbull counter-attacked last night, saying the measure on so-called alcopops was a cynical tax grab and accusing Mr Swan of adopting the bullying tactics of a man unable to get his own way.

Family First senator Steve Fielding, whose vote was instrumental in sinking the first alcopops bill in March, said he would reject it again unless the Government agreed to ban alcohol advertising during television broadcasts of sport.

When the Senate rejects legislation twice with a three-month interval between each vote, the Government has the right to seek the Governor-General’s permission to dissolve parliament.

Asked about this yesterday, Mr Swan said: “Malcolm Turnbull might load the gun, but we certainly have no intention of firing it. What we want to do is put our legislation up into the Senate and have it passed.”

Mr Swan said Mr Turnbull had opposed a string of government initiatives, including the alcopops tax, a national broadband network, two economic stimulus packages (including the biggest school modernisation program in Australian history and cash payments to pensioners and carers) and new spending on hospitals.

The other side just want to be opportunistic and play politics with a serious measure that deals with a serious public health problem,” Mr Swan said.

“Mr Turnbull and the Liberals have been negative, they’ve been obstructionist.”

Mr Turnbull told The Australian last night he did not necessarily accept that the alcopops bill could be an election trigger, because the Constitution was very complex.

But he said he had no intention of supporting the bill and rejected the claim that he was being obstructionist. “This is what every bully says when he can’t get his own way,” Mr Turnbull said.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out and whether Fielding will repeat his last performance…

Steve Fielding: Get out of the way!

So Senator Steve Fielding is demanding a $4 billion addition (or is it substitution) to the Rudd government’s stimulus package. You have to wonder just what the role of a sole Senator is. Economic management? Grandstanding? Political/economic vandalism? Whatever he thinks it is, I’m sure the overwhelming majority of the Australian electorate have a message for him:

Get out of the way!

You can send him your thoughts at:

senator.fielding@aph.gov.au