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Australian PM Turnbull handed early election trigger

Australia's opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media in Sydney after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull threatened on March 21, 2016, to hold early general elections in July unless the upper house agrees to pass deadlocked legislation to overhaul unions. Turnbull came to power in a ruling party coup in September calling for better management of Australia's economy, but his government does not control the Senate and has failed to push through industrial relations bills.  / AFP / William WEST

Australia’s opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media in Sydney after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull threatened on March 21, 2016, to hold early general elections in July unless the upper house agrees to pass deadlocked legislation to overhaul unions.<br />Turnbull came to power in a ruling party coup in September calling for better management of Australia’s economy, but his government does not control the Senate and has failed to push through industrial relations bills.<br />/ AFP / William WEST

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was Monday handed his trigger to call July elections after the Senate for a second time rejected government legislation to re-establish a construction industry watchdog.

Turnbull, who wrested the leadership from conservative Liberal Party colleague Tony Abbott in September, has threatened to hold national polls for both houses of parliament on July 2 unless the Senate passed two stalled bills relating to unions.

But the Senate on Monday evening rejected for a second time legislation to reestablish a construction watchdog. It has already twice blocked a second industrial relations bill.

“The result of the decision in the Senate a short while ago… means that the constitutional grounds for a double dissolution election exist,” Attorney-General George Brandis said.

But Brandis said this did not equate with Australia being in an election campaign.

“It is not really an election campaign until the parliament is dissolved and the writs are issued, in my view,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Last month Turnbull recalled parliament to consider the bills and said if the Senate failed to pass them, he would set in train the process to dissolve both houses of parliament and issue writs for an election.

The government is set to deliver its annual budget on May 3, and Brandis said this would be a priority.

Turnbull’s Liberal/National coalition government has been wavering in opinion polls, with a Newspoll published in The Australian on Monday showing the opposition Labor Party ahead of the government 51 percent to 49 percent.

But Brandis said almost all Australian elections fell within a 52-48 margin and were generally “extremely contestable by both sides”.

“As we move into the home stretch, you would expect the race to tighten because that is what always happens,” he said.



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