Brendan is looking into an early election in New South Wales. Apart from the obvious barriers that might keep him from bringing this about (e.g., the fact that he isn’t a member of the NSW parliament, and that his party is in Opposition in that state), there are some extra issues.
Following a successful referendum in 1995, New South Wales became the first state to have fixed electoral terms. This means that an election is not due to be held until March 2011. The Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) s 24B sets out the circumstances in which the Legislative Assembly can be dissolved during the 4 year term. The possibilities it sets out that might apply in the current circumstances are:
- Passage of a no confidence motion, with a motion of confidence not being passed within the subsequent 8 days;
- Failure of the Legislative Assembly to pass a supply Bill “for the ordinary annual services of the Government”; or
- Other circumstances that would allow the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly in accordance with established Constitutional conventions.
The ALP holds 52 of the 93 seats in the Legislative Assembly, so for any move against the Government to pass would require at least six of their number to join the Coalition and independents. As much as the NSW Labor Party might be self-destructing, I find it difficult to imagine that any of them would throw their entire Government off the cliff by passing a no confidence motion in the newly-minted Rees Government or blocking appropriations. Even if Labor loses its seats in the upcoming by-elections, they will still retain their majority.
This means that an early election would probably require the Governor to exercise her reserve powers based on some established Constitutional convention. This is complicated by the fact that such conventions are unclear and far from well-established – these powers have been used rarely (the two examples in Australia being the dismissals of Jack Lang’s Government in NSW and Whitlam at the Commonwealth level) and have retrospectively been evaluated by many as not being justified by Constitutional conventions.
Given Brendan’s impotence in everything else, it strikes me as odd that he hopes to be capable of triggering a constitutional crisis. As much of a shambles as the New South Wales Government appears to be in, I don’t imagine that he is going to manage to contribute to a solution.