Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek has questioned the choice of by election date. Picture: Anna Rogers
Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek has questioned the choice of by election date. Picture: Anna Rogers

Labor’s problem with ‘Super Saturday’ vote date

VOTERS in five federal seats will likely go to by-elections on July 28 to avoid school holidays and await new rules for candidates.

However, Labor objected to the proposed date because it "coincidentally" lands on one of the days of its party national conference.

Speaker Tony Smith, who is responsible for issuing writs for elections, told parliament on Thursday he had consulted with the Australian Electoral Commission on preferred dates for the by-elections in Braddon, Fremantle, Longman, Mayo, Perth and Fremantle.

He said as a matter of principle election writs were issued "as soon as electorally practicable" to ensure seats do not go without MPs for too long. However, he said the fact there were five by-elections, four of which were triggered by citizenship issues, meant there was a "unique set of circumstances".

The government is awaiting the Governor-General to sign off on a new regulation, which has bipartisan support, to ensure all candidates must publicly declare they are not dual citizens.

The sign-off is expected on May 29, with the regulations expected to take two weeks for the AEC to implement.

There was also a question of school holidays scheduled for July. "I consider it is prudent in the current circumstances that I follow (the AEC's) advice and allow time to the changes related to section 44 (of the constitution) to be implemented," Mr Smith said.

"I therefore propose to accept the commission's recommendation for the optimal date of July 28." He said he would consult with the AEC about the date to issue the writs "and the relative dates of the by-elections" and advise the parliament when the dates have been settled.

The new members won't be able to take up their seats until August 13 at the earliest.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said the timing had been "deliberately designed" to disadvantage her party.

"Malcolm Turnbull owes the Australian people a serious explanation for this unacceptably long wait," she said.


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