Australia's Set For A Stormy Year In Politics

While the federal election could be as far away as May, campaign storm clouds are gathering fast.

The NSW state election is March 23 and the federal budget is April 2, and with only a handful of sessions scheduled for parliament between now and May, our federal leaders will be spending their time doing a lot more campaigning than governing in Canberra.

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

It's basically going to be rolling politics 24/7 until election day.

Here's what you can expect in the next few months.

The timeline

There may be as few as 10 sitting days for the House of Representatives and just five in the Senate before the election.

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That includes just two sitting days after the federal budget on April 2, in which budget estimates hearings are meant to be held and parts of the budget passed, with more estimates days scheduled for the following week.

Doesn't really leave a lot of time, huh?

(Image: AAP)

A federal election campaign generally runs for five weeks. That means Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to have the election by mid-May, will have to call the election and dissolve parliament sometime during the budget week.

Considering all this, the schedule starts to fall into place somewhat, and could look something like this:

  • February 12: federal parliament returns (three days)
  • February 18: federal parliament (four days)
  • late February: NSW state election campaign begins
  • March 23: NSW state election
  • April 2: federal budget, three days of parliament
  • April 4-12: budget estimates hearings
  • April 6(ish): Morrison calls the election, the campaign begins
  • May 4 or 11: federal election

From now until then, it's going to be busy.

What? TWO elections?

Yep. If you're in NSW, you could be going to the polls twice in just over a month -- once in late March, once in early May.

The government could still technically (at this stage, at least) call a snap election for early March, but the prevailing strategic thought is that whichever government goes to the polls first, the Liberal Party will get a whacking from upset and frustrated NSW voters.

So, ScoMo probably wants to go second, once the voters have had a chance to cool down a bit.

The NSW state Coalition government isn't too unpopular and has a decent chance of retaining office.

Both levels of government will say that state voters make their choice on state issues, and federal voters make their choice on federal issues.

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be doing her best through the state campaign to make sure voters know that she shouldn't be hauled over the coals for the recent nonsense going on in the federal Liberal Party.

Who's going to win?

As the old political chestnut goes, "the only poll that matters is the one on election day". You usually hear it coming from the mouth of the side losing in the opinion polls.

As of right now, it doesn't look too good for the coalition.

(AAP Image/Chris Pavlich)

The latest Newspoll has Labor at a 53-47 two-party lead. That's bad for the government, but it was actually an improvement on last month when it was 55-45.

If that number is replicated nationally, it would deliver Labor 82 seats in the House of Reps, and just 63 to the Coalition.

So it's a lock for Labor?

Maybe. However:

1) these polls never replicate uniformly on a national basis, meaning Labor will almost certainly win a bunch of seats but maybe not that many, or perhaps even more;

2) elections don't always play out the way the polls predict, with people often making different decisions at the ballot box than what they told pollsters they would do.