When is the 2022 Australian federal election?

Three dates are shaping up as the most likely for this year's federal election to take place.

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese

Source: SBS News/Aaron Hobbs

Millions of people will be heading to the ballot box - or submitting postal votes - later this year when the polls open for the 2022 federal election.

So far, few things about the poll are clear, such as who the big winners and losers will be and which party will be leading the country after the votes have been tallied.

But one thing is definitely certain: people will be asked to mark their preferences no later than 21 May.

Here's what you need to know about this year's federal election.

When will it be held?

Election day will fall on a Saturday between now and the end of May, but the exact timing is up to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Morrison, when he wants to fire the starting gun on the election campaign, will go to Governor-General David Hurley and request parliament be dissolved and writs for the election be issued.

Writs can be issued up to 10 days following the dissolution of parliament.
"Australia has maximum three-year terms for the House of Representatives and, for the Senate, half of the state senators' terms expire on 30 June every three years," Sarah Cameron, a political scientist in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney, said last month.

"As a result of these parameters, the last possible date for a combined half-Senate and House of Representatives election is 21 May this year. This is the last date that the election can be held so that senators can start their terms on 1 July of this year."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on election night in 2019 at the Wentworth Sofitel Hotel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on election night in 2019 at the Wentworth Sofitel Hotel. Source: AAP
The 2022 federal budget has been scheduled a bit earlier than usual this year, on 29 March. Usually, it’s handed down on the first Tuesday in May.

With the budget to be announced on Tuesday, , this leaves only three possible election dates: 7, 14, or 21 May. That would mean the election would need to be called in early to mid-April.

What could help determine the date?

Given Mr Morrison has the power to decide when the ballot is called, he will call it when the coalition is most likely to win, Dr Cameron said.

"What's happened over the summer with the COVID-19 outbreak is that the approval of the Prime Minister and the government has declined. So by waiting to call the election, it seems that the government would be waiting in the hopes of better polling by election time," she said.

"There was a lot of speculation that the government might call the election early last year, and that was because approval of the government was so high back when Australia was doing such a good job in managing the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to other countries. Now that context has changed."

What can South Australia's election tell us?

Labor’s win in South Australia is the first time there’s been a change of government since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Labor leader Peter Malinauskas’ victory against outgoing Premier Steven Marshall last weekend provides some insight into the upcoming Federal election, though little about when exactly it’ll be held.
Emeritus Professor Clem Macintyre from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide said the government is likely to wait and see the response to the budget before they call an election date.

"We've got the budget coming on Tuesday next week - they [the Coalition] may go fairly quickly after that if Scott Morrison thinks the wind's blowing in the right direction for the government," he said.

When it comes to lessons learned from the results of the South Australian election, the political scientist said sitting governments shouldn't rely on what they've already achieved.

Professor Macintyre said: "The Steven Marshall Liberal government chose to campaign very much on its record, a very successful record keeping coronavirus out of the state. South Australia had been free of most of the lockups common in the eastern states and most people in South Australia thought Steven Marshall had done a very good job at that. But the campaign was largely around that record: keeping South Australia safe. And there were a couple of policies he was proposing for the next term in office.
"Labor ran a more aggressive campaign, a more positive campaign and a bit more ambitious.

"Recognising the government needs to have a viable program for the next election cycle, and not just rely upon a record of achievement is one of the key issues [they need to address in the upcoming campaign]."

Hasn't the campaign already started?

You would be forgiven for thinking so, with parties across the spectrum talking about what they would do should they hold the balance of power in Canberra going into the winter.

But while politicians are free to talk about their priorities were they to win, the election campaign itself doesn't officially start until the writs are issued.

And we can expect things to ramp up as it draws closer.
Dr Cameron said: "Politicians can start campaigning before the election has been called, and indeed we can already see campaign billboards popping up around Australia at the moment. But the bulk of campaigning does happen during that campaign period after the election has been called, and before election day."

How will COVID-19 impact things?

The last federal election was held in May 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended nearly every aspect of our lives over the past two years.

While we don't know whether it'll happen for sure, it's been predicted a COVID-era election could see more people sending in postal votes rather than voting in person.

That could then mean counting the votes would take longer, and if the race is really close, we may not see a winner crowned on election day.

A COVID-safe election day could also mean QR code check-ins for those who do attend booths in person, and possibly, fewer democracy sausages on offer compared to three years ago.

The Australian Electoral Commission said in late January it was "consulting regularly with health authorities and ... a lot will depend on the COVID environment at election time."
Then-Labor leader Bill Shorten eating a sausage at a Sydney polling booth on election day in 2016.
Then-Labor leader Bill Shorten eating a sausage at a Sydney polling booth on election day in 2016. Source: AAP
Pre-COVID, rallies and kissing babies were part of the campaign backdrop. But like the electoral process itself, the campaign leading up to the vote will also take on a different tone.

Dr Cameron said: "Even aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in digital campaigning over time with the increasing importance of social media and online news. The COVID-19 pandemic could be further expected to add to this existing trend with a shift away from traditional modes of campaigning in favour of online campaigning."

Could we go to the polls twice this year?

It's possible two elections could be held in 2022, with Dr Cameron speaking of the possibility of "splitting the election for the House of Representatives and the half-Senate".

But she added: "This is very unlikely. And the last time that a Senate-only election was held was back in 1970."

Should Mr Morrison choose this option, it would mean one vote in or before May for 40 of the 76 seats in the Senate, and a second vote in early September at the latest for the 151 seats in the House of Representatives.

Who's up for election?

Regardless of whether the poll is split or not, all 151 members of the House of Representatives will be up for election this year.

That includes party leaders Scott Morrison (Liberal), Anthony Albanese (Labor), Barnaby Joyce (National) and Adam Bandt (Greens), as well as current high-ranking cabinet ministers Josh Frydenberg, Peter Dutton, and Karen Andrews.

It does not include Health Minister Greg Hunt or former attorney-general Chrisitan Porter, who have declared they will not run for re-election. But it does include Labor senator Kristina Keneally, who is set to run as an MP for the Western Sydney seat of Fowler.

On the Senate side, among the 40 who will have to run again are Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, as well as Labor's Penny Wong and One Nation's Pauline Hanson.

What about voter enrolment?

The AEC said last month 96 per cent of eligible Australians (17 million people) were registered to vote and it was contacting the 560,000 who may not be on the electoral roll.

Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said: “We have one of the highest rates of enrolment in the world and it has stayed remarkably high in between elections – it is a credit to Australians and an incredibly strong foundation for democratic participation.

“We’re always looking to boost that number though, especially with a federal election coming up in the next few months.”

Enrolments have to be current and changed to reflect a new address or name. Your enrolment can be amended at .

Additional reporting by Evan Young and Monique Pueblos.

8 min read
Published 6 February 2022 at 6:57am
By Emma Lawson, Alexander Britton
Source: SBS News