Australians won’t be learning the date of the next federal election on Sunday, as the Morrison government buys itself more time to sell its budget.
AAP understands Prime Minister Scott Morrison has decided against visiting Government House on Sunday, with the election date now more likely to be May 18.
A delayed election announcement would advantage the government by stretching out their access to taxpayer funds for advertising policies and programs.
Since January, an independent committee has approved 15 major government advertising campaigns covering energy, health, roads and schools.
It would also allow MPs, who have already left Canberra, to spend more time spruiking last Tuesday’s budget in their electorates.
On the downside, the Senate is scheduled to continue with budget estimates this week, hearings that could potentially be damaging for the government.
As well, Nationals members are hoping for a conclusion to the environmental assessment on the proposed Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland, which they can take to the election as a win for jobs and the economy.
Despite the delay, Liberal strategists and staff have begun arriving at their campaign headquarters in Brisbane while Labor staffers are setting up their base in Parramatta in western Sydney.
Bill Shorten says Labor is ready for whenever Mr Morrison calls the election.
The Labor leader told reporters in Launceston the government had given up governing.
“If the prime minister wants to play games about when he calls the election, I’m just not interested,” the opposition leader said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the election timing was up to the prime minister.
“It will be made in due course. An election will soon be upon us, but the contest will be very clear,” he said.
Mr Morrison is attending an NRL match on Saturday night between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels.
He’s also expected to attend church in Sydney on Sunday.
An average of opinion polls puts Labor ahead of the coalition 53-47 on a two-party preferred basis, which would deliver Mr Shorten a comfortable majority.
Half the Senate is up for re-election, with a number of crossbenchers expected to lose their seats while the major parties consolidate their numbers.
Meanwhile, the Liberal National Party pre-selected marketing expert Angie Bell as its candidate for the safe Gold Coast seat of Moncrieff, being vacated by former minister Steve Ciobo.