Queensland Senate election made easy

Most pundits were quick to dismiss Pauline Hanson’s chances when she announced her bid for a Queensland Senate seat on Wednesday, on the eminently reasonable grounds that she failed at the same endeavour in 2001. John Wanna, professor of Politics and Public Administration at Griffith University and the Australian National University, was almost a lone voice in suggesting otherwise in The Australian yesterday:

The Greens are expected to win somewhere close to 6-7 per cent, but to fall short of victory because Labor and the Liberals/Nationals will not allocate them preferences. The Democrats’ vote will plummet – so even if they do receive the preferences of the major parties they may not be able to hold (John) Cherry’s seat. This means Hanson, (One Nation Senator Len) Harris and the Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce will be vying for the final position.

The Poll Bludger would normally defer to the superior wisdom of Wanna, but he believes he can see a few things wrong with this. Firstly, in writing off the Greens and Democrats and including Joyce as one of those fighting it out for the final position, Wanna is predicting that either Labor or Liberal will win three of the other five seats. If he means the latter, he is raising the prospect of the Coalition winning four out of six, a wholly unprecedented achievement. If he means the former, he is predicting a significantly different outcome from 2001, when Labor won only two seats with a mere 31.8 per cent of the vote.

Secondly, Labor may not be allocating preferences to the Greens ahead of the Democrats, but they will surely put them ahead of the other listed contenders. Since it is then argued that the Democrats will do so poorly they will face an early elimination, those Labor preferences will still end up flowing on to the Greens. It also appears certain that the Coalition parties will place the Greens ahead of Hanson and Len Harris, the only other contenders Wanna mentions. The only beneficiary of any Coalition surplus would be the dark horse of the race, independent Hetty Johnston.

Thirdly, Len Harris is not "vying" for anything. He will definitely lose his seat.

The latest polling puts the Coalition on track to again win three seats, the struggle for third place between the Liberals and Nationals being a purely internal matter. If Pauline Hanson is to jeopardise this she will need to either substantially improve her primary vote from 2001 or somehow find a source of preferences, perhaps from Hetty Johnston and Family First (I must confess to ignorance of their attitude to Hanson and One Nation). If the Coalition wins a third seat they will leave few votes surplus to their third quota, so their preferences are unlikely to matter much. Labor are a different matter since they are likely to win only two seats, but with a significant surplus to spare. This surplus would combine with the vote for the Greens and Democrats to form a single voting bloc of which the Greens will be the most likely beneficiary, although the Democrats could conceivably overtake them if Labor’s surplus is greater than the Greens’ lead over them. On the other hand, this bloc could be edged out by a mutually preferencing alternative bloc consisting of Hanson, Johnston and Family First. It’s anyone’s guess who might emerge at the top of the heap out of those three.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.