Last but not least

The Poll Bludger’s series on the various Senate contests today brings us to Tasmania. For those unfamiliar with the rules, we begin with an easy-to-follow guide to how your preferences will trickle down if you vote above the line.

Liberal: Family First; Christian Democratic; Democrats; Shayne Murphy; Greens; Labor.

Labor: Shayne Murphy; Family First; Greens; Democrats; Christian Democratic; Liberal.

Greens: Democrats; Shayne Murphy; Labor; Liberal; Christian Democratic; Family First.

Democrats: Shayne Murphy; Family First; Greens; Labor; Liberal; Christian Democratic.

Family First: Christian Democratic; Shayne Murphy; Labor; Democrats; Liberal; Greens.

Christian Democratic: Family First; Shayne Murphy; Liberal; Labor; Democrats; Greens.

Shayne Murphy: Family First; Labor; Liberal; Democrats; Christian Democratic; Greens.

Citizens Electoral Council: Greens; Shayne Murphy; Democrats; Christian Democratic; Labor; Family First; Liberal.

In 2001, Bob Brown got very near to a full quota with 13.8 per cent of the primary vote and minor party preferences did the rest. The Democrats and One Nation fell well short of both the Labor and Liberal surplus over the second quota, leaving the major parties competing for the final seat. The Liberals went into this contest with a slightly superior primary vote (38.8 per cent compared with 36.8 per cent for Labor) and were ahead of Labor on One Nation’s ticket. But Labor would still have won, narrowly, if the Democrats had given them full preferences instead of splitting them between the two major parties. Interestingly, Tasmania is the only state where they are not doing so again this time, instead favouring Labor.

The Greens should do at least as they did in 2001, leaving Labor, Liberal and another minor party candidate competing for sixth place, which will most likely be Family First. It is clear that Tasmania has been excepted from a number of mainland preference deals, as the Democrats have been frozen out by Family First as well as the CDP. The Democrats can retain a faint hope that the Greens might do well enough to deliver them their surplus, providing they stay in the hunt long enough to collect it. Shayne Murphy, who was elected as a Labor Senator in 1998 and made an indulgent decision to switch to the cross-benches, will need to outperform both the Democrats and the combined Family First-CDP vote, which doesn’t seem likely. However, his preferences should ensure that the CDP ends up behind Family First, who will end up absorbing the votes of all three. Should that account for the Democrats, they will then get their preferences as well. If that puts them ahead of one of the remaining major party candidates, their preferences will put them ahead of the other and into the Senate.

As for the major parties, the Liberals will need a much higher vote than they achieved in 2001 if they are to again win the last seat. On that occasion they ended up with the 3.3 per cent One Nation vote and half of the Democrats’ 4.6 per cent – this time they will have to make do with the CDP. That’s at least a 5 per cent handicap straight off the bat, so the recent controversies over forestry policy had better kick in hard if they’re going to make it up. The Poll Bludger’s tip: Liberal 2, Labor 2, Greens 1, Family First 1.

Here’s what the others think. Charles Richardson at Crikey notes that "what makes Tasmania difficult is that its voters do not necessarily follow the tickets. In every other state, well over 90% of voters vote ‘above the line’, so their preferences are distributed automatically. In Tasmania last time it was only 80%, and much less for the minor parties – for the Greens, an extraordinarily low 57%". Richardson says Shayne Murphy can win if he can poll "something over 3 per cent" and concludes that he will, if only because he has been "itching to say something controversial". Malcolm Mackerras doesn’t seem interested in the idea of a second seat being won by a minor party or independent, saying the last seat is 60 per cent likely to go to Labor and 40 per cent to Liberal. As for Antony Green, the ABC website is "temporarily unavailable" due to "high traffic". I’ll get back to you later with that one.

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.