The Senate and the Greens

There were so many things the Poll Bludger meant to deal with before now, so apologies to those who have already done their bit for democracy without having been privy to the wisdom contained herein. However there are things that should be on the record before the polling booths close shop at 6pm this evening, so for the benefit of posterity here are some last-minute odds-and-ends.

Firstly, the contest for the territories’ Senate seats has not been given the late-campaign treatment despite rash promises to the contrary. However there is little to add here to what was already said in the pre-campaign Senate election guide (updating this with the information contained in recent postings was another thing that was sadly left undone). The Northern Territory contest does not warrant discussion; to the Australian Capital Territory may be added Antony Green’s assessment that there will need to be a combined Liberal-plus-Christian Democratic (that being the only party giving them preference) vote of 33.3 per cent, suggesting more Canberrans vote above the line than the Poll Bludger would have guessed. The other race will be between the Greens and the second Labor candidate, with the Greens needing to outpoll Labor’s surplus over their 33.3 per cent quota.

The Poll Bludger’s final predictions: New South Wales: Coalition 3, Labor 2, Greens 1. Victoria: Coalition 2, Labor 2, Greens 1, Family First 1. Queensland Coalition 3, Labor 2, Greens 1. Western Australia: Coalition 3, Labor 2, Greens 1. South Australia: Coalition 3, Labor 2, Democrats 1. Tasmania: Liberal 2, Labor 2, Greens 1, Family First 1. The Coalition will thus be two seats short of its "magic 38" unless one takes the view that Family First (two seats) are their willing lackeys. The Greens will add five seats to their existing two, and while the Democrats will be pleased with anything they can get, on this assessment they will still be down from seven (eight including Meg Lees, who has no chance) to five. Also with no chance is One Nation’s Len Harris, while the other cross-bencher, Tasmanian independent Brian Harradine, is going quietly.

Another aspect as yet unmentioned is the prospect of the Greens winning seats off Labor in the House of Representatives. There is no reason to think that Cunningham, won by them at a by-election in 2002, will not follow the usual pattern of the quirky by-election result that is corrected at the following general election. Their real chances are in Sydney and the neighbouring electorate of Grayndler, plus Melbourne. The threat facing Labor is that the Greens will absorb enough votes from the declining Democrats and formerly Liberal-voting "doctors’ wives" to overcome the Liberal candidates, most of whose supporters will put Labor last. Ever prone to optimism, the Greens are loudly hopeful of winning all three while holding Cunningham. However, the 2001 result in seats like these saw a substantial shift to the Greens due to the Kim Beazley Opposition’s perceived complicity in the Tampa episode. If anything those votes are likely to drift back to Labor this time – failing that, they should at least hold their ground. That will give them a high enough primary vote to hold back the tide for Lindsay Tanner in Melbourne and Anthony Albanese in Grayndler.

In Sydney however, Labor’s vote was 44.3 per cent in 2001 compared with 49.1 per cent in Grayndler and 47.6 in Melbourne, which are both close enough to the half-way mark that preference leakage can be relied upon to do the rest. Here the Greens have two hurdles to jump – overcoming the Liberals, who polled 30.1 per cent last time compared with a combined 25.6 per cent for the Democrats, and then hoping that there aren’t enough preferences leaking from Liberal to Labor to save the day for Tanya Plibersek. It’s certainly possible, but the Poll Bludger’s inkling is that Plibersek’s strident leftism combined with inner-city enthusiasm for Mark Latham will see her over the line.

The Poll Bludger’s remaining tasks for the day as follows: have breakfast, vote (no editorial direction here I’m afraid), read the morning papers, probably deliver a seat or two back to the Coalition on the Runs on the Board tally, give the election guide one last update and head off to the National Tally Room to watch the action unfold.

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.