The Senate: part three (Tasmania)

The Tasmanian Senate result must be considered a big disappointment for the Greens, who were widely expected to win a quota on the primary vote. Instead their primary vote was down to 12.8 per cent from 13.8 per cent in 2001 and they are grappling with Family First in a struggle for the final place. Antony Green offers a set of calculations based on the assumption that all votes are above the line, although Tasmania is the one state in which this is not more-or-less accurate. From a starting position of just 2.31 per cent, Family First would absorb the hefty Liberal surplus remaining after the election of their third and final candidate, and receive handy additions upon the elimination of the Christian Democrats and Labor renegade Shayne Murphy. That would put them ahead of Labor’s third place-holder, whose elimination would decide the result. If all Labor votes were above the line, Family First would emerge with 1.0579 of a quota compared with 0.9421 for the Greens. Green notes that "analysis based on treating all party votes as ticket votes almost always provides an accurate estimate of the final outcome&quot, but if ever there might be an exception to the rule this could be it. No fewer than 24 per cent of Tasmanian voters went below the line in 2001, and this would include a disproportionate number of Greens voters and Labor voters making an effort to ensure their vote does not end up with Family First as per the party’s preference deal. One who has looked at all this very closely is Geoff Lambert, noted election obsessive and frequent correspondent. His number crunching runs as follows:

(In 2001) 24% of all votes were cast below the line. It ranged from about 13% for the big parties up to 57% for The Greens (one candidate, Bob Brown). But this figure for The Greens is biased by Brown in 2001. In other years, it’s been about 25%. These figures may or may not be repeated in 2004 – probably they will, especially since the ballot paper was so small this time around.

75% of below-the line votes show ‘1’ for the #1 candidate (i.e. for candidates on top of the party lists). The latter is important, because the ‘1’ for #1 votes from the booths are ALREADY in the count … only the below-the-lines for postal/prepoll and the below-the-lines for #2,3,4 candidates have yet to show up on the system. On this basis, I would expect that the Greens #2 and #3 are carrying about 25% of 25% of 13% of the vote, i.e. about 0.8% of the state total. That will bring (Greens candidate) Christine Milne up to about 13.6%, which is still not enough. And 0.8% is probably an overestimate because it will be dragged down by the same sorts of things happening in other parties, although to a lesser extent.

On the other hand, there could be leakage from the #1 to #4 candidates of other groups. This is known to happen in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, where a lot of people voted (e.g.) 1 Robin Gray, 2 Christine Milne (and vice-versa). It is hard to know how many, but at least in this category it is potentially enough. The below-the-line for (ALP+LIB) will be about 15% of 80% = 12% of the total votes cast. Milne will need to pick up a leakage of only about 15% of these to creep up to a quota. It is at least arguable that a number of these people were peeved with the decision by everyone to preference Family First ahead of the Greens and so would hop over to the Greens early on in their papers (they have to go to Greens by preference 2 or 3 of the majors of course). That this sort of thing can swing a result was seen here in my local Council election, where the leading group lost almost half a quota through such a process.

There is little hope for Milne to gain on the postals and pre-polls. What has been counted so far shows her going backwards. The bottom line of this analysis is, I think, that Christine Milne MIGHT be elected, but it won’t be on the strength of postal/pre-polls, nor on the strength of Greens below-the-line, but it CAN be done on the strength of below-the-line leakage from Lib and ALP. The scrutineers should be able to tell whether this is likely from tomorrow (i.e. today).

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.