Belated Senate overview

The Poll Bludger has finally extracted the digit and reupholstered his Senate election guide, which now features post-match summaries and detailed excuses as to why most of his predictions were wrong. For the benefit of regular readers, the new additions read as follows:

New South Wales: Antony Green notes that the crucial factor in the Greens’ failure to win the final seat over Labor was Democrats preferences – although they favoured the Greens over Labor, the Greens never received them as Fred Nile had been favoured over them both, and he eventually overtook the Greens to make it to the final round. On the primary vote, the Coalition scored 3.08 quotas, Labor 2.54 and the Greens 0.51. In past elections the Greens could have felt reasonably confident that preferences would close their small deficit over Labor’s surplus, but such were the preference tickets that their vote remained stuck as the cast of micro and minor parties was progressively eliminated. Most remarkable was the success of Glenn Druery of Liberals for Forests in building upon a primary vote base of a mere 0.04 quotas to overtake One Nation (0.13 quotas) and the Democrats (0.15 quotas), devouring the preferences of each in turn and making it through to the final rounds along with Labor, the Greens and Fred Nile (0.18 quotas on the primary vote, compared with a mere 0.04 for Family First). The distribution of the various votes that Druery had absorbed by this point pushed Fred Nile ahead of both Labor and the Greens; since the Greens had fallen further behind Labor by this point, this meant the distribution of their preferences decided the final place in Labor’s favour. Note the Poll Bludger’s cautious pre-election talk of whether the Coalition can "maintain its primary vote at or near the 41.5 per cent it recorded in 2001" – they in fact increased it to 43.9 per cent.

Victoria: Many who had been relaxed about the democratic shortcomings of above-the-line voting after Pauline Hanson failed to win a Queensland seat in 2001 with 10.0 per cent of the vote became suddenly very alarmed when the Greens missed out here with 8.7 per cent. Admittedly, on this occasion there was the further aggravation that Family First succeeded from a mere 1.8 per cent, which compared unfavourably with the party’s performances in South Australia (3.9 per cent), Queensland (3.3 per cent) and Tasmania (2.3 per cent). Key to the result was the preference deals Labor and Democrats struck with Family First in the expectation that they would be the ultimate beneficiaries, which failed to transpire due to their own dismal performances. Boosted by preferences from various micro-parties, Family First overtook the Democrats to become the beneficiaries of their mutual preference deal, which was enough to put their candidate ahead of Labor’s Jacinta Collins due to their feeble 37.8 per cent primary vote. All of which disproved the Poll Bludger’s assertion that a potential Family First seat would most likely come at the expense of the Coalition, who in fact polled a resounding 45.8 per cent to score an easy three quotas on the primary vote.

Queensland: Even more so than Victoria, Queensland provided the Senate election with its greatest astonishment, the Coalition winning four seats in one state for the first time since six-seat half-Senate elections became the norm in 1990. Antony Green calculates that if the Coalition had run a joint ticket, for which the National Party had been agitating, a fourth seat would not have been possible and either One Nation or the Greens would have been elected in their place. The issue was ultimately decided by the 1.3 per cent vote for the Fishing Party, whose preferences (when restricted to realistic contenders) had gone firstly to One Nation, then to the National Party, and then to Hanson. That meant the key factor in the count was Pauline Hanson’s success in narrowly maintaining her lead over One Nation despite unfavourable preference tickets, which she owed to her strong performance on below-the-line preferences. Since One Nation were eliminated first, the Fishing Party vote then moved on to the Nationals which ensured they stayed ahead of Hanson. If Hanson had gone first, the Fishing Party votes would have remained with One Nation who might have got their nose in front of the Nationals on Hanson’s preferences. One Nation would as ever have been starved for further preferences, allowing the Greens to win the seat with the preferences of either the Liberal and Nationals candidate, whichever of the two ended up being eliminated. Instead it was the elimination of Pauline Hanson that decided which of the finely poised Liberal, Nationals and Greens candidates won the final two places, the Greens predictably coming off the worst. One other surprise was that the Nationals ended up winning the fifth seat rather than sixth, overtaking the Liberals due to the considerable number of Pauline Hanson’s below-the-line votes that went against the ticket by favouring the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Western Australia: The only state the Poll Bludger called correctly. Most of the Greens’ quota came from three sources – 0.56 quotas from the primary vote; the 0.28 surplus over the second quota from a poorly performing Labor; and the Democrats’ 0.14 quotas, which also went to the Greens ahead of the major parties. With 0.8 per cent of the vote, Family First were not in a position to benefit from the Democrats preference deal. An excellent result for the Liberals, who scored 49.1 per cent of the primary vote.

South Australia: The key to the outcome here was the preference deal between the Democrats and Family First, which allowed Family First to overtake the Greens with their preferences and then consolidate with the Liberals’ considerable surplus over the third quota from their 47.1 per cent primary vote. That left the preferences the Greens needed locked up with Family First, who remained until the final count. At the point of their elimination the Democrats trailed Family First by 0.25 of a quota to 0.30 – had they finished ahead, preferences from Family First and then the Liberals would have delivered them the seat.

Tasmania: Only in Tasmania, where fewer candidates combined with habits formed at state elections produce a below-the-line voting rate of nearly 20 per cent, is there a serious likelihood that the final result will differ from what would have occurred had all votes been above-the-line. In this case Family First’s Jacquie Petrusma would have won the final seat if it weren’t for below-the-line voters favouring the Greens, who as usual had done very poorly on the preference tickets. Otherwise, the Greens’ Christine Milne would have remarkably failed despite scoring a 0.93 quota on the primary vote, which had a typically optimistic Bob Brown claiming premature victory on election night. An apology is due to Labor-turned-independent Senator Shayne Murphy who did rather better than the Poll Bludger dismissively suggested, recording 2.2 per cent of the vote and making it to the final counts.

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.