Media tart par excellence Peter Brent writes to ask my opinion on independent Calare MP Peter Andren’s chances in his ambitious tilt for a Senate seat, the answer to which is that I haven’t really formulated one. He also suggests I open a thread on the topic, and I can certainly do that. My first instinct was that Andren didn’t stand a chance. The only independent ever to win a Senate seat in the era of six-seat half-Senate elections (the first of which was in 1990) has been Brian Harradine, who notably did so in the nation’s smallest state as opposed to its largest.
Then I remembered that I would never have credited Nick Xenophon with an ability to pull 21 per cent of the statewide vote for the South Australian upper house, which the No Pokies MP managed to achieve at last year’s election. Does Andren have an even remotely comparable profile across the premier state, particularly in Sydney? Personally, I wouldn’t have thought so. Does he need one? Not necessarily. There is no doubt he has enough vote-pulling power to be worth doing business with when the time comes for preference negotiations; he will certainly get the Coalition’s preferences ahead of the Greens, and very likely Labor’s also. Let’s say he gets 5 per cent of the vote. If either major party polls less than 38.3 per cent (Labor got 36.4 per cent last time, though this would be augmented slightly by preferences), he will defeat their third candidate and pick up their surplus as preferences. That would probably put him ahead of the Greens, who polled 7.3 per cent last time. Greens preferences would then decide the outcome.
UPDATE: Whoops – thanks to Chris Curtis for pointing out that two quotas is 28.6 per cent, not 33.3 per cent. So if Andren gets 5 per cent, the lowest major party vote will have to be 33.6 per cent, not 38.3 per cent. Which places a slightly different complexion on things.
There is no doubt that the Greens will put Andren ahead of the Coalition, and little doubt they will put him ahead of Labor he won brownie points (greenie points?) by opposing to the Iraq war and the government’s stance on asylum seekers in 2001, and was second on the Greens how to vote card in Calare in 2004. Suddenly his tilt doesn’t look so quixotic after all. The decisive factor is likely to be whether his vote can exceed the worst performing major party’s surplus over 33.3 per cent.