From one red morgue to another

Today has brought a fascinating development in the battle for control of the Senate, with South Australian Legislative Council “No Pokies” member Nick Xenophon throwing his hat into the ring. Xenophon pulled off one of the most sensational achievements in Australia’s recent electoral history at the election last March, when his ticket polled 20.5 per cent of the statewide vote – only 5.5 per cent less than the Liberal Party. As well as getting himself re-elected (he first snuck in with 2.9 per cent at the 1997 election), this also secured election for running mate Ann Bressington, who believed she was only there for moral support, and came within a hair’s breadth of putting into parliament John Darley, the number three candidate who had assured his wife he had no chance of winning. Given the Greens’ historical weakness in South Australia and the probable demise of the Democrats, the most likely outcome in South Australia had been a three-all split between Labor and Liberal. The smart money would now be on the Liberals losing their third seat to Xenophon, meaning an end to the long and not terribly eventful parliamentary career of Grant Chapman. In other words, the Coalition now appears all but certain to lose its absolute majority. PortlandBet has smartly removed South Australia from its newly launched Senate betting market.

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.

595 comments on “From one red morgue to another”

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  1. Assuming Xenephon wins, How does his position get filled? Is it countback like Tas or someone else from his party. Does he have a party?

  2. Mr X does not have a party and the state labor minister said it was unclear about the process of replacement in the state upper house(Assembly).

  3. Bressington has been an unmitigated disaster, and I think Xenophon has sincerely regretted putting her on his ticket. I think this time he will either fly solo or will vet his running mates a bit closer…

  4. If Xenophon is elected, it will almost certainly be at the expense of Senator Hedley Grant Pearson Chapman, no 3 on the Liberal ticket. I’m surprised more attention hasn’t been given to Chapman’s career. First elected for Kingston in 1975, he has spent eight years in the Reps and 20 in the Senate, and in that time he has done absolutely nothing. He hardly ever speaks, has never even looked like being promoted, and treats Parliament as some sort of country club. Yet the SA Libs have just endorsed him for another six-year term, presumably because he comes from an old Adelaide establishment family, went to the right school and knows all the right chaps. Talk about hereditary peers – Senator John Hedley Chapman was his grandfather’s cousin, and I presume that Senator Rex Pearson was also a relative.

  5. Chapman does work hard among the Liberal branches.

    Xenophon’s replacement almost certainly will be septuagenarian John Darley, a former senior state public servant who was third on the No-Pokies Legislative Council ticket. If Darley wasn’t interested, would they go to a countback of the Legislative Council poll? In which case, the favourite would be Mike Rann’s former deputy Ralph Clarke, who quit Labor when he lost preselection in 2002 and currently is seeking election to the Adelaide City Council.

  6. I have my doubts that he’ll do quite as well as he did at the state election, due to the combined factors of Bressington generally pissing people off, and others getting annoyed at his resigning so soon after getting re-elected and putting the unknown Darley in his place.

    That said, I think he’s likely to sweep in on preferences, so like others here, I’d bet money on the likelihood of him taking Chapman’s seat.

  7. [ he has spent eight years in the Reps and 20 in the Senate, and in that time he has done absolutely nothing ]

    That’s not entirely true. Apparently his golf score has improved tremendously and he has almost mastered the Rubik’s Cube.

  8. Casual vacancies in the SA Legislative Council are filled by a joint sitting of the two houses (in which Labor would theoretically have the numbers to fill the vacancy as it sees fit); but it is hard to see politically a result other than Xenophon’s preferred replacement, John Darley (a former Valuer General I think) being appointed.

  9. Darley is a nice man, evidently, but I don’t think he’s really interested in the job. I think he’s now doing it because he feels compelled to.

    Having said that, though, he will probably do well. He’s smart and he’s principled. Whether he will go the distance himself is another matter.

  10. The Chinster @ #8

    “smart and principled” doesn’t get you very far in politics these days.

    “Smart and pragmatic” is the go. Ask Kevin.

    WRT Senate numbers – if Xenophon was to secure a SA Senate seat, where does that leave the overall numbers?

  11. I think it’s good news for Labor; their primary will be high enough to get them 3 seats, so Xenophon will steal a conservative seat. Labor will be more easily able to work with Xenophon, if they’re elected.

  12. (excuse my repost from previous thread)

    Xenophon running is very bad news for the Democrats, but good news for anyone who wants non-government control of the Senate. Every strong third party and independent candidate can whittle just a little bit more off the majors. I mean, there’s a chance SA could go ALP 2, LIB 2, Xenophon + others 2.

    If Tasmania went 2 Green, we could be looking at an unprecedented “demise of the majors” senate election.

    Although its also just as likely to be a wipe-out for the third parties this election (ALP/LIB 3/3 each).

    All this says to me is that we need a larger senate chamber (or a nationwide senate vote instead of 6 per state) – there are so many strong third parties and independents it seems a shame they are all competing for the last senate spot, especially when the top five are usually filled with time wasting seat warming ALP or Lib lackeys.

  13. Portlandbet has put the odds back up for the SA Senate.

    One or more minor party senators in SA is now $1.25, with zero blowing out to $3.50.

  14. dembo, there will not be two greens senators from Tasmania, It is far more likely that they win a senate seat in queensland. Nobody should think that they will win an extra seat, although Bob Brown will almost certainly retain his seat.

  15. It would be interesting to see No Pokies Senate candidates running in other states, and I wonder if Xenophon is planning this.

    I reckon a No-Pokies candidate could easily get up in NSW and Vic, and possibly elsewhere.

  16. Actually, Blackbird, Portlandbet seems to suggest that the Queensland will be the state (after SA now, I guess) that is least likely to elect a Greens Senator. They have “Zero Minor Party Seats” in Queensland at $1.57 – much less than in any other market (except ACT, of course).

  17. Isn’t most of Xenophon’s vote a personal one. I mean, people weren’t voting for “No Pokies” at the last SA election. They were voting for him. He’s a bit of a media savy isn’t he. Well known in SA but not anywhere else in the country.

  18. swing lowe, i do not at all think the greens will win a senate seat in queensland, i just think it is more likely than them winning a second seat in Tasmania, where there is no chance of this happening.

  19. Antonio:

    People Power ran heavily as the No Pokies party at the last Vic election, definitely hoping to capture the perceived Xenophon-style vote. They got less than 1%. It’s not the No Pokies message, it’s the messenger (with a good message).

  20. Blackbird@18

    It probably doesn’t matter that he’s unknown outside SA … the only people he needs to vote for him are SA. His Brian Harradine angle is gold. That man knows how to push all the right buttons – although to this Victorian all his supposedly “wonderful stunts” seem to involve animals.

  21. Yes, Blackbird, but that was the very problem. People didn’t give a toss about whoever else was on the No Pokies ticket because they were voting for Xenophon. When Bressington got up as well and started frothing at the mouth about drugs and pretty much nothing else, I think the SA electorate had a joint “WTF?” moment.

    This time around, I think people might actually be warier of voting for him for this reason. If they assume he will get up anyway, their fear of accidentally voting in another nut job (if he does having running mates) may actually dissuade people from voting for him. For this reason I think he won’t garner as many votes this time, although I still think he will be elected.

  22. Dembo, I’m in Victoria, and honestly couldn’t work out what People Power stood for. They were just a group of dissimilar people, each with something to be angry about. And they fought among themselves, didn’t know who their leader was, etc.

    A party called No Pokies would definitely get some support (as Xenophon did in his early days) simply because of the policy they stood for. They’d get a subsutantial church vote, and most minor party preferences would flow in their direction.

    I actually don’t like single-issue parties much, because once you’re in parliament, you have to address all issues. Nor am I a fan of pokies, which would have to be the most mindless and anti-social form of gambling ever invented. I’m just saying that I think they’d get a fair bit of support, much more than People Power ever would.

  23. I was being sarcastic with the greens in queensland. I was trying to say just how unlikely the greens are to win 2 seats in Tasmania.

  24. I think Qld senate will be 3 Lab 2 Lib then a fight for Ron Boswell to get the last seat against a bearded Democrat – Andrew Bartlett who has been working very hard all year, regular letters, surveys etc.

  25. Xenophon’s great strength has been his ability to tap into issues that concern people and use the media creatively to put across his views. He has shown himself to be across most issues as well, so the whole “single issue” thing petered out very early on in his first term.

    However, he has never lost sight of that main “No Pokies” message, which is also why he base supporters have remained strongly behind him.

  26. Antonio,

    If a No Pokies party ran in NSW (and prob in Vic, but I’m less sure about that), they would almost certainly be placed last or next to last after One Nation (or whatever they’re called now) by both major parties. The AHA has both major parties under their thumb in NSW and would do anything they could to stop a No Pokies party being elected in NSW.

  27. Xenophon’s cadidacy is a blow to the bread-basket for the Coalition who will almost certainly lose Senate control if Crow Eaters elect Nick and give Chapman the chop.
    For Team Rodent this is the equivalent of a vicious sand-shoe crusher from no-where dismissing a stubborn, journeyman sheet-anchor late in the innings. Now the tail are exposed. The crowd bays for blood. Bunkered in the Home Team’s HQ, Captain Rats refuses to elevate himself up the order and face his Test.

    The forecast is for rain, hard rain, and lots of it. Why parade out in flannels when battle dress may win the day? He knows the crowd go loco during these ritualistic spectacles. Everybody wants to be Spartacus. You know the deal. It’s the game El Rodente plays best. Dead-set shifty as.

  28. The big winner does seem to be Labor. They’ve caused more grief for the other parties and removed a big opponent from local state politics.

  29. This development adds interest to the Senate election throughout Australia, with implications for the the coverage and performance of the small parties national-wide. The Democrats, and to some extent the Greens, have already received more media in the past month than in the previous three years put together.

    The consistentcy of ALP/ Coalition policies on the pulp mill, African immigration and capital punishment may force voters to look elsewhere. In a HoR’s election assumed to be dominated by Rudd, media attention and public interest may swing to the control of the Senate – giving the small parties and independants every chance of a record showing.

    Thus I agree with dembo that Andrew Wilke may soon be a Greens Senator – how just and wonderful that would be ! I also think that, even if Nick X is elected, SA may also elect a progressive Senator.

  30. Enemy Combatant is right. Assuming Xenophon is a genuine independent and not a Liberal stooge, if he wins by defeating a Liberal, that will turn the Senate election. Labor will get 3 quotas everywhere except Tas (because of Brown), knocking off the four Dems and Nettle. The Coalition will scrape 3 quotas everywhere with the aid of FF, ON and CDP preferences – except now in SA. The numbers elected will thus be Coalition 18, Labor 18, Green 1, Xenophon 1. Add that to the 2004 Senators and you get Coalition 38, Labor 33, Green 3, FF 1, Xenophon 1. Thus you have a tied Senate, 38/38 if everyone votes against the Coalition, without Labor taking a single seat from the Coalition. Labor thus only needs to get 4 quotas (57% after preferences) in one state to put the Coalition in a minority, which will be suffient to get Labor’s IR changes through since Fielding will support them. Two gains will give Labor+Greens+Xenophon a majority without Fielding. Labor now can’t win 4 seats in SA because of Xenophon, but they can do so in NSW and Vic, and it’s possible that Labor could win three in Tas.

  31. Paul Kavanagh, media attention will be firmly fixed on kevin rudd and john howard and the battle for the house because of the possibility of a high turnover of seats. If everyone thought that the government would be easily re-elected, then attention would be on the senate, as the lower house would be boring.

    please, enough with 2 greens from Tasmania. They did not get an entire quota last time, meaning that they actually need more votes, proportionally, in tasmania to get a second seat than they need to get one seat in any other state.

  32. Paul Kavanagh@35

    Don’t be too sure about “record coverage” for the Democrats and the Greens. I run ABCwatch at monitoring the politics feed coming from the ABC and Lyn Allison has received one mention to Pauline Hanson’s 3. The Democrats have received 4 mentions (two of those were the American Democrats and so don’t count). Kerry Nettle has received 4. That’s right. A single Greens senator from NSW has received twice as many mentions on the ABC politics feed as the entire Australian Democrats party.

    Xenophon running raises questions about ABC coverage. Xenophon got 20%+ at the last state election in SA. Will the ABC be fair to him and give him 20%+ of the SA election coverage? I bet my bottom dollar they won’t.

  33. Adam – Labor won’t be able to get 4 in SA anyway, because they are only putting 3 on their ticket. I can understand dropping Linda Kirk down to number 4 if they wanted to get rid of her, but dropping her altogether and only fielding 3 candidates is sheer lunacy.

    But I guess that is the depth of the hatred Don Farrell has for her. He would obviously much rather the ALP miss out on a 4th seat than to have her get up, even from an apparently unwinnable position, and embarrass the sh*t out of him.

  34. Blackbird

    I knew exactly what you meant and I would definitely agree. There is no evidence at all of a strengthening Green vote and actually a reasonable amount of evidence to the contrary.

    Subsequent State Elections since 2004 have not shown the rise we saw around the turn of 2000 and indeed are off the boil on the most recent Federal result. The trendlines for polls are very flat on 6-8 support. Nowhere near the almost 29% required for two quotas. No chance.

    Similarly, I agree with you about Queensland, there is very little respect nor support for the party there, with 5.4% at the last election. With preference flows, Larissa Waters has effectively no chance of being elected.

    Andrew Bartlett may surprise us but I seriously doubt it. Pauline Hanson is approaching electoral comedy-value and stuck out on the right wing alone. Actually, on recent polling and likely preference flows, Jeff Buchanan (FFP) is the most likely of the minor parties, otherwise 2 Lib, 1 Nat, 3 ALP situation.

    I actually think Jeff Buchanan will get up. He is a very hardworking candidate and supported in preferences in many places.

  35. dembo, Paul, enough – this is pure self-delusion. The Dems are finished. They will not get 3% anywhere. If an excellent senator like Ridgeway couldn’t make a dent none of the present lot will. Bartlett has become the dullest man in Australia since he gave up drinking. The Greens vote will rise a bit because of the pulp mill, but not enough to save Nettle and nowhere near enough to get 2 quotas in Tas. A win is possible in WA if the ALP vote stays low, but recent polls show it rising so that chance is diminshing.

  36. Crikey has a link to Electoral division rankings: Census 2006 first release
    (2006 electoral boundaries)

    Executive summary
    This paper provides an analysis by Commonwealth electoral division of socio-demographic data from the first release of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The electoral boundaries used in this paper are those applicable to the next federal election.

    Crikey comments:

    During the Howard years, there has been a realignment in progress.

    Although Labor’s vote is still heavily based in the working class, there is another pattern at work: the better-educated voters are moving towards Labor, and the less educated are moving away. It is the same pattern seen in the “Yes” vote in the republic referendum of 1999. (Incidentally, there’s nothing unique about Australia in this respect – the same realignment is going on even more clearly in the United States.)

    88 pages of densely packed stats will keep this board quiet for a bit…

  37. Spiros, it would require Labor to get 67% of the vote. The more likely, though not very likely, is Labor to get a huge primary vote and then have their preferences go to the Greens in the hope that would give the Greens a quota. However, if the Libs poll over 33% on primary they’ll get a seat.

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