X marks the spot

There is many a psephologist who will tell you that polls of Senate voting intention are not to be taken seriously. However, a partial exception might be made for a poll of 542 Adelaide respondents, conducted by the Adelaide University politics department and published on the ABC site, in that it gives a unique gauge of support for Nick Xenophon’s Senate bid. The results are remarkable: support for Xenophon is at 24.2 per cent, even higher than his precedent-shattering 20.5 per cent at last February’s state election. While this would probably have been a little lower if the survey had also covered country areas, the poll provides evidence that Xenophon has his own seat in the bag, probably with enough of a surplus to deliver a seat to the Greens on preferences. The distant prospect of a seat for Xenophon’s running mate Roger Bryson has most likely been scotched by Labor’s decision to directly preference the Greens, although it’s still possible to construct scenarios in which the Greens’ seat goes to Bryson instead. The ABC report seems to suggest that Xenophon supporters will be forced to go below the line, which is not the case. Lower house voting intention is also covered, pointing to a swing to Labor of about 8 per cent.

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.

169 comments on “X marks the spot”

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  1. [How much of a fraction of the population of SA is in Adelaide?]

    About 85%

    [Lets suppose X gets close to 20%. What happens to Labor primaries at this point?]

    If you look at the 2006 state election results, Xenephon’s vote came at the expect of Liberals and Democrats. Labor actually achieved a 3% swing to it in the legislative council.

    [Last I heard it was going to go 3 2 1 lab lib X
    If a green popped would that be at the expense of one of the labor seats?]

    Yes I think it would. I still think Lab 3 Lib 2 + Xenephon is the most likely result. Xenephon will basically take the seat the Greens would’ve won, which itself would’ve been at the expense of the Democrats.

    For those who have missed it, here is a petition to encourage the ABC to invite Keating and Hewson onto the episode of Lateline that will air before voting day:


  2. I have just a bit of fiddling with the calculator again, and once again I am staggered as to how easily FF could get a seat should factors fall their way.

    FF got 4% last election. Let’s suggest they get 5 next election. Discounting the minor-minor parties (which would, in majority, send their few votes FF’s way anyway) then they have a half chance.

    I don’t think the lib vote will collapse to 28%, which is what the poll linked about suggests. But it might collapse to 32, with supporters parking their vote with Xenophon due to the ‘take back the senate’ type feeling.

    Plugging that into the calculator, with X on 18%, and the final three candidates is


    Obviously, Labor gets knocked out here and the Greens take the seat on their preferences. But a few percentage points here or there, and an unforeseen early green knockout could very well see a 2-2-1-1 senate – including Family First.

    It’s a very,very long shot, but the recipe is there. People quickly forget that they picked up nearly 4% in SA last election. Who knows? It’s something else to ponder over

  3. Just got back from a Labor campaign event at Thorndon Park here in Adelaide. Thanks ShowsOn for the tip!

    Was quite fun – Rudd and Gillard were there, together with Tony Zappia (Makin), Mia Handshin (Sturt) and Karen Lock (Barker). John Faulkner was there too!

    Just your standard meet and greet with doorstop I guess, but it was great to see everyone up close in person. I had a chat to Mia and Tony afterwards and they both seem like great candidates.

  4. Pi – I was definately under-estimating it for the sake of speculation. My thinking it Labor will get around 37-38% of the primary, I marked it down a bit to 35 (my theory being if Xenophon gets 18% of the vote – and this is underestimating the poll mentioned in this thread, then the votes have to come somewhere. I took the libs from 47 to 32 for example.)

    I put the greens on 7%, slightly up from 6.6 last election. Do you think that will jump much? Again, the X factor will probably stifle the gains they might have made otherwise.

  5. Re the ACT senate election. Lib senator Gary Humphries requires about 32% of the vote for a quota. The ‘Get Up’ group are campaigning strongly to encourage voters to consider voting for Kerrie Tucker (Green). The Greens and Dems are exchanging preferences. There is also a chance that the second ALP candidate could get up. Canberra is a strong Labor town, and as many citizens here have to work for the Coalition government, they are very keen to get rid of it. Nevertheless it will require a big swing to unseat Humphries. Also, more people here vote below the line as there are only 14 or so candidates. This could make it even more interesting.

  6. Do you think that the mooted public service cuts could affect the chance of the second ACT senate seat going to a non Liberal candidate?

  7. Greg S

    May shift some votes to the Greens candidate – the anticipated cuts aren’t large and the ACT is operating at full stretch with about 2.5% unemployment. Goverment departments are finding it difficult to recruit appropriate staff.

  8. Re Max 27

    Max – That is a bit of a ‘winner takes all view’ of Aus politics isn’t it?. For me the senate is the key to this election. When either of the major parties has control of both houses all the decisions are made behind closed doors and rammed through without debate – Labor would do it just like the LNP does. This means large sections of the voting public are completely disenfranchised. That is, everyone more liberal/left than all the world’s christian/democrat parties.

    The ‘healthy alternative’ is for minor groups to have the balance because that means contentious issues are debated openly, referred to senate committees etc. That’s why I like the polls as in SA.

    Who wants one of the Tweedledum/Tweedledee parties with very similar right wing policies, who are also increasingly captives of the churches, in total control?

  9. From Nick X’s q&a page:

    “We should never have gone to Iraq in the first place. The government needs to acknowledge that it was a mistake. The big dilemma is if you are to leave now do you leave things worse than they are. There’s a role for reconstruction for Australia but it can’t be open-ended commitment. It’s a question of trying to extricate ourselves in a way that minimizes bloodshed to the local community. My view is that we should be spending money on aid and building up the political infrastructure. At the same time we need to be starving the terrorists of oxygen.”

    “The WorkChoices legislation went too far. There definitely needs to be some revisiting of it – you need to consult with small businesses that are nervous. There’s scope to have a good look at it away from the heat of the federal election campaign and scope to improve it. A big issue for me in Canberra would be industrial health and safety. In terms of the guarantee of minimum conditions, if someone doesn’t want a certain shift or expanded shifts there should be some safeguards.”

    I’d say based on those leanings, he’d probably pick up a bit more left than right. But all that said, conservatives will vote for him because they respect him and trust him not to sell out.

  10. The Greens will be reasonable in the Senate, you can be sure of that.
    In recent years, they’ve occasionally governed in coalition with centre-left governments around the world. New Zealand had a Labour/Greens coalition government in their Parliament (they have a proportional house of reps, no Senate) from 2000-2002 – and the sky certainly didn’t fall in over there – in fact, Labour absolutely destroyed National in the 2002 elections (while the Greens increased their share of the vote from 5% to 7%).

  11. Richardson has put me last on his HTV ( AOG member?, attender?) Brokenshire will have me last on his HTV.( AOG member ? attender?) Now am i that much of a threat of winning that i need to be last or is it my union connections? Maybe being involved myself in this sort of church is the threat.

  12. doogs @ 66

    I agree – My sentiments exactly

    jaundiced view @ 64

    First and foremost, let me state that I absolutely loathe the idea of any party with a majority in the senate. I agree that minor parties are necessary, and even in the state election last year ticked the democrats box. This year I will be ticking Xenophons box (unless I have 20 minutes to spare and feel like numbering 70 odd boxes below the line…)

    Back ten years ago I would have been comfortable with, for example, the Dems having the sole balance of power. At least they were relatively centre most of the time, and tried to be sensible. Not so much the Greens, who openly admit to being very left wing. I didn’t say that I disliked the idea of the Greens being in the senate, I said I didn’t like the idea that no legislation could get through without their (or bipartisan) approval. Which will almost certainly happen if they end up with 6 or 7 seats.

    You then have the case where labor has to either negotiate with a grumpy batch of libs senators, or a left slanted greens.

    I am hoping that the situation arises where major parties can negotiate with different parties to get what they need. Still isn’t perfect, but its a compromise between a house which is effectively useless and one which refuses to do anything.

    Like I said to Bill, the coming three years will be a big test for the Greens. I hope I am proved wrong, and that they turn out to be good legislators now that they are actually involved in decision making for the country, rather then standing to the side and waving their fists. Time will tell.

    (after reading your comment again, I think this entire post was necessary and all I needed to say was the first paragraph. But ah well !)

  13. Now am i that much of a threat of winning that i need to be last

    I think you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur Bill.

    No offence, but even the hard leftys here think you’re a bit of a nut.

  14. Robert @ 67,

    The Greens have never actually been in Coalition with Labour in NZ.

    From 1999 – 2002 there was a Labour-Alliance coalition minority government (total of 59 out of 120 seats) which was supported on confidence issues by the Greens (who had 7 seats).

    However by the time of the 2002 election, Labour and Greens were at loggerheads on lifting the ban on GE food experiments. The scrap between Labor and Greens boosted the Green’s level of support but decreased that of Labour (who’s support went from around 50% in the polls to 40%). Fortunately for Labour, the opposition National party was in a state of disarray (dropping from 30% to 20% support in the polls). After the 2002 Election Labour went into coalition with the Progressive party (the remnants of the Alliance) and were supported on confidence and supply issues by the centre-right United Future party. The Greens were left effectively on the cross-benches.

    Relations between Labour and the Greens improved by the time of the 2005 election. Unfortunately the 2005 election proved to be a very tight one. Labour, Progressive and Greens together were short of getting over the 61 seat threshold for a majority, so Labour had to rely on the support of two centre-right parties NZ First and United Future to form a government. Unfortunately neither NZ First or United Future wanted to support a coalition with the Greens in it. So in the end the Labour and Progressive were supported on confidence issues by NZ First and United Future (whose leaders were each given ministerial positions outside Cabinet!). The Greens were obviously very disappointed with how things turned out.

    However last year one of Labour’s MPs quit and became an Independent. Therefore the Green’s support on confidence and supply issues became important. The Green’s leader did not get a ministerial position, but Labour did promise to support the Greens on getting certain social and environmental legislation through.

    Fortunately, alone among the minor parties, the Green’s support has not plummeted since the 2005 election. At the moment the Greens are the only minor party that are consistently polling more than the 5% threshold needed to get back in to Parliament while NZ First and United Future are languishing well below 5%.

  15. The Speaker Says:
    November 10th, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Now am i that much of a threat of winning that i need to be last

    I think you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur Bill.

    No offence, but even the hard leftys here think you’re a bit of a nut.

    Havent met a hard lefty on here, I have no chance of winning the seat and if you read that post again you would see that. There are different ways of winning in elections and i will be around to push the communities agenda with whoever wins the seat. I have never seen any lefty have a go at me only right wing ALPers.
    BTW i class being put last by the libs and ff a huge win it shows i am far removed from religious parties and their right wing candidates

  16. Bill Weller, you have shown yourself to be a bigot and extremely offensive. I’d like you to stop the tirades. I can’t imagine why religious vilification is tolerated on this site whilst racism and sexism is (rightly) abhorred.

    William, your view?

    Family First is extremely offensive to most rational people. We are a secular democracy and it is extraordinarily disturbing that fundamentalist religious groups are seeking to take direct control over social and other policies at a national level.

    It is not religious vilification to point out Family First’s fundamentalist background.

    Back to the topic of dicussion, I gather from a recent interview that Mr X isn’t actually opposed to WorkChoices per se, which is something anyone from a Greens/ALP background thinking of voting for him should bear in mind.

  17. Max @ 69

    I agree that at their best (a while ago now!) the Dems were ok at keeping issues alive and stopping excess. The desired result in the senate is that there are ‘balance holders’-of good conscience for those things the LNP & the ALP are both committed to destroying: eg forests, social equality, public education.

    I know there was a motley experience with a couple of balance-holding green airheads from WA in the 90’s- Dee & Ree or whatever, whose names escape me, but they were better than nothing. Also, I believe the greens will be much better this time. Under Bob they seem to have expanded responsibly into policy.

    Therefore the Getup senate campaign should be supported, I reckon

  18. The other win for me so far is my current partner has encouraged me and helped me to run in an election that has nationwide coverage, that i have done things i thought would only have been a dream. This from someone who was put down and abused in a previous marriage seems a huge win.

  19. Well, If you really do “believe” in the greens and truly want them to be a force in this country, then you should do everything you can to help.
    One thing would be to stop posting such sh!t on here.

  20. Family First is the only party which fits the bill (not you BW) of religous bigotry.

    This from Danny, the Family First senate candidate in Victoria.

    “Mr Nalliah strongly supports the Coalition’s re-election, saying Mr Howard and his likely successor Peter Costello are genuine men who can be trusted to uphold religious and moral values and have a good economic record.

    He is suspicious about the ALP, especially because half of Labor MPs elected last time did not take an oath on the Bible when sworn into office. ”

    Bigotry in the extreme, to judge people on their beliefs as Danny does, his views on Muslims are also known, no tolerance of them.


    Full article is worth the read.

    I would hope that their vote stays below 2%, we have had enough of Howard divisiveness without a new group trying to trade on it.

    Would have to say I agree with Bill’s comment about there being no hard lefties on this site.

  21. Remi #86,

    You, to put it kindly, are delusional. First, Keating correctly described the National Party as a collection of “cowards and hillbillies” – i.e, the Liberals’ natural constituency, but in the countryside rather than the city. Second, the Nats and the Libs have been locked in Coalition for the last 50-odd years.

    The Nats are no more a genuine “third force” than the Communists were in the 1940s, or the Citizens’ Electoral Council today.

  22. Based on his support recently at the South Australian Election, you would have to say that Xenophon will easily win a Senate seat, probably with a substantial surplus.

  23. I hate the fact people including some ALP supporters brand the greens as being “radical” or “not sensible” or “hard” left. The fact remains the country has been in the grip of most “radical” neo conservative shite since colonisation. Why should people be scared of the Greens holding the balance of power when they held it before 2004?

  24. Matthew #87,

    Your argument seems to be, that because the Nationals are supported by people you don’t like, and they are in the coalition (which you obviously don’t like) they aren’t the third force in Australian politics.

    So rather than having 12 HOR members and four senators, cabinet ministerial positions etc, your ‘opinion’ of the party determines it’s force level.

    Well, hey I can use that system too.

    The Greens are a bunch of drug taking hippies.

    I don’t like drug taking hippies, or the Greens.

    Therefore, I am arbitrarily making them the.. (picks number at random) seventh force in Australian politics.

    Touche !

  25. I just did the math, if you assume the country areas are going to be a bit more conservative and move the total down by 1.5% for Labor Green and spread that 1.5% to parties like Libs, Nats and FF, then then the Green Labor vote falls short before preferences get to the second Mr X.

  26. Chris… possibly because the Greens didn’t hold the balance of power before 2004. I’m still yet to be convinced that the Greens deserve the balance of power… but they’re the best of a bad lot. Family First are a joke.

  27. Remi,
    I think they should ‘up the dose’ of codeine for you when you get you flu tabs. The Nationals are not a ‘defined’ third force of Oz politics but the shrinking vapor of what use to be a a country party who would stand up to the UAP/Liberals & stand by its convictions but instead are now just the country rump of a conservative NAG!!

  28. RE ACT senate
    basically the quota is 1/3 to win one seat (33.33)
    unless the liberals poll very close like 33% according to the calc they will lose their seat to either labor or the greens
    Does any one have some knowledge of ACT? has the Canberra Times done an
    opinion poll?

  29. Mick, not that I’m aware of. Although there was a Galaxy one saying the Liberal vote was at 24% or so I think. I didn’t believe that poll and think the Liberal Party will easily retain their ACT senate seat.

    To me, it’s far more likely the Liberal Party will lose Government than the Senate.

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