The Senate: Western Australia

Western Australia has produced variations on the same result since the first six-seat half-Senate election in 1990: three seats for the Liberals, two for Labor, plus one for a minor party. That party was the Greens in 1990, 1993 and 2004, with the election of Jo Vallentine, Dee Margetts and Rachel Siewert respectively. The Democrats won the seat in 1996 and 2001, when Andrew Murray was elected and re-elected, and in 1998, when Brian Greig was elected. One Nation took a large bite out of the Liberal vote in 1998 and 2001, but on each occasion the early exclusion of the third Labor candidate left Labor, Democrats and Greens preferences deciding the final seat in favour of the Liberals. The 2004 election was the Coalition’s best performance since 1977, the combined Liberal and Nationals vote increasing from 40.0 per cent to 50.2 per cent. If the combined vote for the Greens, Democrats and Labor had been 1.3 per cent lower, the Liberals would have won a fourth seat at the Greens’ expense.

The winnable end of the Liberal ticket is occupied by David Johnston (left), Alan Eggleston (right) and Michaelia Cash. Johnston and Eggleston have reversed positions since the 2001 election, reflecting Johnston’s elevation to cabinet as Justice Minister. A former state party president, Johnston is part of the WA Liberal faction associated with Ian Campbell and Chris Ellison, which has been opposed by the “Noel Crichton-Browne camp”. Johnston secured second position on the ticket at the 2001 election at the expense of incumbent Winston Crane, who was then under investigation over travel rorts (he was eventually cleared). Alan Eggleston, who stands 127 centimetres tall due to a condition called dyschondroplasia, is a former mayor of Port Hedland who won preselection at the 1996 election to fill the position vacated by Noel Crichton-Browne’s expulsion from the party. Third place initially went to state party senior vice-president Mathias Cormann, who won preselection ahead of 70-year-old incumbent Ross Lightfoot. Cormann has since found a quicker route to the Senate by filling the casual vacancy created by Ian Campbell’s resignation, which does not expire until 2011. A new preselection for the third position was won by industrial relations lawyer Michaelia Cash (who apparently doesn’t like being photographed, or publicised much), daughter of state MP George Cash and former electorate officer to Ross Lightfoot, ahead of Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer Michael Mischin, who takes the fourth position.

Labor’s ticket is headed by 35-year-old newcomer Louise Pratt (left), a member of the state upper house since 2001 and previously an electorate officer to Carmen Lawrence. Pratt won the backing of the powerful Left faction Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and its state secretary Jock Ferguson after it fell out with incumbent Ruth Webber, following Byzantine preselection quarrels ahead of the 2005 state election. Pratt won backing from an alliance of Left unions and the New Right, through a deal in which her vacant state seat went to New Right numbers man Batong Pham. She also succeeded in relegating to number two Mark Bishop (centre), a former front-bencher who had gone back on his decision to quit politics in the wake of Kevin Rudd’s leadership takeover in December. According to Andrew Probyn of The West Australian, there were “two theories as to why Senator Bishop had a change of heart”. One was that Kevin Rudd had called Bishop’s bluff when he threatened to quit while haggling for the defence portfolio, leaving him at first obliged to quit and then regretful over his “fit of pique”. The second was that Bishop had been “heavied” by his Shop Assistants Union backers who wanted Bill Johnston, Bishop’s likely replacement in the Senate, to remain as state party secretary so the position would not go to Simon Mead, of the Left faction Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union. Ruth Webber (right), a former ministerial staffer and state party assistant secretary, has been demoted to number three from number two in 2001.

Democrats Senator Andrew Murray, whose term expires next year, is not seeking a third term. The party’s candidate is Indian-born Erica Lewin (left), who works in “senior policy and community engagement positions with the state government”. The Greens have nominated Scott Ludlam (centre), an adviser to Rachel Siewert and previously to former state upper house member Robin Chapple. While Ludlam remains well placed to repeat Rachel Siewert’s success in 2004, he faces an unexpected obstacle in the form of the Christian Democratic Party, which has pulled off a preference coup that will deliver it votes from One Nation, Family First, the Democratic Labor Party, the Citizens Electoral Council, the Non-Custodial Parents Party, Conservatives for Climate and Environment, the Liberty and Democracy Party and even the Nationals. The CDP will also get Carers Alliance preferences and the surplus from the Liberals. This should keep the CDP alive into the late stages of the count, and might even win their candidate Gerard Goiran (right) the final seat at the Greens’ expense if the Coalition comes close to its vote from 2004. A more likely danger is that the Labor resurgence will be strong enough that the Greens will be unable to overcome their third candidate, resulting in a three-all split between the major parties and the first minor party lockout in WA since 1980. Nonetheless, a repeat of the 2004 result remains the most likely outcome.

Preference tickets when boiled down to their essence run as follows:

NATIONALS: CDP; Liberal; Greens; Family First; DLP; Democrats; One Nation; Carers Alliance: NCPP; CCE; CCC; LDP; SOL; WWW; Campbell; SA; Labor; CEC.

CITIZENS ELECTORAL COUNCIL : Liberal; CDP; Campbell; One Nation; NCPP; Carers; WWW; LDP; SOL; DLP; Democrats; Nationals; SA; CCC; CCE; Family First; Labor; Greens.

CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Carers; DLP; CEC; Family First; CCE; One Nation; Campbell; NCPP; Liberal; Nationals; CCC; SOL; WWW; SA; Labor; Greens; Democrats.

NON-CUSTODIAL PARENTS: Family First; Campbell; One Nation; CDP; SOL; DLP; CCC; CCE; Democrats; LDP; SA; Carers; CEC; WWW; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Greens.

DEMOCRATIC LABOR PARTY: CDP; Family First; Liberal; Nationals; Carers; NCPP; Campbell; One Nation; CEC; LDP; SOL; WWW; CCE: CCC; Labor; SA; Democrats; Greens.

LIBERAL: Nationals; CDP; Family First; DLP; LDP; Campbell; Carers; CCE; NCPP; Democrats; Greens; WWW; SOL; CCC; CEC; Labor; SA; One Nation.

DEMOCRATS: Carers; CCC; WWW; CCE; Greens; half (Labor; Nationals; Liberal), half (Nationals, Liberal, Labor); SA; Independent; Family First; SOL; NCPP; CEC; Campbell; LDP; One Nation; DLP; CDP.

ONE NATION: NCPP; CEC; Family First; CDP; Campbell; SOL; WWW; LDP; DLP; Carers; SA; CCE; CCC; Nationals; Liberal; Democrats; Greens; Labor.

FAMILY FIRST: LDP; NCPP; Carers; CCE; CCC; SOL; DLP; CDP; One Nation; Liberal; Nationals; Campbell; Labor; Democrats; CEC; SA; WWW; Greens.

SENATOR ON-LINE: Carers; CCE; CCC; WWW; LDP; NCPP; Democrats; Greens; Labor; Liberal; Nationals; DLP; Family First; SA; CDP; One Nation; CEC; Campbell.

CARERS ALLIANCE: Democrats; CDP; WWW; One Nation; CEC; LDP; NCPP; CCE; Campbell; SA; SOL; CCC; DLP; Nationals; Liberal; Family First; Greens; Labor.

LABOR: Greens; Democrats; CCC; SOL; LDP; DLP; WWW; SA; Carers; Nationals; CDP; Family First; CCE; Liberal; NCPP; CEC; One Nation.

CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION: WWW; Democrats; CCE; Family First; Carers; Campbell; SA; NCPP; DLP; One Nation; SOL; CDP; LDP; Greens; CEC; Nationals; half (Liberal; Labor), half (Labor; Liberal).

SOCIALIST ALLIANCE: Greens; WWW; Labor; Carers; CCC; Democrats; CCE; SOL; Liberal; Nationals; LDP; DLP; NCPP; Family First; CDP; CEC; Campbell; One Nation.

CAMPBELL: CDP; NCPP; One Nation; CEC; Carers; Family First; DLP; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Democrats; SOL; WWW; LDP; CCE; CCC; SA; Greens.

WHAT WOMEN WANT: Greens; SA; Labor; Democrats; SOL; Carers; CCC; DLP; Campbell; CCE; Liberal; CDP; Family First; One Nation; LDP; Nationals; CEC; NCPP.

CONSERVATIVES FOR CLIMATE AND ENVIRONMENT: SOL; CCC; Carers; Democrats; Family First; WWW; CDP; One Nation; NCPP; DLP; LDP; Liberal; Nationals; Greens; Labor; CEC; Campbell; SA.

LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY PARTY: CCE; NCPP; CEC; DLP; Carers; WWW; SOL; CCC; Family First; One Nation; CDP; Campbell; SA; Democrats; Nationals; Labor; Liberal; Greens.

GREENS: WWW; SA; Carers; CCC; SOL; Democrats; Labor; CCE; Nationals; CEC; One Nation; NCPP; DLP; CDP; Family First; Campbell; Liberal.

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.

21 comments on “The Senate: Western Australia”

  1. Kinda off topic but I just got polled by Galaxy here in Moreton in Queensland (i think we are tipped to go to the ALP). About 10 questions asked were asked, fairly standard stuff.

    The guy asking the questions had a good laugh when he asked me to select from a list of what I don’t like about the Liberals – All of the above!

    Did my bit for Kevin!:)

  2. It is not really correct to say that the CDP might get up at the expense of the Greens. The reality is that they are harvesting most of the minor conservative vote, vote that would have flowed back to the Libs (and not to the Greens) if the CDP were not there picking it up. It is probably better that the CDP (or almost any other minor party) take the last seat in preference to the libs having it.

  3. Kelly, if the swing from Liberal to Labor is as mild as some polls suggest, it’s possible that the right will win four seats and the left will win two, as very nearly happened last time. I don’t actually expect that to be the case, but it is possible.

  4. A scenario that is as plausible as a three-three lockout of minor parties is 2 ALP, 2 Lib, 1 Green and 1 CDP.

    The ALP and the Libs get no preferences ahead of both the CDP and the Greens, so assuming the two minor parties remain in the race and the majors poll less than three quotas, the major candidate could remain stranded and eventually get overtaken by their minor party equivalent.

    Assuming the ALP goes out first, their votes first get the Greens elected and then their votes (and the Greens) flow to the CDP ahead of the Libs. Conversely, if the Libs get knocked out first, their votes first get the CDP elected and then their votes (and the CDP’s and the Nats) flow to the Greens ahead of the ALP. Quite nice symmetry really:-)

    It would be a very strange scenario indeed were the right wing vote to increase to the extent it would need to get 4 quotas. I really think the DLP, the CDP, FF, the LDP, the Libs and the Nats will just cannibalise the right wing vote for no net gain.

  5. Another way of looking at it is, what is the likelihood of the combined vote of the ALP, the Greens, the Dems and a couple of left wing minors being less than 43% (3 quotas)?

    Not very likely.

  6. The Socialist Equality Party must really take their name to heart. They have a three way split ticket, evenly splitting preferences between ALP, Greens and Coalition.

    As Basil Fawlty asked his pet dragon… “What is the bloody point”?

  7. Hi Luke,

    I have been playing with the ABC Senate Calculator on and off for a few days now, but I had not even bothered experimenting with the WA figures until I saw your post, because I just assumed the the Coalition would win three, ALP 2 and probably one Green.

    I got a notional result very similar to that, that you suggested, from the following figures, which I assume are reasonably possible, but which I picked without trying to engineer a result. The only difference was that these numbers gave the sixth place to Family First not CDP, although CDP were only 1 % behind FF at their (CDP) elimination point.

    You may have identified another senate ‘surprise’ on Saturday!


    Group A: Liberal/National Coalition 39.02
    Group B: Citizens Electoral Council 0.06
    Group C: Family First 4.46
    Group D: Pauline’s United Australia 0.40
    Group E: Climate Change Coalition 0.21
    Group F: Socialist Alliance 0.11
    Group G: The Greens 7.14
    Group H: What Women Want 1.00
    Group I: Liberty and Democracy Party 0.24
    Group J: Group J Independents 0.19
    Group K: Hear Our Voice 0.12
    Group L: Senator On-Line 0.11
    Group M: Australian Democrats 2.20
    Group N: Conservatives for Climate and Environment 0.34
    Group O: D.L.P. – Democratic Labor Party 1.00
    Group P: Group P Independents 0.23
    Group Q: The Fishing Party 0.34
    Group R: Christian Democratic Party 1.31
    Group S: One Nation 1.59
    Group T: Non-Custodial Parents Party 0.07
    Group U: Shooters, Fishing and Lifestyle 0.34
    Group V: Group V Independents 0.31
    Group W: Labor Party 38.67
    Group X: Socialist Equality Party 0.13
    Group Y: Carers Alliance 0.41
    Ungrouped Candidates (no ticket submitted)

  8. I should probably also point out that the scenario above also crucially relies on the third ALP candidate being eliminated before FF, so that the collected ALP votes go to the Greens, thus electing them in fifth place, with the Greens surpluses then going to FF to elect them sixth, ahead of the Coalition. Otherwise the Coalition would be elected fifth on collected FF votes and the Coalition surpluses would then put the Greens into sixth place ahead of the ALP.

  9. Hi Fargo61,

    Group “A” on the Senate ballot is actually the Nats not the Libs who are running separately. The Nats notionally go to the Libs first but go to the CDP ahead of the Libs third candidate. I assume this is part of a deal which sees the CDP going to the Nats in O’Connor over Tuckey (BTW has anyone noticed the Nats are in from $26 to $9 on Centrebet).

    As a result of the Nats ticket, assuming the CDP outpoll the Nats, the CDP get a preference boost when the Nats go out which puts them well ahead of any other minor right wing parties which should ensure FF never get ahead of them.

    I have got the CDP up over the third Lib from as little as 1.5% with the Libs polling 41.85%. Could make life very interesting in the West.

  10. Fargo61,

    Those calculations refer to NSW not WA (that is the NSW Senate ticket). I also think you are overestimating the Family First vote in WA (probably their weakest state), and underestimating the CDP (WA is their 2nd strongest state).

  11. Fargo,

    I doubt that the LP will suffer a 10% decline in their vote in WA…..

    My most likely scenario –

    LP3 (off 3 quotas)
    ALP2 (off 2.x quotas)
    Grn1 (off ALP preferences).

    Try this with Antony Green’s very spiffy calculator –

    LP – 43.1% (down 6%)
    ALP – 36% (up 4%)
    Green – 8.25% (up 0.2%)
    FF – 0.85%
    CDP – 3.1% (up 1.3%)
    Dem – 2.0% (unchanged)

    I predict, in other words, pretty much a status-quo situation over here, with 3 LP, 2ALP and minor parties 1, like every other election since 1990.

  12. While I don’t think the 4 Right, 2 Left scenario in WA is very likely, it is made credible by the decision of both the carers and Climate Change Coalition to deliver preferences to the CDP ahead of Greens or ALP. If these two take a significant chunk of the left vote, and some of the polls showing minimal swing to the ALP in the West are right, it could happen. William left the CCC out of his list of people who are going to the CDP, although they’re the most surprising of the lot.

    However, provided the ALP can get much of a swing at all the danger is small and the question becomes the battle between the ALP and Greens for the 3rd left spot and the Liberals and CDP for the 3rd right position.

    If the Greens get less than 5 people up at this election there will undoubtedly be a chorus from assorted pundits as to how this was a “disastrous” result for us. As evidence they will point to predictions from Malcolm Mckerras and our host that we would win 5 or 6 seats, and then try to imply that this is what the Greens themselves were saying they would get. I know this because it has happened before many times, where predictions from others become transformed into our own supposed overconfidence.

    Consequently, for what it is worth I’ll put my own sense of our chances on the record – and here seems as good a place as any.

    I am very confident that Bob will be re-elected (not a brave statement really). I think that in the ACT, WA and Vic we are narrow favourites. I don’t expect us to pull all of them off, but in each I think we have a slightly better than even chance. In South Australia I rate our chances as 50/50. I don’t write off our chances in either NSW or Qld, but in both cases I think the odds are substantially against us. I have gone from thinking that Andrew Wilke’s chances were a pipe dream to considering there is a remote chance he might win, but I’d emphasize the “remote”.

    All up, the sort of result William has predicted for us is possible, but I think it is unlikely. If we can get three wins this time I’d be satisfied, and four would make me very happy. I’d be over the moon with six.

  13. The polls are showing the coalition holding up better in WA.

    Considering the Liberals had a primary senate vote of 49.3% last time, I think they will still manage three quotas straight off their primary vote, ie 43%.

    The danger for the Greens is that Labor’s primary vote will grow too large for them to catch and there is no Liberal excess to get them over the line.

    Despite the above I think the Greens are more likely than not to win a seat.

  14. 3-3 for mine, with an outside chance of CDP or FFP if the Lib vote plummits further.
    Neither party will have over the third quota to be of assistance to another minor.

    What’s wrong with your web site Mr Speaker? I get a blank screen.

  15. umm I think the database is down.

    Despite my lax bloggery (I consider it a website, not a blog), I get a fair bit of traffic. (600 visitors a day)

    Maybe I went through some sort of quota.

  16. If the Green numbers in polls are to be believed, the Greens have been in consistant decline all year. I will conceed Bob Brown will be elected, but their chances decay substantially in all other states, as they will find it hard to put together a quota on preferences. The Dems will not contribute much more than a handful of left leaning micros. They will have to rely on a harvest of a substantial ALP residue to muster 14.2%.

    If the Greens can replace the two retiring senators, then they can consider themselves fortunate. Anything beyond that then we can sack the pollsters.

  17. Mark at #12

    Thanks Mark, yes, I have somehow had a shocker and run the NSW calculator instead of the WA one.

    Matthew Cole at # 13, yes, I agree with you, result likely 3-2-1, which was what I thought in the first place, until I confused myself entirely by running the NSW calculator instead, thinking I had clocked on the WA one. My excuse…Too many late nights studying for final Uni exam and reading political blog sites.


  18. Good luck to all players who are candidates for the Senate in W.A. The newly established Secular Party will be fielding two candidates as “group Q”. They expect to oversee a rational and humanistic basis for ethics in relation to both the society and the environment after future elections to come.

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