The Senate: South Australia

South Australia produced the same result at each Senate election from the first six-seat election in 1990 until 2001: three Liberal, two Labor and one Democrats. This reflects what has been a weak period for Labor, whose vote fell below 40 per cent in 1990 and has not since recovered, and the Democrats’ historic strength in the state, which has on occasion brought them close to winning House of Representatives seats. The most shattering of the Democrats’ disappointments in 2004 was their failure to stay afloat in South Australia, their vote plunging from 12.6 per cent to 2.3 per cent. South Australia is also the foundation state of Family First, whose founder Andrew Evans put the party on the map with a surprise state upper house win in 2002. The party’s Senate vote in 2004 was 3.9 per cent, their highest in Australia, but they did not benefit from a Labor preference deal as they had in Victoria, where Steve Fielding was elected from 1.8 per cent.

Of the three Liberals elected in 2001, only number three candidate Grant Chapman is running for re-election. Number one candidate Robert Hill resigned in March 2006 to become ambassador to the United Nations, and his position was filled by Cory Bernardi (left), investment fund manager and former state party president. This marked a victory for the Right over the moderate faction, in which Hill had been a senior figure. Its favoured candidate was Simon Birmingham (centre), former Winemakers Federation executive and narrowly unsuccessful candidate for Hindmarsh at the 2004 election (for which Bernardi had again been a preselection rival). The imbalance was redressed when Birmingham won preselection for the number two Senate position to succeed the Right’s Jeannie Ferris, who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ferris died on April 2, and Birmingham assumed her vacancy ahead of schedule. Grant Chapman (right) is seeking to extend a parliamentary career that goes back to 1975, in which time he has conspicuously failed to make himself a household name. His preselection win over the number four candidate, moderate Maria Kourtesis, was widely criticised due to its failure to redress gender and factional imbalance.

Labor’s ticket is headed by debut entrant Don Farrell (left), powerful state secretary of the Right faction Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Farrell took his faction’s reserved position from Linda Kirk, the number two candidate from 2001, who fell from favour after backing Kevin Rudd’s leadership bid and defying the conservative union’s opposition to the RU486 abortion pill (though some put the rift down to the dismissal of Farrell’s wife from Kirk’s office). Unfortunately for Labor, Kirk declined to take the offered consolation prize of the Boothby. In second position is the rising star of the Left (centre), Penny Wong, who has been harmlessly demoted from her number one position at the 2001 election due to factional arrangements. Journalist Cath Perry (right) won third position with the backing of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union.

The race for a minor party seat was blown wide open on October 11 when state upper house “No Pokies” MP Nick Xenophon (left) announced he would be entering the race. Xenophon achieved one of the most sensational results in Australia’s recent electoral history when he polled 20.5 per cent in his re-election bid at the state election last March, enough to score a wholly unexpected second seat for his running mate Ann Bressington. With Natasha Stott Despoja declining to seek another term, the Democrats have nominated peace activist Ruth Russell (centre), best known for spending three weeks in Iraq as a “human shield” during the 2003 invasion. The Greens candidate is 26-year-old Sarah Hanson-Young (right), a former University of Adelaide student association president who has more recently worked for Amnesty International. Hanson-Young has been spruiked by Bob Brown as “an option for people who perhaps are disappointed to see Natasha go”.

A mid-campaign poll conducted by Adelaide University for ABC Adelaide suggests Xenophon will carry over his support into this election, enough to deliver a big surplus to the Greens as preferences. There is a very very high chance that this will put Hanson-Young ahead of one of the major parties’ third candidates, and then on to a quota with their preferences. That would produce a result of two seats each to Labor and Liberal, plus one to Xenophon and one to the Greens. If the Greens fall short their preferences will go to Labor via Xenophon, whereas Xenophon’s preferences will split evenly between Labor and Liberal. There doesn’t seem to be any prospect of a micro party upset, as too much of the micro-party vote will go to the Greens.

Preference tickets when reduced to their essence run as follows:

ONE NATION: Shooters; Family First; LDP; Lifestyle; Nationals; DLP; CEC; Liberal; CDP; Xenophon; Labor; Greens; Democrats; SA; WWW; CCC
CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Nationals; One Nation; Lifestyle; Family First; Shooters; DLP; Xenophon; Liberal; Labor; CCC; CEC; WWW; LDP; SA; Democrats; Greens
FISHING AND LIFESTYLE: Family First; Shooters; LDP; One Nation; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; CCC; CDP; DLP; WWW; CEC; SA; Xenophon; Democrats; Greens
SHOOTERS: Lifestyle; One Nation; CDP; Family First; Nationals; DLP; Liberal; CCC; CEC; WWW; Labor; LDP; Xenophon; Democrats; Greens
GREENS: CCC; WWW; Democrats; Xenophon; SA; Labor; LDP; Lifestyle; DLP; Nationals; CEC; Shooters; CDP; One Nation; Family First; Liberal
NATIONALS: Family First; Liberal; Xenophon; CDP; DLP; Shooters; Lifestyle; CCC; Greens; WWW; Democrats; Labor; LDP; CEC; SA; One Nation
DLP: Labor; Liberal; CDP; Family First; Nationals; Xenophon; Shooters; Lifestyle; LDP; One Nation; Democrats; CCC; WWW; Greens; CEC; SA
LIBERAL: Family First; Nationals; CDP; Lifestyle; Shooters; Xenophon; Democrats; LDP; DLP; WWW; CCC; Greens; SA; Labor; CEC; One Nation
WHAT WOMEN WANT: Greens; Democrats; SA; Labor; CCC; DLP; CDP; Lifestyle; Shooters; Liberal; Family First; LDP; Xenophon; One Nation; Nationals; CEC
LABOR: Greens; Democrats; Xenophon; Family First; DLP; Shooters; CCC; WWW; Lifestyle; LDP; SA; Nationals; Liberal; CDP; CEC; One Nation
CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION: Greens; Democrats; WWW; SA; Xenophon 1; Labor; DLP; Lifestyle; Liberal; Nationals; One Nation; LDP; Family First; Shooters; Xenophon 2; CDP; CEC
CITIZENS ELECTORAL COUNCIL: Liberal; Nationals; Democrats; CDP; One Nation; Lifestyle; Shooters; Xenophon; Family First; WWW; DLP; SA; Labor; CCC; LDP; Greens
SOCIALIST ALLIANCE: Greens; WWW; Labor; Democrats; CCC; Xenophon; Liberal; Nationals; LDP; DLP; Lifestyle; Shooters; Family First; CDP; CEC; One Nation
DEMOCRATS: CCC; WWW; Greens; half (Xenophon; Liberal; Nationals; Labor), half (Labor; Xenophon Nationals; Liberal); Family First; SA; One Nation; LDP; DLP; Lifestyle; CDP; Shooters; CEC
FAMILY FIRST: Nationals; One Nation; Lifestyle; Shooters; DLP; CDP; CEC; CCC; Xenophon; Liberal; Labor; LDP; WWW; SA; Democrats; Greens
LIBERTY AND DEMOCRACY PARTY: One Nation; Lifestyle; Shooters; WWW; CEC; CCC; DLP; Liberal; Nationals; Greens; Democrats; CDP; Family First; Xenophon; Labor; SA
NICK XENOPHON: half (Greens; Democrats; Family First), half (Family First; Greens; Democrats); WWW; CCC; Nationals; DLP; CDP; Lifestyle; half (Labor; Liberal), half (Labor; Liberal); SA; Shooters; LDP; CEC; One Nation.

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.

73 comments on “The Senate: South Australia”

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  1. HarryH:

    In the state election the results were Greens 4.28, FF 4.98. My numbers are quite favourable to the Greens.

    I’ve also assumed the Democrats numbers will hold up from 2004 which seems unlikely. More reasonable would be their 1.8% state election result.

    But don’t get me wrong – I think the Greens are in a better position to win a seat than FF, by 60-40, but an FF win is a reasonable possibility.

  2. HarryH, you’re right that the circumstances are right for a growth in the Green vote, and I’m sure it will increase overall. I think there are factors mitigating that growth in SA:
    – As someone else said above, their candidate isn’t very good and doesn’t come across well in community forums, radio, etc.
    – The Xenophon factor: will take some primary votes away, and will get the bulk of disgruntled Dems voters because he is heir to the “keeping them honest” mantle.
    – FF have run a decent, anonymous, scare campaign pointing out some of the less popular Greens policies (drugs, estate taxes, etc.)

    Likewise, I don’t see FF’s vote falling because:
    – The bulk of their voters are rusted-on fundamentalists who vote where their church tells them.
    – They are the main conservative alternative for people who don’t want to vote Liberal.
    – They have a strong base in SA (they were founded here, like the Democrats)
    – They have a good candidate.

  3. Look, Family First got a seat (Fielding) because he got Labor and Liberal prefs.

    With only 1 sides prefs they won’t be winning a seat. Their primary vote is too small.

  4. We’re talking about the Senate. They have preferences flowing from Liberal, Xenophon (50-50), Nationals, DLP, Shooters, Fishing, CEC, CDP ahead of the Greens. It really is going to be a close call between Green – 3rd Labor – FF.

  5. This will be interesting. Most likely 2-G-X-2, but 3-X-2 and 2-X-F-2 are possibilities.

    Most likely opening seems to be two each for the majors and one for Mr X. This probably turns into a race between Greens (with Dem & ALP #3) and FF (with Lib #3). One would expect this one to go to the Green, if only because the high Labor surplus.

    It would be hard for Labor to take a third seat in this case, because they’d have to beat Greens + Dems + half of Xenophon’s surplus.

    If Xenophon’s surplus is higher than one of these two contenders at this stage, then two X-men are elected! Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

    The other possible opening: the majors take 2 each, Xenophon is just short of a quota. Then there a few options:

    If FF takes Libs surplus and Labor surplus is in front of Greens, then Greens flow to Mr X, pushing him up to 1½ quotas. Then it’s a race between FF and Labor for the last seat, with Xenophons big vote flowing on with reduced value. FF gets the vote originally from Xenophon, and Labor gets those that came from Greens.

    If FF takes Libs surplus and Labor is then the lowest, then their votes flow to the Greens. Whichever of Green & FF is the lowest misses out and elects Mr X, the other picks up the last seat, so the result is the same as the most likely scenario above.

    My church’s website did a poll on the who we’d vote for in the Senate. The result would be 1 Labor, 1 Lib, 1 FF and 3 X-men (pity there’s only two of them). However we aren’t very representative of the whole state 🙂

    I think FF has a much better chance in Qld where One Nation and Pauline flow to them early in the piece.

  6. Strrange that no-one has mentioned that Anne Bressington (can’t vouch for spelling), who got into the SA legislative Council on Xenophon’s coat-tails, tipped a bucket on him today when parliament met to anoint his successor, John Darley. Money seems to be at the core of it – who owes what, where and when as electoral expenses. Don’t suppose it will do Mr X any good but he does seem to be teflon-coated and his critic is not exactly flavour of the month.

  7. In 2004, the ALP polled 36.7 per cent for the House and 35.5 per cent for the Senate (figures from Adam Carr’s site), meaning a loss of only 1.2 per cent for the Senate. The LNP polled 47.8 per cent for the House and 47.2 per cent for the Senate, meaning a loss of only .6 per cent for the Senate.

    Newspoll gives the ALP 48 per cent in SA and the LNP 43 per cent, an 11.3 per cent increase in the ALP vote and a 4.8 per cent decrease in the LNP vote. The 2PP is 53-47, representing a swing to the ALP of 7.4 per cent. (The previous Newspoll was even more favourable to the ALP.)

    Transposing the 2004 loses from the House to the Senate means that the ALP could expect a 46.8 per cent Senate vote and the LNP a 42.4 per cent Senate vote. That would mean ALP 3 and Liberal 3.

    Nick Xenophon complicates matters, but I think it unlikely that he would take enough votes from the ALP to make it miss out on a third Senate seat or enough votes from the Liberals to make them miss out on a second Senate seat.

  8. Therapy — FF supporters are indeed churchies. However, their voters are quite different! Their voters are poor conservative people, they poll highest in irreligious areas — take a look at some results.

  9. Good people,

    All this talk about FF in SA must be coming from rusted-on fundies. The *only* reason they got Fielding in Vic was with Labor preferences. Their preference deal is nowhere near as good this time, in almost every state. Their vote in SA has flatlined at around 5% since 2004, including the 2006 State election. The fundies are voting for them, but their attempt to steal mainstream votes with their spin about families is not biting. Like the Paradise Church, they have a secular front end to what is a more extreme version of Christianity, and most people are on to it. What little polling that goes down far enough to count FF in SA has them below 5% this time. Whereas the Greens have been boosted by the increased relevance of Climate Change to the Aussie public, especially after Mr. Gore’s Incomvenient Truth. As was mentioned above, people see the Greens much like the Dems as a Senate party, even though they are running lower house candidates in every seat in the country, and are in many of our Councils.

    I still think the most likely is 3 Lab, 2 Lib and Mr. X. I don’t rate FF here at all, though I read there is a chance in QLD or WA. The Greens have their best preference deal ever this time around, with a growing sense of acceptance in the electorate as the new Dems in the Senate. People got a shock when they found out they gave Howard both houses, and a few people got a lesson in Westminster. I feel they wont want either Major to have the Senate, and liked the way the Dems setup the balance of power and the House of Review. All these factors tell me the Greens should do well in the Senate, but not so much in the lower house, as people will vote Labor to get rid of Howard.

    Bring on 2010, with wall-to-wall Labor and no-one else to blame. The third choice then could really come to the fore.

  10. Therapy you are living in cuckoo land.

    First Family First has had a shocker of a campaign, probably worse than the Democrats.

    Candidates exposing themselves, then preferencing one nation when some of your voters (fundamentalist christians) are non-white.

    I know a few people who voted Family First, who since hearing of the preference deal won’t be trying those waters again.

    I think the only state where FF have a chance is in Queensland, and that isbecause the right wing parties stick close together on preferences.

    In SA, there is not much chance of a family first win. It will be 2-2-1-1.

    Meanwhile can someone ask Lyn Allison to stop whining. She keeps saying that she is polling 5% god know’s where she gets that figure from even the morgan senate poll which overestimates minor party votes say she’s on 1.5%.

  11. Earthrise… This is meant to be a pseph site where people put aside there political persuasions and crunch the numbers based on all intelligence that comes to hand.

    I suggest you take your 5% for FFP and stick it into Antony’s Senate calculator together with likely percantages for the other parties and conclude your own chances.

    My analysis shows that with FFP on 5% they contesting with ALP for the final seat, assuming a 7-8% major party swing to ALP from 2004 and X taking half a quota from both.

  12. Ray (66)

    Come on mate,

    I can read; two-thirds of commentary here is spent flaming the other side. And if your idea of scientific examination is pumping imaginary numbers through a Senate calculator, you must be a fundie. How about addressing some of the logical points I made about the increased relevance of climate change and people’s desire to rebalance the Senate? Or that many people are onto FF’s fundamentalist, theocratic program? In SA, the FF lower-house campaign is almost non-existent, their ads weak and wandering, and their preferences in torpor.

    Faith is not going to cut it next Saturday

  13. Earthrise @ 67

    5% was your number, not something I concocted in my imagination.

    Despite the off thread ravings of others, in particular on other threads on this site, I’ll stay true to my understanding of William’s intent for this site and not engage with you on specific policy (not that I don’t have strong views).

    Suffice to say that I consider myself left of centre on socio-economic policy. Despite this, I don’t see that a Senate with a Labor+Green majority is anymore “balanced” than a Liberal+National majority.

    It would just replace a coalition of the right with a coalition of the left.

    Xenephon and FFP would have a role to play in bringing true “balance”.

  14. Ray (68)

    Appreciate the Bludger cultural lesson; I am a long time reader, first time poster. I’ll keep this in mind for future postings.

    I have to disagree with your assessment of the Labor+Greens ‘coalition’. What we will find is that the true coalition is the Grand one of Liberal+Labor. Yes they squabble over which one of them gets the parking space at Kirribilli, but otherwise they are in almost total agreement in keeping the status quo. The almost total lack of difference this election (me-too) should be enough to convince doubting Thomas’s, but just wait until the next Parliament sits. Other than Workchoices, Iraq and Climate Change, the Majors will combine to lock out the Greens and others from most decisions.

    My problem with FF is their hidden agenda. I would welcome a party serious about standing up for families, we need it. And I would also welcome a party that openly advocated for true Christian values; not pro-war, dictating-morality ‘Christianity’, but peace and looking after the poor christianity. It is the secular front end on fundamentalist values, practiced successfully by the Paradise Church, that leads me not to trust them.

    As you can see, I’m a slow learner 😉

  15. Earthrise @ 69

    I’m disappointed that with the closure of Ozpolitics commentary there has been a migration of political sledgers to Pollbludger that turns me off reading most threads.
    I try not to promote it by engaging with it.

    You are right that Labor ain’t Labor at the moment, but I believe that this is more a political move in an endeavour not to be wedged by Howard, than a genuine policy shift. One has to meet the electorate where they are and then try and lead them to where the party ideology dictates. Hopefully Rudd can do this in a controlled manner.

    Your assessment of Family First certainly characterised the founder of the party, but it has moved on since then to be something much larger than him and beyond the Church, and takes a much broader view of “moral” values, very similar to the Christian values espoused by Rudd. Given time and political success, I believe it will mature to a centrist party as defined by its constituents that makes it worthy of the “balance” of power.

  16. Ray,

    Why should I take half a quota from each of the ALP and the Coalition? Newspoll shows nothing on the radar for Nick Xenophon in SA today. I have no doubt that Newspoll is dead wrong, but I do not have a basis for allocating a vote to him in any particular proportion from the majors, except the SA election, and I don’t thnk that is to be copied in the federal poll.

    Politically, I am quite relaxed about the balance of power’s ending up shared by the Greens, FF and Mr X. I am equally relaxed about the Coalition’s retaining a blocking vote in the Senate because that leads to a double dissolution – which would gurantee a strong Greens presence and probably produce a couple of FF senators.

    Because I spent years listening to ignorant rubbish about the DLP, I tend to dismiss the same sort of criticism of FF, given Steve Fielding’s voting record, and that is not to say I support his voting record, just that there is nothing extreme about it.

  17. Before Xenophon came along, a likely scenario was 3-3 with the greens stick in the middle. Now there’s a chance for two non-majors, with the Greens likely winners. As per my earlier analysis there’s a scenario in which Family First snatch the seat without getting a high primary vote.

    If after the first four seats are taken, the tally stands at:
    ALP 0.75, Gr 0.6, Xen 0.95, FF 0.4, Lib 0.3
    then FF takes the last seat. No necessity of a high primary vote, just a bit of planet-alignment.

  18. Newspoll won’t show anything for Xenephon because it would not have even asked the question. So the only data I can use is that for the State election. There he took over 8% each from the majors out of 20% and the rest primarily from the Greens and Democrats and very little from FFP. See the Speakers breakdown @ 43.

    The polls that have been published for Xenephon have not shown any less support for him. The only thing going against him is his No Pokies brand cannot appear above the line. So his vote may back off a bit, but I suspect not much. And I have no reason to believe it will be extracted in a different proportion to the State election, as he is representing exactly the same constituency.

    As you mentioned the DLP, I was dissapointed to see that they would place FFP behind the major parties (contrary to negotiated agreements!). They will probably take votes from FFP, so I would have expected them to be returned should they be eliminated first.

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