Where we at

Those Fairfax and WA Senate recounts are finally set to reach their conclusions over the coming days. That may not be the end of it though …

Update (Thursday 6pm):

The contents of the post below, written overnight, have been dramatically superseded by today’s events. Firstly and most straightforwardly, Clive Palmer has been declared the winner in Fairfax by 53 votes. Secondly and more dramatically, the Australian Electoral Commission has made the bombshell announcement that 1375 verified votes from the original count, including 1255 above-the-line and 120 informal votes, have gone missing during the recount process. The AEC will proceed with a declaration tomorrow, but the initial balance of opinion among noted authorities (by which I so far mean Antony Green and Nick Minchin) appears to be that this will be the subject of a successful legal challenge that will cause the result to be declared void, resulting in the entire state of Western Australia going back to the polls.

The legal issues involved in this are beyond my pay grade (paging Graeme Orr and Antony Green), but I am aware of two precedents worth examining:

• On February 15, 1908, a “special election” was held in South Australia to resolve a protracted dispute over the result of the election of December 12, 1906. The Senate election system at this time simply involved voters crossing boxes of three candidates (in the case of a half-Senate election), with the elected members being those to receive the most votes. Naturally enough, most voters voted for the three candidates of their favoured party. Support in South Australia being evenly balanced between Labor and “Anti-Socialist” (hitherto identified as “Free Trade”), this resulted in six candidates receiving very similar shares of the vote. Anti-Socialist Sir Josiah Symon and Labor’s William Russell emerged slightly ahead of the field and were clearly elected, but very little separated another Anti-Socialist candidate, Joseph Vardon, and two Labor candidates, D.A. Crosby and Reginald Blundell. The Court of Disputed Returns resolved that Vardon was the winner by two votes, but that it would have gone differently had it not been for the failure of a returning officer to initial ballot papers. The result with respect to Vardon was consequently declared void.

There followed a dispute as to whether this constituted a casual vacancy to be filled by the state parliament, which the Labor-controlled parliament of South Australia sought to do by selecting one of its own, James O’Loughlin. This was challenged by Vardon in the High Court, which determined that under the legislation existing at the time it was up to the Senate itself to decide if a vacancy existed. A bill was then passed to have this particular matter and all future recurrences referred to the High Court, which concurred with Vardon that a casual vacancy did not apply with respect to a void election result, and that a fresh election had to be held specifically with respect to the third seat. This was duly held with Vardon and O’Loughlin as the only candidates, with Vardon emerging the winner by 41,443 votes to 35,779 (source: Psephos).

So while there is certainly a precedent for an entire state to go back to the polls for a Senate election, it was conducted in the context of an entirely different electoral system. Presumably a new election would have to be for all six seats, and not simply a partial election as was held in 1908. The Vardon matter also involved the question of casual vacancies, which does not apply here – in Vardon’s case, the result was declared void after his term had begun, whereas the term for this election does not begin until the middle of next year.

• The other precedent which springs to mind for a re-staging of a multi-member election was that which followed the state election in Tasmania in 1979. Under its Hare-Clark system, each of Tasmania’s five electorates returned seven members (now five). The result for Denison in 1979, which returned four Labor and three Liberal members, was declared void because three of those elected were found to have exceeded statutory limits on campaign spending. This caused a new election for Denison to be held on February 16, 1980, this time resulting in Labor losing one of its four seats to Norm Sanders of the Australian Democrats.

Original post:

That election we had a while back is still in a sense not over, with recounts continuing for Fairfax and the Western Australian Senate. While these recounts are shortly to conclude, there is unfortunately a fairly big chance that the next stop will be the courts.

• The WA Senate recount was, last I heard, scheduled to be concluded either tomorrow or on Monday. The recount could potentially overturn the election of Labor’s Louise Pratt and the Palmer United Party’s Dio Wang in favour of Scott Ludlam of the Greens and Wayne Dropulich of the Australian Sports Party if it closes a 14-vote gap between Shooters and Fishers and Australian Christians at an early point in the count (although Labor reportedly plans a legal challenge if this occurs). Rechecking of over a million above-the-line votes has inevitably turned up anomalies, most notably a bundle of several hundred votes that were wrongly assigned to the informal pile, eliciting a predictably hyperbolic response from Clive Palmer. It should be observed that such votes will only have the potential to change the result if they affect the vote totals for Shooters and Fishers and Australian Christians, which applies only to votes cast for those parties or those which fed them preferences (No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics in the case of Australian Christians, Australian Voice, Australian Independents and Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party in the case of Shooters and Fishers) – about 3.6% of the total. UPDATE: Oh dear – the AEC reports “a serious administrative issue” in which 1375 verified votes from the original count, including 1255 above-the-line and 120 informal votes, have gone missing. Nick Minchin, who had ministerial oversight over electoral matters during the Howard years, suggests the entire election may have to be held again.

• The Fairfax recount grinds on even more laboriously, owing to the Clive Palmer camp’s tactic of challenging literally every vote that goes against them, requiring them to be sent to the state’s chief electoral officer for determination. The tactic seems to have worked, because the recount process has seen Palmer’s lead steadily inflate from seven to 58. The ABC reports the recount should be concluded either by tomorrow or early next week. However, the Liberal National Party is reportedly set to launch a legal challenge against the result which, if the experience of the Victorian seat of McEwen at the 2007 election is anything to go by, will result in the Federal Court reaching determinations of its own on the status of disputed ballot papers.

• Meanwhile, Kevin Bonham comprehensively catalogues points at issue in the Senate electoral system and the relative merits of proposed solutions, and a piece from Antony Green on the South Australian Legislative Council system also has a lot to say about the Senate.

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.

2,655 comments on “Where we at”

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  1. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Here we go. An animal cruelty/live export issue for the Coalition to respond to. Joyce will make a statement today (once cleared by Peta, presumably).
    This looks a bit suss.
    Nice family!
    Some signs of crumbling as the News of the World tactics come to light in the Coulson/Brooks trial.
    Labor should engage this guy to apply his statistical capabilities, now acknowledged by Abbott himself, to the pink batts data. Wouldn’t it be a delicious irony!
    Tanya P may be onto something with this line.
    The ABC Fact Checker pours cold water on Abbott’s claims for electricity price reduction from the abolition of the carbon tax.

  2. Section 2 . . .

    This report now should force some investigative journalism (and Labor study and questioning) on how Direct Action could deal with an increased reduction target.
    Alan Moir on ASIC’s ferocity.
    David Rowe has his always aggressive Abbott ready to fire on the Climate Change report.
    Ron Tandberg is questioning Shorten’s strength of position on carbon pricing.

  3. Hi mari
    Yesterday I got up at the usual early hour and worked around the property for about 5 hours before getting ready to settle down for a restful afternoon but ended up being called out to a nearby motor vehicle accident that took two hours to clear. So by the time 9 o’clock arrived I was a bit weary and went to bed. So the short answer is no, I don’t think jet lag has occurred.
    It doe help. I have found, to immediately set one’s watch to the final destination’s time as soon as one departs one’s own country and get one’s head around it early with the intention to last long enough to get to bed tired at a normal clock time.

  4. Morning all, and thanks BK for the links. I share your view on the actions of NSW minister Hartcher. I am not a lawyer but it does look suspicious to change the law relative to an in progress trial. I thought you could not make retrospective las in that manner? Is it a challenge to the courts authority? Newcrest must have powerful friends.

  5. ThE NBN company has updated maps to show what construction is actually current. Unfortunately it highlights how very far behind schedule the NBN is. In the whole of Adelaide only two small areas near Prospect and Modbury are under way.

    I support the NBN concept, but do not defend the delivery, and sacking of those responsible was correct. It is too bad Stephen Conroy is still in parliament, wasting taxpayers money.

  6. and yes, the Murdoch speech at the Lowy Institute tonight is described as “sold-out”. Never a truer two words ever printed.

    [It is the NSW Parliament’s annual night of nights, when politicians, journalists and business figures gather for a black tie charity event.
    But it has emerged this year’s Spring Ball will for the most part be missing a distinguished guest: Premier Barry O’Farrell.
    On Wednesday Mr O’Farrell’s office confirmed he ”is attending the pre-dinner drinks, but he has to leave early [for] another function”.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/premier-more-into-murdoch-than-tearing-up-the-dance-floor-20131030-2whh1.html#ixzz2jEyKJwQc

  7. Speaking of slow delivery, the trials of the News of the World editors is finally in court, with three Murdoch sub editors already pleading guilty. Any comment, Mr Murdoch?
    [Three former News of the World employees have pleaded guilty to phone hacking charges, an Old Bailey jury was told this afternoon, as part of the opening of the trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, Brooks’s husband and four other former employees of the now closed Sunday newspaper.]

  8. [A diary written through the turbulent time by strategist Bruce Hawker, published as The Rudd Rebellion: The Campaign to Save Labor, argues that News Corp’s campaign against Kevin Rudd and Labor played a significant role in Labor’s loss because the newspapers did Tony Abbott’s “dirty work” for him, allowing the Coalition leader to stay positive and persistently blowing the Labor campaign off course.]


  9. Have leftie types learnt nothing from the last six years??

    A couple of days ago, fairfax put out an article hinting that Labor was reconsidering its stance on carbon pricing. The Oz put out an article a few hours later, stating the exact opposite.

    But in the meantime, twitter and this site were overwhelmed by posters – mainly from the left of politics – worried that Labor had backed down.

    Today, we get this —


    The article is based on this—

    [If the rumours are to be believed..]

    Right. So fairfax starts a rumour – one that is contradicted not only by every public statement made by Labor, but by its rival publication (and one which a senior member of the Opposition hadn’t even heard of).

    And a day or two later, it published an article based on that rumour.

    Bootstrapping at its best.

    Note the author’s advice to Labor —

    [There is an option for Labor: abandoning the “tax” but refusing to support a repeal unless it is replaced with an emissions trading scheme. It would be consistent with the principles Labor has argued over time….]

    Which is exactly what Labor has been saying, loudly, consistently and publically, it will be doing.

    Fooled you twice, people?

    (Of course, when Labor does refuse to vote for the repeal of carbon pricing because DA is provably not as effective, I’m sure we’ll have a stream of articles on Labor’s ‘backflip’ and a lot of lefties here and on twitter will be claiming that it’s only because of public outcry, pressure from the Greens, Albo, or whatever….)

    Can I point out something very important — as a general rule, Liberal supporters attack Labor and defend the Liberals; those on the Left attack Labor and the Liberals.

    If you can’t see the problem there, I can’t help you!

  10. Socrates

    [… it does look suspicious to change the law relative to an in progress trial. I thought you could not make retrospective las in that manner? Is it a challenge to the courts authority? Newcrest must have powerful friends.]

    You can legislate mid-trial as Sandra Nori would know. At least the residents around Luna Park got the crumbs of a contempt finding against the developers who were cosy with the NSW Government at the time.


  11. Morning all.


    Labor’s election loss had less to do with News ltd and more to do with the new leadership being completely out-played by Abbott. Rudd’s faffing about, wasting time on silly obsessions like Murdoch, and policy thought bubbles and backflips played right into Abbott’s hands.

    If Labor had any sense it would keep Bruce Hawker at a firm distance for future election campaigns.

  12. [Julie Bishop has begun high-level efforts to strike an agreement with the Iranian Government to repatriate its nationals whose refugee claims have been rejected by Australia.

    The Foreign Affairs Minister told _The West Australian _ that she raised the involuntary return of boat people with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Zarif in New York last month.

    It is understood that Mr Zarif acknowledged that many Iranians arriving in Australia by boat were economic migrants with no genuine fear of persecution.]

  13. I must say Mark Kenny’s recent articles in the SMH have been giving me the shits.
    Full of twisted facts, opinion masquerading as fact and just plain obfuscation designed to stir the ALP’s pot.
    Reminding me more of his twit brother/cousin Chris.
    Mind you, bustling Billy Shorten could get a little more on the front foot with all this and spell out labor’s position more clearly.

  14. Regarding the Iranian matter- I don’t expect Mr Zarif would agree that any returned Iranian refugee is going to be persecuted.

    No official from any country is going to say…’Oh Yes we do persecute that minority group…or’ Yes, we will kill that person if they return to our country..’

    What terrible journalism…

  15. Yeah it’s just a fluff piece designed to boost Bishop’s tawdry foreign affairs credentials.
    Basically the iranians are saying “no problems love, we’ll look into it for you…” and then drop the issue as soon as she walks out the metaphorical door.

  16. So while Bruce Hawker was supposedly managing an election campaign, he kept a diary with a view to publication?

    Where does the ALP find these people? And why can’t they get them to sign confidentiality agreements?

  17. Nice work if you can get it

    [Members of the team hand-picked by the Abbott government to rein in spending will be paid $1500 a day.
    The Coalition’s election costings earmarked $1 million for the government-wide commission of audit, set up last week to consider ways to cut costs and privatise assets or services.]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/auditors-to-be-paid-1500-a-day-to-recommend-spending-cuts-20131031-2wi2d.html#ixzz2jFBKngH9

  18. Noticed interesting tweet from Peter Slipper to journos last weekend

    [@jonathanvswan @jamesmassola Whilst you are at it, could you ask Entsch about his message to abbott night b4 #ashbygate broke. What was it?]

  19. Geez, how embarrassing was that student protest. One can only draw the following logical conclusion:

    Either University education standards have fallen so far under Labor’s years in power that the ASU couldn’t actually figure out that it was a Labor policy that they were protesting against, OR ELSE the ASU has finally given up on any pretence that it is not simply a student-funded arm of the Labor Party.

    Oh, and nice to see that wonderful symbol of middle-eastern protest, ‘the burning effigy’, being wheeled out on Australian streets by these champions of students rights.

    And the silence from the usual social media band of lefties is deafening. Obviously in their worlds joke menus = bad, but burning effigies = perfectly fine.

    Embarrassing for all of you.

  20. [An academic study has found that 32% of articles dismissed or questioned the link between human activity and climate change]


    [The report also found large geographical disparities in coverage of climate science. While the Sydney Morning Herald was most likely to prominently place stories about climate science, followed by the Australian, the West Australian and the NT News had very little news on the topic.

    “Andrew Bolt is the dominant voice on climate science by a long way, although I wouldn’t personalise it on him because it’s the editors and corporate managers who give him the space in the newspaper,” Wendy Bacon, author of the report, told Guardian Australia.

    “There’s an editorial decision to heavily promote him and people like Piers Akerman and Miranda Divine, who are vehemently angry with climate scientists.”]

  21. Related to my #36, I watched the Lateline i.v. with the Chair of the new Audit Commission last night, and it became obvious that he does not accept the science or theory of AGW. Suspect that he is one of the supporters of the do-nothings and would be encouraging Coalition to withdraw support for any action at all.

  22. The Abbott government plans a drastic overhaul of the higher education system, including axing the compulsory fee collected by universities to support student services and scrapping Labor’s targets to lift participation by disadvantaged students.

    Regional universities and the National Union of Students strongly oppose the changes, arguing they could lead to a loss of services on campus and limit access for poorer students

    The former Labor government abolished caps on the number of Commonwealth-supported university places, helping 190,000 more students to access higher education.
    But of the course the Liberal sycophants are unable to understand these cuts are what were being protested

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/christopher-pyne-reveals-university-shakeup-20130924-2ucag.html#ixzz2jFHUxza2

  23. guytaur 33
    Posted Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink
    joe blow
    You are on your lonesome trying to beat that up.
    Nice try though

    I suppose you are right. What’s a burning effigy or two, eh? But, if someone had held up a nasty poster about Gillard, this thread would be humming, right?

  24. guytaur

    Presumably the “spies” would have to sift through everything by computer, looking for key signals to set off an investigation. Lots of time and money wasted?

  25. [ zoomster
    Posted Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Have leftie types learnt nothing from the last six years??

    Can I point out something very important — as a general rule, Liberal supporters attack Labor and defend the Liberals; those on the Left attack Labor and the Liberals.

    If you can’t see the problem there, I can’t help you!

    You will find the solution in finding out how the rumour started. Ruddstoration did not start in a vacuum, it required Rudd and his spear throwers, month after month, year after year. Complete Labor Back down on climate change did not start in a vacuum, it required the NSW right.

    It is within Labor’s power to deal with the NSW right, instead of pretending the problem isn’t there, blaming the paper and complaining when saner heads oppose, it would be better to deal with the NSW right.

  26. Joe Blow
    What we saw when the protestors had posters making “nasty” comment about Gillard was Liberal supporters on here defending the posters, defending Abbott and his team who stood under those posters.

    I see no Labor supporter on here defending the students.

    You have a double standard. Revel and enjoy things like the posters of Gillard, then cry and whinge when people do an equivalent to Liberals.

    Just like the nasty little people you are..

  27. mari

    This is related to the discussion about dying muttonbirds (shearwaters).

    [ . . .it was normal for wrecks to occur every 10 years, and this usually indicated a particularly “poor year” for the birds with storms or no fish available on arrival.

    However, major wrecks had occurred every second year since 2007, pointing to a wider problem, she said.

    “We need to start asking the question of what is going on in the marine environment,” Dr Lavers said. “This isn’t just a hiccough. This isn’t just a freak event. It is not just that the fish have decided to relocate themselves for one or two years or three years. This is obviously an indication of a much wider problem.”]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/dead-birds-not-just-a-freak-event-20131030-2wgzd.html#ixzz2jFJCHtux

  28. lizzie

    [the NT News had very little news on the topic.]
    How could they possibly find room between all the croc , drunkard’s antic and UFO stories ?

  29. guytaur

    But they’d have to have certain key words or phrases to look for. We’re apparently talking whole populations analysed. It’s still an enormous task.

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