Some Section 44 and recent preselection news to kick off a sorely needed new federal politics thread:
• The Australian Electoral Commission will today push the button on Senate recounts mandated by the High Court to determine replacements for Fiona Nash (New South Wales, Nationals), Larissa Waters (Greens, Queensland) and Scott Ludlam (Greens, Western Australia). It is a known known that this will result in the election of, respectively, Hollie Hughes, Andrew Bartlett and Jordon Steele-John. The first of these raises a complication in that Hughes is from the Liberals rather than Nationals, which upsets finely calibrated provisions of the coalition agreement.
• Tasmanian Liberal Senator Stephen Parry’s Section 44-related vacancy is set to be filled by Richard Colbeck, the highest placed unelected candidate on the Liberal Senate ticket last year, in keeping with the established precedent of dealing with disqualifications by recounting the votes as if the disqualified member had not been on the ballot paper. Colbeck was a Senator from 2002 until his defeat in 2016, which followed his dumping from top of the ticket in 2013 to fifth place. This was widely seen as an exercise of power by Senator Eric Abetz against the only Liberal MP in the state who had supported Malcolm Turnbull’s challenge to Tony Abbott. Many Liberal voters rebelled against this arrangement by voting for Colbeck by the line, although he failed to match Labor’s Lisa Singh achievement in defeating the party colleague listed above him.
• Parry’s departure also opens a can of worms in that a recount would not just result in Colbeck being elected in his stead. As a recount from the published raw data conducted by Grahame Bowland shows, the vagaries of below-the-line preferences are such that the final spot would be won not by Greens Senator Nick McKim, who made it to the final seat by a margin of 141 votes, but by Kate McCulloch of One Nation, who on the new count would finish 227 votes ahead of McKim. As Kevin Bonham explains, it is debatable whether the High Court would indeed declare McKim retrospectively unelected, or if it would deem his election beyond its remit on the grounds that only Parry had had his election annulled by disqualification (the latter being Antony Green’s view).
• An earlier report on the Tasmanian Liberals’ Senate preselection in The Mercury indicated Claire Chandler, a risk adviser at Deloitte Australia, had emerged as a challenger for the next election to incumbents Jonathon Duniam and David Bushby. Chandler could potentially lay a strong claim if only by promising to break the persistent male domination of the Tasmanian Liberals’ federal contingent, which stood at seven out of seven before three lost their seats in 2016.
• Voting is to open this Friday on the preselection for the Greens Senate preselection in New South Wales, in which incumbent Lee Rhiannon faces a challenge from state upper house MP Mehreen Faruqi. According to Sean Nicholls in the Sydney Morning Herald, this is being a viewed as a challenge by the party’s moderate tendency, associated with Faruqi’s Legislative Council colleague Jeremy Buckingham, against Rhiannon’s hard left faction.
• The Guardian reports that “Greens internal processes” appear to encourage Senators to make way for their preselected successors before their election, by vacating their seats and having them fill the casual vacancy. On this basis, Larissa Waters, who has confirmed she will again seek preselection after losing her seat to the vagaries of Section 44, may replace her designed successor, Andrew Bartlett, following a preselection to be held over the coming months. However, Bartlett appears non-committal as to his own longer term aspirations. The report also notes that Lee Rhiannon might be expected to relinquish her seat to Mehreen Faruqi if she loses the New South Wales preselection discussed above.
Andrew Clennell of The Australian reports that Lucy Mannering, a Commonwealth Bank lawyer and ex-wife of former Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes, is emerging as a potential compromise candidate for Labor preselection candidate for the Sydney seat of Banks, which the party uncharacteristically lost in 2013 and 2016. The preselection has loomed as a contest between Chris Gambian, a union official favoured by the CFMEU, and Paul Garratt, who has the backing of the Maritime Union of Australia, of which he is an assistant secretary. Another potential contender is Jason Yat-Sen Li, a Chinese community leader and unsuccessful candidate for Bennelong in 2013.