Belated Senate overview

The Poll Bludger has finally extracted the digit and reupholstered his Senate election guide, which now features post-match summaries and detailed excuses as to why most of his predictions were wrong. For the benefit of regular readers, the new additions read as follows:

New South Wales: Antony Green notes that the crucial factor in the Greens’ failure to win the final seat over Labor was Democrats preferences – although they favoured the Greens over Labor, the Greens never received them as Fred Nile had been favoured over them both, and he eventually overtook the Greens to make it to the final round. On the primary vote, the Coalition scored 3.08 quotas, Labor 2.54 and the Greens 0.51. In past elections the Greens could have felt reasonably confident that preferences would close their small deficit over Labor’s surplus, but such were the preference tickets that their vote remained stuck as the cast of micro and minor parties was progressively eliminated. Most remarkable was the success of Glenn Druery of Liberals for Forests in building upon a primary vote base of a mere 0.04 quotas to overtake One Nation (0.13 quotas) and the Democrats (0.15 quotas), devouring the preferences of each in turn and making it through to the final rounds along with Labor, the Greens and Fred Nile (0.18 quotas on the primary vote, compared with a mere 0.04 for Family First). The distribution of the various votes that Druery had absorbed by this point pushed Fred Nile ahead of both Labor and the Greens; since the Greens had fallen further behind Labor by this point, this meant the distribution of their preferences decided the final place in Labor’s favour. Note the Poll Bludger’s cautious pre-election talk of whether the Coalition can "maintain its primary vote at or near the 41.5 per cent it recorded in 2001" – they in fact increased it to 43.9 per cent.

Victoria: Many who had been relaxed about the democratic shortcomings of above-the-line voting after Pauline Hanson failed to win a Queensland seat in 2001 with 10.0 per cent of the vote became suddenly very alarmed when the Greens missed out here with 8.7 per cent. Admittedly, on this occasion there was the further aggravation that Family First succeeded from a mere 1.8 per cent, which compared unfavourably with the party’s performances in South Australia (3.9 per cent), Queensland (3.3 per cent) and Tasmania (2.3 per cent). Key to the result was the preference deals Labor and Democrats struck with Family First in the expectation that they would be the ultimate beneficiaries, which failed to transpire due to their own dismal performances. Boosted by preferences from various micro-parties, Family First overtook the Democrats to become the beneficiaries of their mutual preference deal, which was enough to put their candidate ahead of Labor’s Jacinta Collins due to their feeble 37.8 per cent primary vote. All of which disproved the Poll Bludger’s assertion that a potential Family First seat would most likely come at the expense of the Coalition, who in fact polled a resounding 45.8 per cent to score an easy three quotas on the primary vote.

Queensland: Even more so than Victoria, Queensland provided the Senate election with its greatest astonishment, the Coalition winning four seats in one state for the first time since six-seat half-Senate elections became the norm in 1990. Antony Green calculates that if the Coalition had run a joint ticket, for which the National Party had been agitating, a fourth seat would not have been possible and either One Nation or the Greens would have been elected in their place. The issue was ultimately decided by the 1.3 per cent vote for the Fishing Party, whose preferences (when restricted to realistic contenders) had gone firstly to One Nation, then to the National Party, and then to Hanson. That meant the key factor in the count was Pauline Hanson’s success in narrowly maintaining her lead over One Nation despite unfavourable preference tickets, which she owed to her strong performance on below-the-line preferences. Since One Nation were eliminated first, the Fishing Party vote then moved on to the Nationals which ensured they stayed ahead of Hanson. If Hanson had gone first, the Fishing Party votes would have remained with One Nation who might have got their nose in front of the Nationals on Hanson’s preferences. One Nation would as ever have been starved for further preferences, allowing the Greens to win the seat with the preferences of either the Liberal and Nationals candidate, whichever of the two ended up being eliminated. Instead it was the elimination of Pauline Hanson that decided which of the finely poised Liberal, Nationals and Greens candidates won the final two places, the Greens predictably coming off the worst. One other surprise was that the Nationals ended up winning the fifth seat rather than sixth, overtaking the Liberals due to the considerable number of Pauline Hanson’s below-the-line votes that went against the ticket by favouring the Nationals ahead of the Liberals.

Western Australia: The only state the Poll Bludger called correctly. Most of the Greens’ quota came from three sources – 0.56 quotas from the primary vote; the 0.28 surplus over the second quota from a poorly performing Labor; and the Democrats’ 0.14 quotas, which also went to the Greens ahead of the major parties. With 0.8 per cent of the vote, Family First were not in a position to benefit from the Democrats preference deal. An excellent result for the Liberals, who scored 49.1 per cent of the primary vote.

South Australia: The key to the outcome here was the preference deal between the Democrats and Family First, which allowed Family First to overtake the Greens with their preferences and then consolidate with the Liberals’ considerable surplus over the third quota from their 47.1 per cent primary vote. That left the preferences the Greens needed locked up with Family First, who remained until the final count. At the point of their elimination the Democrats trailed Family First by 0.25 of a quota to 0.30 – had they finished ahead, preferences from Family First and then the Liberals would have delivered them the seat.

Tasmania: Only in Tasmania, where fewer candidates combined with habits formed at state elections produce a below-the-line voting rate of nearly 20 per cent, is there a serious likelihood that the final result will differ from what would have occurred had all votes been above-the-line. In this case Family First’s Jacquie Petrusma would have won the final seat if it weren’t for below-the-line voters favouring the Greens, who as usual had done very poorly on the preference tickets. Otherwise, the Greens’ Christine Milne would have remarkably failed despite scoring a 0.93 quota on the primary vote, which had a typically optimistic Bob Brown claiming premature victory on election night. An apology is due to Labor-turned-independent Senator Shayne Murphy who did rather better than the Poll Bludger dismissively suggested, recording 2.2 per cent of the vote and making it to the final counts.

Ms Milne goes to Canberra

Greens candidate Christine Milne ended up winning the sixth Tasmanian Senate seat more comfortably than earlier predicted. Most observers thought Milne would need enough Labor votes going below-the-line to send her preferences to keep open the gap between her and Family First. But in the event, unexpectedly large numbers of those who voted for the Democrats and ex-Labor independent Shayne Murphy, who both directed their preferences to Family First ahead of the Greens, went below-the-line and favoured the Greens. This allowed Milne to reach a quota with 420 votes to spare even before the elimination of Labor.

Senate cliffhangers

Apologies for the Poll Bludger’s silence over the past 10 days. After taking about a week off your correspondent has been hard at work reupholstering his federal election guide to add summaries of the outcomes for each electorate, and will eventually do the same for the Senate guide. Speaking of which, two Senate seats are going right down to the wire and depending on how they pan out, the Coalition will either attain its absolute majority or fall one short, while the Greens might add two more new seats to their one clear win in Western Australia. At some point today the Electoral Commission will "press the button" on their vote-counting gizmo which will spit the Tasmanian result out the other end. Whether the sixth seat goes to the Greens or Family First is anybody’s guess. The latest from the ever-helpful Geoff Lambert is that "there is sufficient below-the-line vote and sufficient leakage away from the tickets in the below-the-lines to see the Greens elected by a margin of about 2800, it seems. The progress of count sometimes surprises though".

The count in Queensland has been a bit of wild ride over the past week, and the final result will not be processed until Thursday. The Nationals had long had their neck just in front of One Nation at a crucial point of the count where they would be able to overrun the Greens on preferences if they held on. But on Friday there was what Antony Green described as "a dramatic change to the count" suggesting they had "counted something quite specific which had caused that change". The result was to put One Nation ahead of the Nationals, which would mean victory for the Greens since One Nation had been frozen out on preferences by all and sundry. Since then however the trend has gone back the other way, but Geoff Lambert reports that a "big parcel" of below-the-line votes added today gives One Nation "a whisker more than the Nats (by 40!) – based on the tickets, of course". Another correspondent, Chris Maltby, says that "it’s certainly swung back in (Greens candidate) Drew Hutton’s favour, but I reckon One Nation are still behind the Nats by 650 or so". If all voters had gone above-the-line this lead would be about 2500, suggesting a number of minor party below-the-line voters were specifically putting the major parties (or perhaps the Coalition in particular) last. Maltby also notes that One Nation will need all of Pauline Hanson’s preferences to threaten the Nationals, whereas her below-the-line voters might not have any specific attachment to the party she has since abandoned.

Another Senate update

The only person who really knows what’s going on, Antony Green, offered an illuminating contribution to yesterday’s Crikey newsletter detailing the state of play in the Senate. In New South Wales, the huge accumulation of preferences by Liberals for Forests meant none flowed on to the Greens, who were eventually eliminated ahead of both Liberals for Forests and Labor. Greens preferences then gave the seat to Labor. Family First’s victory in Victoria is now confirmed, for reasons that have been widely canvassed elsewhere. In Queensland, no trend has emerged in late counting to suggest an outcome other than three Liberal, one National and two Labor. In Western Australia, the outcome of three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens has never been in doubt. Antony Green refers to a "fevered hope" among the Democrats that they might win a seat in South Australia by overhauling their current 2,600 vote deficit relative to Family First, then making it home on Family First and Greens preferences. However, he can’t see this happening, which means Greens preferences will be deciding the issue between Labor and Family First rather than Labor and the Democrats – and thus that Labor as well as Liberal will win a third seat.

Only in Tasmania does the outcome remain entirely unclear, with below-the-line votes to determine whether the final seat is won by Family First or the Greens. Antony Green does not share the Poll Bludger’s previously expressed sentiment that the Liberals had "blundered" by not fielding a fourth candidate when they won more than three quotas: "If it was not their original intention, someone in the Liberal Party will be claiming great foresight in standing only three candidates. The result is that a full 0.29 of a quota goes straight to Family First rather than lingering with a fourth Liberal candidate". One possible scenario that might have unfolded had this not occurred is that the fourth Liberal would have knocked out Family First, whose preferences could have put incumbent Labor-turned-independent Senator Shayne Murphy into contention. Certainly it does not appear, as suggested earlier, that the Liberals might have been a chance to win the seat themselves.

Still in play

It appears that Queensland National Party Senate candidate Barnaby Joyce is firming in his position just ahead of Family First at the crucial point of the count, after which Family First and One Nation preferences would boost him to a full quota. From Tasmania, another update from Geoff Lambert: "The scrutineers say there is a very high leakage of below-the-lines, i.e. deviation from the tickets. For the Libs 29%, ALP over 60% and Others (not Family First) 45% of below-the-lines favour Greens over Family First. This should see Greens grab the sixth spot – just. These are from a sample of 1000 below-the-lines mostly from Franklin. The underlying below-the-line rate and primaries will vary in other places, but I don’t think the leakage rates will".

Further bad news for Labor with the latest House of Representatives figures. The Australian Electoral Commission has removed Wakefield from the doubtfuls, with Liberal David Fawcett leading Labor member Martyn Evans by 0.62 per cent. And a seat that was formerly marked down as a Labor gain – Larry Anthony’s north coast seat of Richmond – has moved back into the doubtful column with a thud, Anthony now trailing by just 0.02 per cent.

The Senate: part three (Tasmania)

The Tasmanian Senate result must be considered a big disappointment for the Greens, who were widely expected to win a quota on the primary vote. Instead their primary vote was down to 12.8 per cent from 13.8 per cent in 2001 and they are grappling with Family First in a struggle for the final place. Antony Green offers a set of calculations based on the assumption that all votes are above the line, although Tasmania is the one state in which this is not more-or-less accurate. From a starting position of just 2.31 per cent, Family First would absorb the hefty Liberal surplus remaining after the election of their third and final candidate, and receive handy additions upon the elimination of the Christian Democrats and Labor renegade Shayne Murphy. That would put them ahead of Labor’s third place-holder, whose elimination would decide the result. If all Labor votes were above the line, Family First would emerge with 1.0579 of a quota compared with 0.9421 for the Greens. Green notes that "analysis based on treating all party votes as ticket votes almost always provides an accurate estimate of the final outcome&quot, but if ever there might be an exception to the rule this could be it. No fewer than 24 per cent of Tasmanian voters went below the line in 2001, and this would include a disproportionate number of Greens voters and Labor voters making an effort to ensure their vote does not end up with Family First as per the party’s preference deal. One who has looked at all this very closely is Geoff Lambert, noted election obsessive and frequent correspondent. His number crunching runs as follows:

(In 2001) 24% of all votes were cast below the line. It ranged from about 13% for the big parties up to 57% for The Greens (one candidate, Bob Brown). But this figure for The Greens is biased by Brown in 2001. In other years, it’s been about 25%. These figures may or may not be repeated in 2004 – probably they will, especially since the ballot paper was so small this time around.

75% of below-the line votes show ‘1’ for the #1 candidate (i.e. for candidates on top of the party lists). The latter is important, because the ‘1’ for #1 votes from the booths are ALREADY in the count … only the below-the-lines for postal/prepoll and the below-the-lines for #2,3,4 candidates have yet to show up on the system. On this basis, I would expect that the Greens #2 and #3 are carrying about 25% of 25% of 13% of the vote, i.e. about 0.8% of the state total. That will bring (Greens candidate) Christine Milne up to about 13.6%, which is still not enough. And 0.8% is probably an overestimate because it will be dragged down by the same sorts of things happening in other parties, although to a lesser extent.

On the other hand, there could be leakage from the #1 to #4 candidates of other groups. This is known to happen in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, where a lot of people voted (e.g.) 1 Robin Gray, 2 Christine Milne (and vice-versa). It is hard to know how many, but at least in this category it is potentially enough. The below-the-line for (ALP+LIB) will be about 15% of 80% = 12% of the total votes cast. Milne will need to pick up a leakage of only about 15% of these to creep up to a quota. It is at least arguable that a number of these people were peeved with the decision by everyone to preference Family First ahead of the Greens and so would hop over to the Greens early on in their papers (they have to go to Greens by preference 2 or 3 of the majors of course). That this sort of thing can swing a result was seen here in my local Council election, where the leading group lost almost half a quota through such a process.

There is little hope for Milne to gain on the postals and pre-polls. What has been counted so far shows her going backwards. The bottom line of this analysis is, I think, that Christine Milne MIGHT be elected, but it won’t be on the strength of postal/pre-polls, nor on the strength of Greens below-the-line, but it CAN be done on the strength of below-the-line leakage from Lib and ALP. The scrutineers should be able to tell whether this is likely from tomorrow (i.e. today).