Tasmania and Queensland Senate latest

Apologies for continued heel-dragging on a full review of the state of the Tasmanian Senate contest, one remarkable feature of which has been a Liberal Party bungle in fielding only three candidates when their primary vote was sufficient to have raised at least the possibility that they could have won a fourth. Some idea of why they might not have thought this possible can be gleaned by tracking the astonishing growth in their vote over the past three elections – from 33.8 per cent in 1998 to 38.8 per cent in 2001 to 46.6 per cent in 2004. At present the contest for the final seat (the other five splitting three Coalition and two Labor) is between Family First and the Greens – while Family First appears to have the edge, Antony Green says he is "doubtful" this will be the outcome since 20 per cent of Tasmanian voters and as much as 50 per cent of Tasmanian Greens voters go below the line, and counting on these votes will not begin until tomorrow.

The most interesting contest from every perspective is that in Queensland, in which the Coalition is well in contention to secure a fourth seat and hence an historic Senate majority (notwithstanding National Party candidate Barnaby Joyce’s assertion that if elected he will behave more-or-less as an independent). The key point in the count will be when either Family First or the Nationals are eliminated – here the Nationals’ lead has narrowed from about 3500 on Sunday to about 2900 today. If the Nationals survive at this point, Family First preferences will put them ahead of One Nation by a similarly narrow margin (and here their prospective lead has increased from about 3500 to about 3700, Pauline Hanson and One Nation predictably doing less well out of pre-polls and postals) and then over the Greens and into the Senate on their preferences.

Down to the wire

Five House of Represenatatives seats are still listed as doubtful by the Australian Electoral Commission; no less than three of them are in South Australia, and four are held actually or notionally by Labor. Of these Labor is trailing in two, both being seats that sitting MPs are trying to win for the first time following redistributions. These include the new Queensland seat of Bonner, which looked the better bet for Con Sciacca after his existing seat of Bowman (where the Liberals picked up a 6.1 per cent swing) became notionally Liberal; and Wakefield in outer Adelaide, where Labor’s Martyn Evans is attempting to move after the abolition of his own seat of Bonython. Sciacca trails by 0.17 per cent with 82.7 per cent of the vote counted, while Evans is currently falling short by 0.37 per cent with 84 per cent of the vote counted. Also in Adelaide, Labor member for Kingston David Cox leads by just 0.19 per cent with 84.9 per cent counted. One wonders how far ahead the Liberals’ Andrew Murfin would be in the Perth seat of Swan if he had kept out of the news during the pre-election period. As it stands he trails Labor’s Kim Wilkie by just 0.11 per cent with 79.4 per cent of the vote counted. Labor’s remaining hope to pick up another new seat to add to its meagre haul of Adelaide, Parramatta and Richmond (where Larry Anthony, trailing by 0.65 per cent, is not giving up yet) is Hindmarsh, an Adelaide seat being vacated by retiring Liberal Chris Gallus, where Labor leads by 0.17 per cent with 80.8 per cent counted. If those currently ahead remain so, the Liberals will emerge with 73 seats compared with 68 in the old parliament, with the Nationals down one to 12 (bearing in mind that he said he would resign if any seats were lost, and that their Senate seat in Queensland is also in doubt). Labor is down from 65 to 62 and the three independents have been returned. On the latter point at least the Poll Bludger’s overall prediction was correct, but he short-changed the Liberals by six seats. The Runs on the Board tally to the left now records the actual rather than predicted result. Post-match summaries for every seat will be added to the federal election guide with all possible haste when the figures are finalised.

The Senate: part two

Tasmania will require a good hard think, so that will have to wait for tomorrow. The situation in the other states not yet covered is as follows:

South Australia: With the Liberals certain of three seats and Labor certain of two, the final place will be a contest between Labor and the Democrats. The crucial point of the count is who drops out first out of the Democrats and Family First, a finely poised contest in which Family First currently appears to have a slight edge. If the Democrats can get ahead, the Family First-Democrats preference deal will then put their candidate John McLaren ahead of the Greens and then over a full quota with their preferences. Otherwise the Greens’ preferences will be deciding the issue between Family First and Labor – predictably, they have favoured the latter.

Western Australia: A refreshingly straightfoward outcome of three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens. The Greens’ quota will be built upon a primary vote of 7.73 per cent plus Labor’s surplus (4.4 per cent) and preferences from the Democrats (1.97 per cent).

The Senate: part one, sub-section A

Antony Green has offered the astounding assessment that the Coalition could achieve the unprecedented feat of winning four seats in one state, namely Queensland, with both Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce and the Liberals’ Russell Trood set for victory (other readers who concur include Bryan Palmer of Oz Politics and regular contributor Geoff Lambert). Since they also appear set to win three seats in each state plus one each from the territories, this suggests that the Coalition will emerge with the first absolute majority in the Senate since 1981. If so, it appears that the scale of the Coalition’s triumph at this election has yet to be fully appreciated. Green’s perspective on the Senate election was one of many the Poll Bludger received from various readers, which have collectively exposed a few wonky assessments in yesterday’s posting. Updates appear in order:

New South Wales: Here at least it looks the Poll Bludger had it right yesterday in calling it as three Labor and three Coalition. If 100 per cent of votes were above the line (the real figure being more like 90 per cent), on current figures the last three standing in the battle for sixth place would be Liberals for Forests (0.81 of a quota), Labor (0.66) and the Greens (0.53). Since the Greens have put Labor ahead of Liberals for Forests, their elimination would result in the re-election of Labor Senator Michael Forshaw.

Victoria: An apparently wrong call by the Poll Bludger in writing off Family First, which was based on the assumption the third Labor candidate would finish ahead of the Greens and then win the seat on their preferences. On present figures the Greens would be leading Labor 0.69 of a quota to 0.59. That would leave Labor preferences deciding the outcome between Family First and the Greens – and perhaps contentiously, they are delivering them to Family First. The Greens have thus been doomed in being frozen out by both Labor and Family First. Ironically, if they had done slightly less well their preferences would have given the seat to Labor, which they would surely have preferred.

Queensland: It appears that Hetty Johnston (apologies to serious Senate watchers for yesterday’s rather strange conclusion that Johnston was in with a chance), Liberals for Forests, the Fishing Party and the Democrats will progressively drop out leaving the third Liberal and Labor candidates, the Nationals, Pauline Hanson, One Nation, the Greens and Family First. Labor and Pauline Hanson will then drop out in quick succession – somewhat surprisingly, this means One Nation will have done better than its founder. The next to be eliminated will be either Family First or the Nationals – the result is very tight with the Nationals just a shade ahead. If the Nationals prevail they will aborb Family First’s preferences which will put them about even with One Nation, again just slightly ahead. Since most of One Nation’s support comes from last-minute fine-avoiding impulse voters, it seems reasonable to assume that this gap will only widen as absentee votes come into play. When One Nation and the various components of its accumulated vote scatter at this point, Antony Green calculates that the Liberals will have 1.08 of a quota and the Nationals 1.03, with the Greens stranded on 0.89.

The Senate: part one

At this stage, the Poll Bludger’s inkling is that the Coalition will indeed reach the "magic 38" and that this, along with maybe one seat for Family First, will produce the first clearly conservative Senate since 1981. That said, he has yet to fully think through the results for the three smaller states (although the result in Tasmania is a clear 3 Liberal, 2 Labor and 1 Greens). The rest are looking as follows:

New South Wales: A clear three quotas for the Coalition, with the inevitable two for Labor. Since the combined Coalition, Labor and Greens vote was 88.2 per cent, leaving less than a quota to spare, it does not appear that talk of a micro-party harvesting enough preferences to be in contention is likely to be borne out. Instead the final place is looking like a battle between Labor (with a surplus of 0.6 over the second quota) and the Greens (with 0.5 of a quota). Of the substantial players, the Greens will get the Democrats’ 0.15 per cent of a quota plus the Coalition’s negligible surplus, while Labor will get preferences from Fred Nile and One Nation, collectively amounting to 0.3 per cent of quota. Worth noting is the poor performance of Family First (0.5 per cent of the vote) compared with Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats (2.5 per cent). So it looks like the result here will be 3 Labor and 3 Liberal, whereas the Poll Bludger had predicted 3 Liberal, 2 Labor and 1 Greens.

Victoria: A not dissimilar outcome to New South Wales, barring a turning of the tables for Family First (1.9 per cent) and the Christian Democrats (0.3 per cent). That leaves Labor (a 0.57 surplus over the second quota) competing with the Greens (0.61 of a quota) for the final place. In this contest, Labor will get preferences from Family First (0.13 of a quota), Family First, the DLP and Liberals for Forests (all of whom got 0.13 per cent of a quota) while the Greens will have to make do with the mildly pitiful Democrats (who also got 0.13 per cent of a quota). Maybe the micro-parties will make a difference, but the Poll Bludger’s best guess is that here too the seats will split evenly between Labor and Liberal.

Queensland: On the basis of the Poll Bludger’s slightly rough and amateurish assessment, it appears that Hetty Johnston might actually get up, producing a result of 3 Coalition, 2 Labor and 1 Hetty Johnston. As for the make-up of the three Coalition members, it does appear that the third Liberal candidate, Russell Trood, has the edge over the National Party’s Barnaby Joyce.

Call of the board

In keeping with the spirit of self-flagellation that makes Australian democracy what it is, the Poll Bludger calls to public attention the various wrong calls he made in his electorate assessments.

Greenway (Labor 1.5%): The Poll Bludger defied conventional wisdom to an extent by giving Labor the benefit of the doubt in the seat, and while he may yet be vindicated, Liberal candidate Louise Markus led by 0.53 per cent at the close of counting.

McMillan (Notional Liberal 2.9%): Only when the margin is over 5 per cent does the Poll Bludger feel cause for embarrassment, and so it was here. His tip was that the advantages of incumbency would allow Christian Zahra to make up the 2.9 per cent gap that an unfavourable redistribution had burdened him with, but he was quite incorrect and Liberal Russell Broadbent, who lost the seat to Zahra in 1998, recovered it with a margin of 5.3 per cent at the close of counting.

Herbert (Liberal 1.5%): That Labor’s position could hardly be any worse in Queensland was a widespread item of conventional wisdom, and a lot of media chatter suggested that the Townsville-based seat of Herbert was a particularly vulnerable seat for the Coalition. The value of conventional wisdom was clearly demonstrated here with a 5.45 per cent swing to Liberal incumbent Peter Lindsay, who ended the evening on a margin of 7 per cent. Labor candidate Anita Phillips will no doubt be spending the evening rueing her decision to abandon her seat in state parliament to tilt at this particular windmill.

Moreton (Liberal 2.6%): A lot of late-campaign media chatter suggested Labor was hopeful and the Liberals worried. In the event Liberal incumbent Gary Hardgrave picked up a 1.24 per cent swing to lead by 3.8 per cent at the close of counting.

Stirling (Labor 1.6%): Having lived there for the first 20-odd years of his so-called life, the Poll Bludger ought to know a thing or two about this Perth northern suburbs seat. Instead he withdrew his call that the Liberals would gain the seat on Wednesday. Why? Because state Liberal Party director Paul Everingham said so. Slap, slap, slap. At the close of counting Liberal candidate Michael Keenan led by 1.58 per cent.

Adelaide (Labor 0.6%): The only seat the Poll Bludger wrongly picked for the Coalition, Labor challenger Kate Ellis ended the evening with an insurmountable 2.09 per cent lead over Liberal incumbent Trish Worth. Adelaide voters appear to have dispensed with the wrong Trish.

Wakefield (Notional Labor 1.5%): Liberal David Fawcett led by just 0.63 per cent at the close of counting, so this one was forgiveable. But it should be noted here that Labor member David Cox, also tipped by the Poll Bludger to hold, leads by just 0.28 per cent in Kingston.

Braddon (Labor 6.o%): This one was much agonised over, but it seemed sensible to err on the side of conservatism. Instead Liberal challenger Mark Baker led Labor incumbent Sid Sidebottom by 1.4 per cent at the close of play.

Solomon (Liberal 0.1%): The Poll Bludger is happy to admit that he has a fair bit to learn about Darwin, whose residents voted for Country Liberal Party member David Tollner in sufficient numbers to give him a 2.02 per cent lead at stumps.

All that said, 141 (perhaps as much as 143) out of 150 is not too bad an effort and, relatively speaking, slightly better than his call for the Queensland election in February. At this rate, a perfect showing can be expected some time around 2010.