The wholly grail of Senate control is close for the Coalition and the complicated voting scenario in Queensland is at the heart of it, as Charles Richardson explains.
The Coalition’s hopes of a Senate majority in its own right rest on the possibility of winning a fourth seat in Queensland. As I pointed out two weeks ago, Queensland is the most difficult state to pick; there are nine groups with more than one per cent of the vote. (If that doesn’t sound like much, remember that the Assemblies of God are about to win a seat in Victoria with only 1.9%.)

On present figures, the numbers look like this:

Liberals 38.5%
ALP 31.9%
Nationals 6.5%
Greens 5.4%
Pauline Hanson 4.3%
Family First 3.5%
One Nation 3.2%
Democrats 2.2%
Fishing Party 1.3%
All others 3.5%

Electing 2 Liberals and 2 ALP, eliminating the various no-hopers and converting the figures to fractions of a quota (i.e. the number of votes needed for election, about 14.29%), gives the following:

3rd Liberal 0.7
National 0.46
Family First 0.45
Greens 0.44
One Nation 0.33
Hanson 0.31
3rd ALP 0.3

That results in the elimination of the 3rd Labor candidate, whose votes flow to the Greens, and of Pauline Hanson, whose votes go to One Nation’s Len Harris. New totals:

3rd Liberal 0.77
Greens 0.68
One Nation 0.64
National 0.46
Family First 0.45

If we then eliminate Family First, their preferences go in different directions (because some have come from the Democrats and smaller parties), producing this:

Greens 0.83
National 0.77
3rd Liberal 0.71
One Nation 0.69

That’s very close between the last two. If the National Party gets eliminated, their preferences would elect the third Liberal candidate, Russell Trood, and his surplus would elect the Greens’ Drew Hutton ahead of One Nation. Same in reverse if the Liberals go out: the Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce would get up, and his surplus would elect Hutton ahead of One Nation. But if One Nation is eliminated, its preferences scatter and we get the following:

Liberal 1.08
National 1.03
Greens 0.89

And both Coalition candidates would be elected, giving the Coalition the holy grail of Senate control.

Alternatively, the Nationals might be eliminated two stages earlier, where they were almost level with Family First: then Trood would be elected immediately, his surplus would not be enough to save Family First from elimination, and their votes would then elect Hutton.

So Queensland is still too close to call, but if Liberal and National can both stay ahead of One Nation, the Nationals’ Barnaby Joyce could squeeze in on Family First preferences. This is somewhat ironic, since he was the only figure of note on the Coalition side to denounce Family First during the campaign, calling them “the lunatic Right” (for which he was duly reprimanded by his leadership).

If Joyce misses out, it will confirm this election as a disaster for the National Party. John Anderson promised two years ago that he would resign if his party didn’t improve its performance. If he meant it, he should go now.