Leading psephologist and academic Malcolm Mackerras
writes:


Now that Julian the Apostate has completed his journey of treachery it
is time to consider this in historical terms. Before I do, however, it
is worthwhile to ask this question: why, oh why, would the Victorian
Liberals actually want to poach this scumbag?

I believe the explanation goes back to the Victorian Coalition
agreement of 1989. The Liberals have been looking for an excuse to tear
it up, hoping to ensure the Nationals never have a Victorian senator
again.

Let me begin at the beginning. In July 1987 there was a double
dissolution election. In the Senate election for Victoria Julian
McGauran was elected on a separate National Party ticket. He was
elected as one of the 12 senators. He was also elected as one of the
six senators in the re-count under section 282 of the Electoral Act.

These senators should have been given the six-years terms. However the
Senate itself (under section 13 of the Constitution, with Labor and
Democrat senators combining to outnumber Liberal and National senators)
decided to relegate McGauran to a three-year term. (For those
interested in details see Double Dissolution Election:Statistical Analysis by Malcolm Mackerras, pages 29 to 43. I can give further details to anyone interested.)

In 1989 the Liberals and Nationals drew up an agreement for a joint
ticket in Victoria whereby the Nationals would take the fourth place in
1990 and the second place in 1993. And so on.

It is clear what the Liberals are determined to do in the future.
In 2007 they will offer the Nationals the fourth place on the joint
ticket
because that is what the agreement provides. However, at the following
election, presumably in 2010, they will tell the Nationals that they
are being unreasonable in asking the Liberals to give one of their
senators up to the National Party.

The Nationals will say: “But that is what the agreement provides. You
only have three coming up for re-election because you stole a seat from
us.” The Liberals will then tear the agreement up.

Since the National Party probably would not win one of six places on a
separate Senate ticket in 2010 it is probable that the Nationals will
never again have a Victorian senator. That, of course, is what the
Liberals are planning to be the case.

However, there are four ways in which the Nationals might be able to
re-claim their seat. None is likely but I consider them in order of
likelihood.

  • First, Labor may win the 2007 general election. If so then a double
    dissolution of the parliament would be highly probable. The National
    Party would have no trouble in winning one of 12 places on a separate
    ticket at a double dissolution election.

  • Second, the Liberal Party might relent from its present
    bloody-mindedness and agree to keep the joint ticket agreement going
    into the future.

  • Third, McGauran might be run under the proverbial bus. In that event
    the Nationals would be entitled under section 15 of the Constitution to
    choose his successor.

  • Fourth, McGauran might be shamed into doing the right thing, resign
    from the Senate, and give his seat back to its rightful owner.

This last possibility is what Cheryl Kernot did in October 1997.
However, McGauran and the Liberal Party are so shameless I rate the
chance of that at about one in a thousand.

The McGauran case is remarkably like that of Mal Colston. He earned for
himself the title of “the Quisling Quasimodo from Queensland,” a
description very unfair to Quasimodo.

I think McGauran should be titled “the vicious viper from
Victoria.” However, the problem with that title is that it
suggests a certain
strength of character. I have never met the man but I have never seen
any evidence that McGauran has a strong character. So I shall stick to
calling him “Julian the Apostate.”

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW