There is little doubt that ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries’
motivation for crossing the floor was political as well as ideological.
If there is one Coalition Senator whose seat is almost certainly under
threat at the next election it is Mr Humphries. As a result of three
years of conservative Senate control there will likely be increased
focus on the Senate race in 2007. There is a real prospect that the
politically educated ACT senate electorate will move against their
Coalition Senator.

It
is unlikely that the ALP could get near the 66% of the vote required to win two
Senate seats but, with preferences, the Greens could go close to picking up Mr
Humphries’ seat. This
would likely have a huge effect on the overall make up of the Senate.

In the ACT and the NT, Senators face election every three years,
not every six as is the case for the states. It is highly unlikely that
the “fluke” result that returned four Coalition Senators for Queensland
will be repeated again. Since the Coalition’s majority is only one
seat, if were to lose a seat in the ACT, it would likely lose control
of the Senate.

That
is not to say that losing Humphries’ seat would automatically result in Howard losing
control of the Senate. He has the
insurance of the Labor Party’s preference decision which put Steve Fielding in
the Senate for a full six-year term.

The
late Ric Farley went close to becoming a Democrat Senator for the ACT a few
years ago, and with the right candidate the Greens could go close in 2007. Imagine the platform the Greens would have
had to stand on if Mr Humphries had voted to allow Howard to overrule his home
town. It would have been game over. And maybe game over for the Coalition’s
Senate control.

Perhaps
this is why Howard had no comment yesterday on Humphries crossing the
floor. Perhaps it was with a wink and a
nod that Howard, knowing he had Family First on side, allowed Gary Humphries to
cross without fear of reprisal.

Peter Fray

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