The
introduction of proportional representation into the Victorian
Legislative Council at the forthcoming state election means that no
Australian upper house will have a preferential or first-past-the-post
voting system requiring a candidate either to crack 50% of the two
party preferred vote or to receive the highest primary vote.

This,
of course, leads to the election of candidates and minor parties with
low primary votes. The most outrageous example of this was the 1999 NSW
election, when Malcolm Jones from the Outdoor Recreation Party got a primary vote of just 0.2% but still managed to achieve a quota of 4.55% thanks to a range of minor party preference deals that saw him elected 16th out of 21 spots.

The
Victorian system avoids this scenario because the new Legislative
Council is broken up into eight regions that will each elect five
members. The quota is 16.6%, the highest upper house quota in the
country, and no candidate with a primary vote of less than 4% will have
a realistic change of winning the fifth spot in each region.

However,
the success in 2004 of Family First’s Steve Fielding, who achieved a
Victorian Senate quota of 14.3% with a primary vote of just 1.88%, is
motivating all sorts of candidates to have a crack at the new
Legislative Council. It is worth remembering that Fielding got elected
with the lowest primary vote in Senate history. Indeed, he even ranks
in the top eight of lowest successful primary votes, which is dominated
by the NSW Legislative Council and its lowest quota in the country.

Candidate Party Parliament Year Primary Vote Quota
Malcolm Jones Outdoor Recreation Party NSW LC 1999 0.2% 4.55%
Peter Breen Reform the Legal System NSW LC 1999 1.0% 4.55%
Peter Wong Unity NSW LC 1999 1% 4.55%
Alan Corbett A Better Future For Our Children NSW LC 1995 1.3% 4.55%
Robert Wood Nuclear Disarmament Party NSW Senate 1987 1.5% 7.7%
Steve Fielding Family First Vic Senate 2004 1.88% 14.3%
John Tingle Shooters Party NSW LC 2003 2.05% 4.55%
Nick Xenophon No Pokies Independent SA LC 1997 2.86% 8.33%

The flipside of this is the
highest primary votes that were unsuccessful, especially in ballots
with large fields. The most celebrated example is the federal seat of
McMillan in 1972 when the ALP’s Frank Mountford got 45.8% of the vote
but still lost to the Country Party’s Henry Hewson who was coming
second last on primary votes with just 16.6% but got the vast majority
of preferences from the other three candidates to win the seat with
52.4% of the 2PP. All the figures and distributions can be seen here.

We’ll
work up complete lists of highest unsuccessful votes and lowest
successful votes so send your entries to [email protected]

* Thanks to ABC election analyst Antony Green for assisting with the figures.

Peter Fray

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