Four weeks after the election, we finally have the full Senate results. There were no surprises; the only state that was particularly close was Victoria, where the ALP beat the Greens for the last vacancy by about 17,000 votes.
That means each of the three big states split three-all between Labor and Coalition. In Western Australia and South Australia Labor fell short of a third seat, with the Greens taking a spot instead, while in Tasmania the third ALP candidate and the Greens both got up, keeping the Liberals to just two seats. Independent Nick Xenophon also won a seat in SA at the expense of the third Liberal.
Both territories yet again split one-all, although the Greens were only about 1% away from beating the Liberals in the ACT.
So in total Labor and the Coalition each won 18 seats, with three to the Greens and one to Xenophon. After 1 July 2008 the numbers in the new Senate will be 32 Labor, 32 Liberals, five Greens, five Nationals and one Family First, plus Xenophon.
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On election night, many people seemed surprised that what looked like a big victory for Labor wasn’t translating into a stronger Senate position. But they shouldn’t have been. Put simply, the reason is that the Senate is more democratic.
Although voting figures for the two houses are slightly different – both major parties do a bit worse in the Senate, while the minor parties (apart from Family First) do better – clearly the vast majority vote the same way in both. Here are the totals:
Although Paul Keating called them “unrepresentative swill”, the Senators will closely reflect voting strength: Labor and the Coalition, with much the same level of support, won the same number of seats, while the Greens, with 9%, won 7.5% of the seats.
Compare that with the lower house, where Labor won a large majority with only 43.4% of the vote. The Greens won no Reps seats at all, but the Nationals, with just 5.5%, won twelve.
So our “house of review” actually represents the people’s wishes better than the house where governments are formed. That’s something the Rudd government might care to remember when it contemplates getting its legislation through the Senate.