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South Australia

Oct 2, 2013

It's Family First's Day thanks to Greens preferences in Senate race

A Greens preference deal has snared votes for Sarah Hanson-Young while funneling preferences to conservative former HR Nicholls Society board member Bob Day, who has the effective balance of power.


The Greens’ right-wing preference strategy in South Australia has come home to roost with a re-elected Sarah Hanson-Young gifting Tony Abbott’s good mate and conservative Family First candidate Bob Day the Senate balance of power.

In an echo of Victorian Labor’s botched 2004 deal that saw Steve Fielding elected ahead of Jacinta Collins, the pushing of the Senate button yesterday saw leadership aspirant Hanson-Young returned with anti-gay marriage advocate Day at five and Liberal Simon Birmingham at six. Day received 3.76% of the primary vote or 0.26 of a quota in the race, which was formally declared at Adelaide’s Stamford Plaza hotel this morning.

A summary of the key preference flows in SA shows that the decision of the party to go rogue and draft in Bob Brown to directly negotiate with the micro-right will likely result in a tranche of Tory policies becoming Australian law.

Senior party powerbrokers, including Brown, resigned Christine Milne chief-of-staff Ben Oquist and Hanson-Young herself decided to throw ideology to the wind in South Australia, placing the Palmer United Party and Katter’s Australian Party ahead of Labor and other micros ahead of Nick Xenophon’s No. 2 candidate Stirling Griff. The approach angered Labor with senior figures now extremely reticent to deal again with the Greens in 2016 — a scenario that if rolled out nationally could deny the party a single Senate seat.

It has also caused consternation inside the Greens with other states irate at the perverse consequences of “dealing with the devil”.

The South Australian party effectively baulked at the national preferences committee process with Hanson-Young, Brown and Oquist talking with the PUP, Xenophon and the micros directly. It appears that in return, PUP put the Greens before Labor, the Liberals and Griff and that Katter placed the Greens before Labor and Griff. The No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics placed the Greens before Labor and Griff.

In the wash-up, Hanson-Young was elected on PUP and Labor preferences but her preferences went on to elect Day instead of Griff. In another grim irony, the other possible party the Greens could have elected was the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics.

The Greens published a full-page SA newspaper ad in the lead-up to polling day claiming a vote for Xenophon was a vote for the Liberals. In fact, Xenophon’s ticket was split down the middle. It drew an angry rebuke from the independent Senator, who accused the party of peddling desperate “lies”.

The analysis of the Greens’ group voting ticket shows the parties placed before Xenophon’s Griff were part of the Glenn Druery-organised “Minor Party Alliance” — Crikey understands the Greens were asked to preference certain parties within the Alliance to receive a return flow. The usually ethical Greens didn’t play ball with Druery elsewhere in the country with the SA anomaly producing the first Family First Senator since Fielding ascending to the red leather on Greens preferences. The crucial “choke point” in the race can be seen at count 33 on Antony Green’s Senate calculator.

Day is staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage — the only elected Senator aside from Liberal Cory Bernardi who continues to hold out against the tide of equal love.

Here’s an analysis of where Greens’ preferences went:

  • Went to PUP and Katter’s Australian Party before Labor’s #2 candidate Don Farrell (where Labor’s second candidate is preferenced is crucial as their first pick, Senator Penny Wong, would be elected on primary votes)
  • Went to PUP, Katter, Country Alliance, Australian Fishing and Lifestyle, Australian Motoring Enthusiasts, Shooters and Fishers, Australian Christians, the Nationals, Family First, Liberal Democrats, DLP and the No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics before Xenophon’s running mate (where Senator Xenophon is preferenced is irrelevant as he would always be elected on primary votes).

And what they got:

  • Palmer placed Greens before Labor, Liberal and Xenophon #2.
  • Katter placed Greens before Labor and Xenophon #2.
  • No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics placed Greens before Labor, Xenophon #2.


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25 thoughts on “It’s Family First’s Day thanks to Greens preferences in Senate race

  1. bluepoppy

    More reason to get rid of above the line voting. It would avoid the need for these political strategies at the expense of principles.

    Let voters choose their preferences up to a certain amount considered appropriate by the experts or number the whole ballot paper as desired.

  2. Mark Duffett

    “The usually ethical Greens”? On what basis can the behaviour exhibited here be said to be atypical? Oh, and they were peddling desperate lies, not pedalling them.

    And now there are unconfirmed reports that, in spite of deals with Palmer, Green WA Senator Ludlam is definitely gone. What a shame.

  3. John Rice-Whetton

    The suggestion that Day was elected on Greens preferences is just plain false. Going by the ABC’s Senate calculator, Day is indeed elected once Hanson-Young is elected and her surplus votes are distributed, however, the fact is that more of the votes sitting with Hanson-Young at that point are originally ALP votes. It is Labor preferences that Day is elected on. Day receives about 6% at this distribution to push him past a quota from 12% to 18%. Of this 6%, just 1.3% are votes that were originally Green votes, this would not be enough to push Day past a quota. On the other hand, of the 6%, 4.16% comes from votes originally for the ALP, which is more than enough to push Day past a quota. It is unambiguous that it is ALP preferences that Day is elected on.

  4. Stuart Johnson

    This is factually incorrect. It is true that Bob Day gets elected on the surplus once Sarah Hanson-Young is elected as shown on the calculator but this does not show the full details of the figures. The majority of these votes are ALP ticket votes, not Greens. There were 60,141 ticket votes for the Greens, their surplus value after Hanson-Young is elected is 0.3029, so this is approx. 18217 votes for Bob Day, yet at this point in the count he receives over 57000 preferences and requires just over 25000 to reach quota, so even without the Greens ticket votes he reaches a quota with the preferences of the ALP and others (figures taken from the data published by the AEC).
    Furthermore you seem to imply that the Greens gave preferences to Family First at this stage due to some deal but I see no evidence of this whatsoever, certainly FF did not preference the Greens highly.
    Personally, as a Greens voter, I did not agree with the ticket and chose to preference differently, and there was potential for Greens preferences to make a difference in electing Bob Day (though only in preference to other candidates they don’t particularly favour either), but the fact is that they did not and I think this article only serves to confuse the issue of how preferences actually work.

  5. Steve777

    I see some respondents disagree with the interpretation of the preference flows, but either way the current system is a farce, with many voters unbeknownst to them having their votes passed on to what would be for them totally unacceptable candidates. Reform is essential. Why not simply ask voters to number a minimum of six candidates (or 12 in a Double Dissolution) and get rid of above the line voting.

  6. John Rice-Whetton

    Firstly, it’s hardly an ‘interpretation’, it’s factual information about where votes are flowing.
    Secondly, while I agree that the system should be changed, because it’s frankly a ridiculous system, the point is that this article is entirely about how the preferences have flowed, not about the suitability of the system in general. As such, it shouldn’t be too difficult, one would think, to get its facts right about the truth of such preference flows instead of spouting this nonsense entirely based upon a falsity.

  7. Elvis

    SHY’s strategic preferencing meant she got elected. Most of the other states didn’t get a Green up, despite having an equal or higher primary vote. We have lost an excellent Senator in Ludlum due to a lack of strategic preferencing.

    It is the broken system which demands strategic preferencing. It’s no individual party or candidate’s fault; they have no choice but to strategise if they want to be elected.

    I think it’s pretty unreasonable to attack an individual candidate here when this kind of dealing is throughout the system.

  8. Elvis

    SHY’s strategic preferencing meant she got elected. Most of the other states didn’t get a Green up, despite having an equal or higher primary vote. We have lost an excellent Senator in Ludlum due to a lack of strategic preferencing.

    It is the broken system which demands strategic preferencing. It’s no individual party or candidate’s fault; they have no choice but to strategise if they want to be elected.

    I think it’s pretty unreasonable to attack an individual candidate here when this kind of dealing is throughout the system.

  9. Mark Duffett

    John Rice-Whetton and Stuart Johnson, it’s not as cut and dried as you make out. Kevin Bonham goes into excruciating detail on this issue here: kevinbonham.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/labor-and-greens-should-not-complain.html

    The short version: “on present figures it is touch and go as to whether a Labor ticket order of Griff-Liberal-FF would alone have caused Day not to win. What is certain is that if neither Labor nor the Greens preferenced Day ahead of Griff or the Liberals, Day would lose. Even if each had preferenced Day between Griff and the Liberals, he may well not have won.”

    In other words, Labor probably shoulders most responsibility for Day, but the Greens cannot be said to be blameless.

  10. Simon Mansfield

    Oh I do love the sound of that Big German Word in the morning.

  11. Stuart Johnson

    Mark it is quite clear cut as far as the Greens go, the figures are now available at the AEC, you can reallocate the Greens ticket surplus when SHY is elected anywhere at all and it makes no difference to the outcome. The uncertainty Kevin is referring to is whether the ALP alone changing to Griff would change this or you would need both the ALP & Greens, but this is a different issue.

  12. Stuart Johnson

    The claim by Elvis that “strategic preferencing” got SHY elected is certainly plausible though not entirely clear cut to my mind. The key for SHY is to get ahead of Don Farrell in the count, the ALP surplus combined with GRN primary then easily elects her, but after Penny Wong is elected it is Farrell who is in front. Looking at who gets Hanson-Young ahead of Farrell there’s a couple of independents, Voluntary Euthanasia, Drug Law Reform, HEMP, Democrats, Sex and PUP. It is the big flow from PUP (about 27000) that initially puts her ahead of Farrell, though at the important cutoff GRN lead ALP by about 40000, so if PUP went anywhere but ALP the outcome would probably be the same. The preference flow from SEX is about 10000, so if both of those preferenced someone else (e.g. Griff or LIB) then the elimination between Hanson-Young and Farrell would be very close, looks to favour Hanson-Young but probably two close to judge just on ticket votes. Did PUP and SEX put Hanson-Young ahead of Farrell due to “strategic preferencing”? I don’t know.

  13. Mark from Melbourne

    Despite admiring some of the policies the Greens aspire to they have really stuffed things up both here and in blocking the original carbon legislation. Just have a think where we could have been as a country.

  14. shepherdmarilyn

    In SA it must be remembered that the major parties only scored 49.6% of the primary vote in the senate and Nick Xenophon was always going to get another 25%.

    And that almost no-one in SA votes below the line, only about 10% I believe.

    And Bob is not a bad person, he is quite good on refugees and treatment of them, he wanted Baxter and Woomera shut.

    The good thing is the moderate Simon Birmingham for the liberal party is a better and less racist and dogmatic senator than the far right wing ALP’s Don Farrell.

    And PUP got the nod based on the treatment of refugees.

    Why you spivs all feel the need to always blame the Greens for the woes of the world beats me, they are not the bloody enemy.

  15. shepherdmarilyn

    And Bob Day is rather popular in SA in his own right.

  16. Andrew Crook

    John, Stuart. Have a look at the actual AEC distribution. http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Media_releases/2013/files/senate-dist-pref-statistics-sa.pdf

    The relevant count is 227. SHY’s excluded at count 227, with 64,000 vote surplus, which if it went to Griff would get him over quota. But instead the vast bulk of it goes to Day which gets him up.

    There are Labor votes as part of that, but trying to dice it by saying “It’s only Labor votes that count not Greens votes” doesn’t make sense, as Kevin Bonham points out. You can’t just swap a count at a crucial point and say “X would happen instead” because of that would have knock on consequences at various other points.

  17. Tom Rigby

    Clarification: should this:

    “the first Family First Senator since Fielding ascending to the red leather on Greens preferences.”

    Actually say “Labor preferences”?

  18. Stuart Johnson

    Andrew, I still think you are incorrect as per my earlier comment (which was based on the AEC document you reference), if the Greens preference ticket was different in any way whatsoever then Day would still be elected. Of the 64,000 only about 18000 are due to the Greens preference ticket, they have no control whatsoever over any of the other votes going to Day. If you look at the AEC breakdown by vote type there are 60,141 ticket votes for the Greens. When Hanson-Young is excluded she has almost 213000 votes in total, about 64000 in excess of a quota, so the value of each of those 213000 is reduced to a factor of about 64/213 when distributed as surplus. Thus the Greens ticket votes only count as just over 18000 out of the 64000. Griff was about 32000 below a quota at this point, and Day only needed 25000, so changing the Greens preference ticket would not elect Griff or prevent Day being elected at that count (and appears highly unlikely to affect the last place for Birmingham either). It is true that if all 64000 went to Griff then he would easily be elected but this is quite simply not due to the choice of preferences on the Greens ticket.
    In this case you can dice it up, we have all the numbers, changing the Greens ticket does not stop Day from being elected.

  19. Andrew Crook

    But changing other tickets does. Change the ticket, change the deals, change the whole count.

  20. tonyfunnywalker

    The preference swaps in SA were a circus. Still you reap what you sow. To elect sanity you needed to do a full below the line analysis and it too a computer program to sort out the mess. I cannot understand the logic – so don’t complain – but look closely at your Party Machines and they way that they operate. Its the Law of Probabilities that matters and not emotion and deals and spiteful backbiting. When it comes to preferences you reap what you sow unless like the Democratic Liberals in NSW you win by ” passing off”.
    Who was the idiot that approved them. Still they pocketed a $1 million jackpot which they are not giving back.

  21. @chrispydog

    Forget all of the above quibbling. The most blatant error in this article, which shocks me above all else is this: “pedalling desperate “lies”.”

    I know Tony Abbott is now PM (thanks Greens for voting with him on the CPRS, lots of astute political nous there!) but must we now have his favourite pastime incorporated into the very language we speak?

  22. CML

    I think the whole process is appalling. Far too complicated, and obviously easy to game the vote, judging from the outcome.
    No one with less than 5% of the PRIMARY vote should EVER have a seat in the Senate. Totally undemocratic!
    And we are stuck with this mob of morons for the next 6 years??? Hopefully the rAbbott will go overboard and call a double dissolution election on some pretext or other, having changed the voting rules for the Senate in the meantime. What a good idea! That way we get rid of the rAbbott and his motley crew as well!!

  23. Rancie Baquelle

    Hanson-Young is suing Zoo Weekly for satire of her in lingerie. Greens are truly the party of the people.

  24. Jason Dean

    Let me get this straight. Crikey is having a whinge that Greens preferenced FF at #54 out of 73? Is that really worth a whinge?

  25. Patrick O'Connor

    “It’s no individual party or candidate’s fault; they have no choice but to strategise if they want to be elected.”

    Well, fair point, but I feel when I cast my vote that I shouldn’t have to decipher this mess in order to be confident that the preferences won’t flow on to a candidate with completely disparate policies. I want to trust the party I vote for not to gamble with what might be really bad outcomes.

    I do feel after reading the comments that the Greens are less to blame that the article led me to believe. The way they alloted their preferences may have led to a bad result but in this case, it looks like it would have happened anyway.

    But right at the bottom of this is the fact that the parties are allotting preferences too late in the game for those in the know to be able to scrutinise things and pass them on to the average punter, I mean voter.

    If we’re still arguing about this now then it’s clear the system is too confusing. It’s broken. It takes too long to vote below the line and you can’t trust your party to do the right thing by you if you vote above.


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