A fantasy Senate

On a double dissolution John Richardson writes: Re. "

On a double dissolution John Richardson writes: Re. "Turnbull's boxed himself into a double dissolution corner" (yesterday). Like a dwindling but still sizeable number of Australians, I was profoundly hopeful that our country may have finally found a politician capable of commanding our trust and respect in the form of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull. Then I saw him with that silly faux Akubra on his noble head and all my hopes were crushed. I can recall only one political headpiece that looked more ridiculous and out of place: that of John Howard who for years wore a hat that was one size too big and as a result, made him seem even smaller and less statesman-like than he otherwise looked. What hope genuine tax reform, inspiring the Australian people or shaping a vision for our nation’s future in the face of such a fashion crisis? Jackson Harding writes: The question of if we will, or will not, have a double dissolution election is becoming the latest media speculatory phantasm, and appears now to be totally consuming the Australian press corps. As an exercise in time wasting this morning I decided to do a bit of armchair psephology and work through what is likely to happen at either a regular House of Reps and half Senate election in September (+/- one month) or a "Double D" nicely timed to fall on July 2 and have the new Senate take their places from 1 Jul 16 (and avoid a lawyers picnic on whether the "day of election" is the day we front up to the ballot box, or the day the poll is declared). I had to make some assumptions:
  1. The Senate voting reform package will pass.
  2. Despite the claims of some, most people voting for micro parties are not voting against the major parties, instead they are delivering a protest vote and then really are quite happy for their vote to flow back to the party of their usual political persuasion. There may be a few diehards who really would rather vote for anyone other than LNP/ALP/Green, but even then as many of the micro parties are polar opposite of each other it beggars belief that any significant number of voters would place both the "Make Gay Marriage Compulsory Party" and the "Mouth Frothing Fundamentalist Religion Party" ahead of the majors. There may be some, but they will be vanishingly small in number.
  3. Those diehards who refuse to have any vote go to the majors will use the new system to preference a number of other micro parties after their first choice (the "Raving Batshit Crazy Loony Party", followed by the "Stop Everything Party" and then a couple of others) and will then be quite happy to see their vote exhausted.  Their vote will therefore have no effect on the outcome of the election.
  4. The PUP vote will fall through the floor and be so negligible as render them irrelevant in all calculations.
  5. Except in Queensland where much of the former PUP vote may well end up with Glen Lazarus, especially in a double dissolution where he will be campaigning for his own spot.  Despite his relatively progressive stance on many issues he is likely to draw off support from the LNP as well, given his prominence as a former rugby league star.  Let us refrain from calling this the "bogan vote".
  6. South Australia is a wild card.  Nick Xenophon will draw considerable support.  If it's a simple half Senate this is likely to be less as people won't be voting for Nick himself, but his face will still be on every stobie pole.  In a double dissolution he has the power to bring not one, but two others along on his coat tails. SA is also the heartland of Family First, they poll remarkably well there.
  7. That preference from the majors will flow as they traditionally do (i.e. Green to ALP and vice versa, Xenephon and small right wing groups to the LNP).
  8. The two Territories will split one LNP/CLP, one ALP as they always do.
  9. And finally where micro party preferences do flow to the majors, they will flow in roughly the same proportions as the primary vote the three majors get. This may be the most contentious, but I believe it to be justified. Those not wishing to preference the majors will let their vote exhaust and those wishing to give an extended middle finger to the major parties will be spread right across the political spectrum and will then send their preferences home to their usual major party of choice.
So to the calculations.  I took the primary vote from 2013 (a low point for the ALP) and also from 2010 (a more 50:50 outcome).  I simply then apportioned what ever preferences flowed to the major parties in these proportions and then made a rough estimate of what was left would go from major to major (e.g. 60% of Green preferences going to the ALP). Based on 2013 we get the following outcomes: Half Senate NSW: LNP 3 ALP 2 Green 1 VIC: LNP 3 ALP 2 Green 1 QLD: LNP 3 ALP 2 Glenn Lazarus Team 1 WA: LNP 3 ALP 2 Green 1 TAS: LNP 3 ALP 2 Green 1 SA: LNP 2 ALP 2 Nick Xenophon Team 2 ACT: LNP 1 ALP 1 NT: CLP 1 ALP 1 This sees the following elected: LNP 19 ALP 14 Green 4 Glenn Lazarus Team 1 Nick Xenophon Team 2 And combined with the class of 2013 the new senate is: LNP 34 ALP 24 Green 8 Glenn Lazarus Team 2 Nick Xenophon Team 3 Palmer United Party 1 Family First 1 Jaqui Lambie Network 1 Motoring Enthusiast Party 1 Liberal Democratic Party 1 Eighteen unwieldy, unruly, and potentially very unhappy crossbenchers, and another three years before that is sorted out. The same number as now, but more irritated by the Senate voting changes. Not a happy outcome, although it does seem to enshrine a 3:3 conservative:progressive split in most states. In a double dissolution the fall of shot is slightly different: NSW: LNP 6 ALP 5 Green 1 VIC: LNP 6 ALP 4 Green 2 QLD: LNP 6 ALP 4 Green 1 Glenn Lazarus Team 1 WA: LNP 6 ALP 4 Green 2 TAS: LNP 6 ALP 5 Green 1 SA: LNP 5 ALP 3 Green 1 Nick Xenophon Team 3 For a Senate of: LNP 37 ALP 26 Green 9 Glenn Lazarus Team 1 Nick Xenophon Team 3 Much nicer for the LNP (and slightly better for the Greens). After the president is selected the LNP is still short of an outright majority but support from either the Greens or the Xenophonites would see legislation passed. The Tasmanian result surprised me. I thought the Greens would get two seats, but on 2013 primary vote figures the ALP had five quotas at the double dissolution rate of 7.69% once we let all the small party preferences either exhaust or flow elsewhere directed by the masses, not the parties.  In SA Xenophon had three Double D quotas already. Interestingly using the 2010 figures doesn't change things much (two more for the ALP, one more for the Greens, all at the expense of the LNP).  I haven't looked at 2007 which was a high water mark for the ALP, but I doubt we'll see that this time round. Of course a real psephologist can tell me that this is all complete bunkum, please do. But I think I might just head out now and put a small sum on a double dissolution with one of the online betting agencies.

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2 thoughts on “A fantasy Senate

  1. MJM

    Thanks Jackson Harding for that informative piece.

    What irks me about the Senate is that Tasmania, with 515,000 people, has 12 Senators while ACT with 387,000 (or 75% of Tassie’s population) has only two. I know all the arguments about the “States’ House” but I still think the territories are treated inequitably with only two senate seats per territory.

  2. Marcus Powell

    Jackson – don’t discount the possibility that Jaqui Lambie will survive a DD at the expense of an LNP candidate. The polls don’t really show it at the moment but the Taswegians do have a habit of supporting uppity locals in Federal elections.

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