The crazies are here; early Senate wrap 2013
Russell Degnan

Yesterday I posited that this could see a historically significant shift in minor party support that raised the prospect of any number of unknown parties getting into the Senate. This morning I updated the scale on my chart because Nick Xenophon destroyed it, and we are all researching the policy platform of the LDP, Motoring Enthusiasts, Sport Party. Palmer United and Family First comes across as mainstream by comparison. Here is the updated graph:

What is clear is that Labor has been wiped out in the Senate. This is catastrophically bad for them, and it will take a fundamental shift away from the minor parties for them to approach the numbers they'll need for third seats in future elections. The Liberals have no need to cheer either, as they lost ground in all but two states and saw no significant shift towards them even there. This election might be a once-off, but the trend for the past 30 years suggests it marks the beginning of a polyglot in the upper house.

One other thing to note: it is absolutely true that some parties are going to get in on the back of dubiously small first preference votes. But don't be deceived into thinking that - with the possible exception of NSW - they would have preferred Labor or Liberal or Green. If they'd preferred that they would probably have voted for them; and they clearly haven't. People may not approve of the particular minor parties, but these are not the first minor parties in the Senate, and the non-major-party vote continues to grow. People absolutely want someone other than Labor or Liberal (or the Greens) represented in the upper house, and they have certainly got it this time.

Which is not to say that the Senate voting system of 1 above the line doesn't need changing. It clearly does, and even first past-the-post with multiple members would work better than the cluster-fuck the major parties created thinking they could use it to shaft the Democrats. Getting reform through a Senate created by the process though? Best do it before next July.

South Australia
Nick Xenophon might regret not putting in a harder line of preferencing for his running mate - or more effort into polling. Two full quotas have been added to the minor party vote despite a decline from the Greens. Labor are nowhere near a second quota and will fall behind the Greens, elevating Hanson-Young back into the Senate. For reasons best known only to them they then elect Family First ahead of the second Xenophon candidate, and while they'd have got in anyway, based on Labor's preferences (amongst many others), those 10,000 votes will be decisive in electing the Liberals over Stirling Griff, unless there is a huge shift in below the line votes.
Liberals 2, Xenophon 1, Labor 1, Greens 1, Family First 1

Western Australia
The first sign of the Labor Senate apocolypse. The Liberals and Nationals combine for just over 3 quotas. But all the fun is in the Australian Sports Parties Steven Bradbury-esque miracle run through the exclusions. It is hard to see this holding through the below-the-line votes and pre-polls/postals. They start 1200 ahead of last, escape (and harvest the preferences of) the Climate Sceptics by 260 votes, Rise Up Australia party by 200 votes, the Democrats by 640, and depend on a couple of other key exclusions to ensure neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Palmer United party get up instead. If it falls as written, Palmer United will elect the Greens over Labor for the last seat. Weirdly, WA fell in a more sensible spot: Liberals exactly three quotas, Labor and Liberals deep into the count. But there is more than a quota of right-leaning micro/minor parties and that means one will probably get up.
Liberals 3, Labor 1, Greens 1 Sports Party 0

A relatively sensible count unless Labor drifts further in which case a few other scenarios are possible. Both the Liberals and Palmer United will get up on Family First, Katter or Fishing votes, and the Greens vote, while big enough for second, can't get close to another quota with Labor in such dire straights (and them for that matter, remembering they took 6 seats three years ago). Not that Labor was helping them in Queensland anyway.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Palmer Utd 1

A Senate ballot and count so confusing I am not entirely sure who I ended up voting for. Labor and Liberal both cleared two quotas, and the Labor vote will shoot the Greens into a seat with a bit to spare. That least seat though, got a little weird. The Motoring Enthusiasts, with only 0.57% of the vote seemingly survive to the end, starting with the Fishing and Lifestyle exclusion (2600 votes), and harvesting regularly with only Family First (17000 votes) and Palmer United (15500 votes) putting them in doubt. We won't know for sure until they push the button, but with such large leads this is almost certainly an interesting result.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Greens 1, Motoring Enthusiasts 1

New South Wales
Speaking of interesting. What ought to have been a straight-forward vote got weird because people in NSW made an even bigger blunder than Victoria did when the DLP got up. There is no other way to describe the Liberal Democrats getting 8.9% of the vote from the first slot while the similarly-named Liberals shed votes. There are no close exclusions in the count, and they are near certainties to be elected. For what it is worth, swing that marker around and the Liberals take three quotas promoting someone else - possibly Palmer United Party, possibly Shooters and Fishers. It seems unlikely that the Greens would have got in regardless. The combined Labor/Greens vote is too small, and they need to make up 1.5% to take the 6th spot; if we are honest, the LDP might actually add something to the parliament, unlike certain others.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, LDP 1

It turns out the swing against Labor was even bigger than expected, and a strong swing against the Greens meant they had to depend on Labor preferences for that final spot. The Liberal Democrats go deep in this count with 2% of the vote (and are within 600 votes of Palmer United at the final exclusion), but none of the last six exclusions preference them, so they'll get second at best. Palmer United walking home on the two-party preferred; although Tasmanians are known for below-the-line voting, so if anywhere can throw a spanner in the works it is here.
Liberals 2, Labor 2, Greens 1, Palmer United 1

Australia Capital Territory
This might not be known until they push the button. The Liberals are under on first preferences, but only by a couple of thousand votes. But with the Greens getting all but a handful of those preferences, they are more likely to fade, than catch up with the extra large below-the-line vote in ACT. But given the lead is projected at 1200 votes, the composition of postals and pre-polls could swing things around yet.
Liberals 1, Labor 1

Northern Territory
Labor missed a full quota, but get past the line with Sex Party votes - if that matters. By that stage Palmer United had forged ahead of the Greens anyway, meaning Nova Peris would get in on Greens preferences, even if the count changed.
Liberals 1, Labor 1

Assuming nothing changes - though WA remains very much up in the air - the Liberals will need to find six votes from either the Greens (10), Labor (25) or a coalition that almost has to include Clive Palmer, plus some combination of the DLP/Family First, Nick Xenophon, the LDP, and what amounts now to a sports lobby. If Palmer can take the final WA seat he'll effectively control the Senate. Even Barnaby Joyce is scared of that. Victorian Secession never looked so good; at least we only elected a motoring club and the Catholics.

Sterner Matters 8th September, 2013 18:31:51   [#]