Saturday, August 21, 2010
THE Greens appear set to win a Senate seat in Victoria for the first time, with the polls suggesting it is on track to almost win a seat in its own right.
The most likely outcome is that Greens medico Richard di Natale will take the seat of Family First senator Steve Fielding, with the Coalition retaining its three senators and Labor two.
But if late polling showing a strong swing to Labor in Victoria is borne out in today's voting, there is an outside chance that Labor could gain a third senator, unseating Liberal veteran Julian McGauran.
The Age/Nielsen polls throughout the campaign have not asked about Senate voting, because experience has shown they are unreliable guides to what voters do in the polling booth.
But polls throughout the campaign have shown a strong swing to the Greens across the nation, that if reflected in the ballot boxes, would give the Greens the balance of power in the new Senate in their own right, picking up at least two extra seats and possibly up to five.
There could even be an immediate change in the balance of power, with some polling in the ACT showing the Liberal vote crumbling following the Coalition's decision to slash the public service.
A swing of just 2 per cent from Liberals to Greens would have Greens candidate Lin Hatfield-Dodds unseat Liberal senator Gary Humphries. While new senators elected from the states will not take up their seats until July 1, 2011, the territory senators start immediately.
To elect a senator from the states, a party needs 14.3 per cent of the votes after preferences. Our polls for the House of Representatives throughout the campaign have shown the Greens averaging 15 per cent in Victoria, 12 per cent in New South Wales and South Australia, 11 per cent in Queensland and Western Australia, and 17 per cent in Tasmania.
On those figures, the Greens are likely to hold their seats in Tasmania and WA (where Labor's vote is weak), and gain seats in Victoria and Queensland (another weak Labor state). In NSW and SA, Labor and the Greens will probably fight out one of the last two seats, with the Coalition fighting the minor parties of the right for the other.
Family First's support in Victoria has dwindled to 2 per cent, and with Labor preferences directed to the Greens, Senator Fielding has only a remote chance of holding his seat. Family First's best chance is in SA, where wealthy builder Bob Day heads its ticket.
Six senators will be elected today from each state. The other six senators elected from each state in 2007 will remain in the Senate until 2014.
Normally, each state splits its seats between left and right. Labor and the Greens would share three seats between them, while the Coalition, smaller right-wing parties and independents share three.
But in 2004, Labor preferences in Victoria gave the last seat to Senator Fielding instead of the Greens, while the strong Coalition vote in Queensland gave it four of the six seats.
Statewide polling suggests the Coalition has only a remote chance of repeating that in Queensland, but a better chance in WA, where the Nationals are running a separate ticket. Yet there is an outside chance of Labor and the Greens sharing four of the six seats in Victoria and Tasmania.
Two senators will be elected today from each territory for three-year terms.
A Greens win in the ACT would mean that a Labor government would no longer need Senator Fielding's vote to pass legislation opposed by the Coalition, while a Coalition government would need the support of Labor or the Greens to pass any legislation.
THE SENATE: WHO YOURE REALLY VOTING FOR
KEY PARTY PREFERENCES
Labor Greens, then
Coalition Family First,
Greens Labor, then Coalition
Family First Coalition,
To Family First, then Coalition
Citizens Electoral Council
To Family First, then
To Greens, then Labor
Australian Sex Party
Socialist Equality: 3-way split, Greens/Coalition/Labor
Shooters and Fishers: Coalition, Labor.
Carers Alliance: 2-way split, Coalition/Labor
Stephen Mayne:2-way split, Family First/Greens