Monday, August 2, 2010
THE three biggest parties appear set to fight out the last two Senate seats in Victoria once again after party preference tickets released yesterday revealed no big surprises.
Family First senator Steve Fielding won his seat in 2004 with just 1.9 per cent of the vote but almost 500,000 preferences from other parties. But this time Senator Fielding will get preferences only from other parties on the right, which is unlikely to be enough to return him again.
Labor and the Greens will give their effective preferences to each other, although it is unlikely that any of them will be counted. Rather, the two parties are likely to fight out one of Victoria's two final seats, with the Coalition taking the other.
But in three other states, preference deals between smaller parties on the right could see them steal seats from the Coalition or in Western Australia, from the Liberals.
In WA, where the Nationals have been revived, preference deals between the Nationals, Family First, the Christian Democrats, the DLP and One Nation give one of them a strong chance of unseating the third Liberal, Senator Judith Adams.
The Nationals are the most likely contender, after winning 5.2 per cent of the Upper House vote and four seats in the 2008 state election.
In South Australia, a spurned former Liberal candidate, Bob Day, could take revenge by winning a Senate seat for Family First.
Mr Day, a rich builder and property developer who quit the Liberals after losing preselection for Alexander Downer's old seat of Mayo, has organised effective preferences for himself from nine smaller parties, giving him a strong chance of taking one of the last two seats. Remember, independent Nick Xenophon has three years of his term remaining.
In NSW, serial candidate Glenn Druery is again in contention for a seat after organising effective preferences from 15 other parties or groups of independents.
Mr Druery was the mastermind behind the infamous "tablecloth ballot" at the 1999 state election, when NSW voters were confronted with a ballot paper 1.3 metres wide, naming 264 candidates from 80 parties. All preference tickets are available on the electoral commission's website, www.aec.gov.au.
This ballot will be relatively modest: 80 candidates from 33 parties and groups of independents. Almost all the independents are directing preferences straight to Mr Druery, who used similar preference deals to almost win a Senate seat in 2004, despite gaining just 21,000 votes out of 4 million.
Victoria will have 60 candidates in 22 groups. No party has dominated the preference deals, but Senator Fielding has done best, picking up effective preferences from nine smaller groups, ranging from the Climate Sceptics and the DLP to journalist Stephen Mayne, who is splitting his preferences between Family First and the Greens.
On current polling, every state looks likely to elect three senators from the right and three from the left. The Greens are on track to win a Senate seat in every state, limiting Labor to just two per state.
That would give the Greens nine seats in the new 76-member Senate, and the balance of power in their own right. The Coalition appears likely to win 36 seats at best, losing a seat in Queensland to the Greens, and at risk of losses in all states.
This could be a watershed election for the Coalition. It has not lost one of its Senate seats to another party of the right since the DLP was in its prime 40 years ago. If another party of the right gains a foothold in the Senate, it could cause the Coalition long-term trouble.
Each state has six seats up for grabs. Labor and the Coalition are certain to win two seats each, with the last two seats in each state likely to come down to Labor against Greens and the Coalition against a smaller party of the right.
Coalition preferences will favour the Greens ahead of Labor in all states except Tasmania, where the Liberals are gunning for Greens deputy leader Christine Milne, but she is likely to win anyway.
A more serious blow to the Greens has come from their old ally the Australian Democrats, who are directing their preferences in the ACT to embattled Liberal moderate Gary Humphries. While the Greens had only an outside chance of winning the seat anyway, the Democrats' decision has made their chances remote.