Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to the Future: DLP to gain Senate seat

BALLARAT blacksmith John Madigan has taken an iron grip on Victoria's last Senate seat, and appears set to become the first Democratic Labor Party senator in 36 years.

With 87.5 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Madigan has widened his lead over Family First senator Steve Fielding and is maintaining a big margin over Liberal senator Julian McGauran.

The DLP has polled only 68,702 votes or 2.3 per cent. But preferences from One Nation, Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democrats will see it leapfrog Family First, whose preferences will help it leapfrog the Coalition.

ABC analyst Antony Green's ready reckoner shows Mr Madigan has doubled his lead over Senator Fielding to 6000 votes (0.2 per cent) at the point where one or other is eliminated. He still leads Senator McGauran by 19,000 votes (0.6 per cent) at the point where one or other is eliminated.

Senator McGauran said that if he were in Mr Madigan's position he would "call it for myself now", but there were still hundreds of thousands of votes to be counted. "I'm in the worst position of my 20 years in politics; I have no false bravado. You might say there are two shows going on: Broadway, with Tony Abbott and the three independents, and off-Broadway arthouse, which is the Senate battle. Both require holding your nerve."

But Mr Madigan refused to claim victory. "We're patient people," he said. "We have been patient for 36 years, so what's another two days? We've got a great country. What other country wouldn't have descended into chaos in the past fortnight."

The DLP held the balance of power in the Senate in the early '70s but lost all its seats in 1974.