Sunday, November 28, 2010

Greens look likely to hold Victoria's balance of power

VICTORIA's new government will have to negotiate all its legislation through a hostile upper chamber, after early counting suggested the Greens will retain the balance of power in the new Legislative Council.

On early figures, neither Labor nor the Coalition looked likely to win the 21 seats needed to control the 40-member upper house, which is elected by proportional representation.

The final result might not be known for weeks, with several contests too close to call on the figures available last night.

But it was already clear that once again, any government legislation will need the support of at least two of three political forces Labor, Coalition and Greens to be passed by the Council and become law.

On early figures, the Greens were polling just 10.3 per cent of the Council votes, lower than expected, but they still looked likely to retain their three seats in the council and possibly add two more.

Several candidates from smaller parties were in contention to deliver upset results, including sex industry lobbyist Fiona Patten, who could win a seat in the Northern Metro region, despite polling just 3.6 per cent of the vote.

Labor, the Liberals and the Country Alliance are all directing preferences to Ms Patten, leader of the Australian Sex Party, in the big northern suburbs electorate, which extends from Flinders Street to Whittlesea.

The Liberals, however, were polling strongly with almost two quotas in their own right, and looked well placed to take the seat from Labor.

Greens de facto leader Greg Barber was polling a quota in his own right.

DLP leader Peter Kavanagh appeared to be another victim of the surge in Coalition support, with the Liberals on track to win three seats in Western Victoria and Labor two.

Mr Kavanagh's 2.2 per cent of the vote looked too small to retain the seat he won in 1006 with just 10,000 votes but 78,000 preferences from other parties.

In northern Victoria, hunting shop owner Steve Threlfall was poised to take another seat from Labor. Running for the hunters' and shooters' party, the Country Alliance, Mr Threlfall was polling 7.4 per cent of the vote, and stands to receive preferences from the Liberals and Nationals, Labor, the DLP and the Sex Party.

For the upper house, Victoria is divided into eight regions electing five members each: roughly speaking, five metro seats and three for the rest of the state. To be elected, a candidate has to win just 16.7 per cent of the vote after preferences and the last seat is usually decided by preference deals.

In the old Council, Labor had 19 seats, the Coalition 17, the Greens three and the DLP one.

Labor was in danger of losing up to four seats. The Liberals appeared likely to take its second seat in the Southern Metro region, and its third seat in northern Metro. On early counting, it was also at risk of losing seats in the western and south-eastern metro regions.

The Coalition looked set to retain all its seats, and win two more from Labor, giving it 19 of the 40 seats in the new council.

As in the assembly, the council results will be affected by the electoral commission's decision to put off counting the 550,000 pre-poll votes until next week. At the Federal election, the pre-poll votes came disproportionately from voters for the Coalition and the Greens.