Senate of the day: Western Australia
Western Australia has produced variations on the same result since the first six-seat half-Senate election in 1990: three seats for the Liberals, two for Labor and one for either the Greens or the Democrats. This reflects the fact that Labor has consistently been too weak to win a third seat, but never quite so weak that it was unable to deliver enough preferences to the Greens or Democrats to win them a seat. The state joined Tasmania in being a cradle of green politics, in large part due to the election in 1984 of Jo Vallentine as part of the short-lived Nuclear Disarmament Party (whose narrowly unsuccessful candidate in New South Wales was Peter Garrett). The profile Vallentine attained enabled her to win re-election as an independent at the 1987 double dissolution and as the candidate of the newly founded Greens WA in 1990, and their candidate Dee Margetts likewise outpolled a weakly performing Australian Democrats to win the final seat in 1993.
The Democrats vote surged over subsequent elections, progressively squeezing out Vallentine’s successor Christabel Chamarette in 1996 and Dee Margetts in 1998, while Labor’s direction of preferences to the Democrats ahead of the Greens won them one last victory in 2001. One Nation took a large bite out of the Liberal vote in 1998 and 2001, but on each occasion the early exclusion of the third Labor candidate left Labor, Democrats and Greens preferences deciding the final seat in favour of the Liberals. With the collapse of the Democrats in 2004, the three subsequent elections have followed the same pattern in delivering a clear three quotas to Liberal and two to Labor, with the final seat going to the Greens with help from Labor’s surplus. Their winning candidates were Rachel Siewert in 2004 and 2010, and Scott Ludlam in 2007.
The greatest prospect for a disturbance in the normal pattern is that the combined Labor and Greens vote falls substantially below three quotas, from its 2010 base of 3.05. The nightmare scenario for Labor in that circumstance would be winning only win seat, with the second left seat going to the Greeens and the other four to parties of the right. One possibility than then emerges is that the Nationals enter contention by absorbing a Liberal surplus and the vote of various right-wing minor parties together with that of Wikileaks, which has contentiously favoured them ahead of both Labor and the Greens. Critics of that decision include Christine Assange, the highly vocal mother of Julian, who has said she would vote for Scott Ludlam, a noted parliamentary champion of her son’s cause. There’s also a mathematical possibility that Wikileaks’ preference deals could indeed pay off for their candidate, Suresh Rajan, who would stand to absorb most of the micro-party vote in a four-way contest with the Nationals, the Greens and Labor, including such unlikely sources as Family First and the Clive Palmer and Bob Katter parties.
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Categories: Federal Election 2013