Sunday, 30 March 2014


Just a quick (and late) post this week – a short and sweet intro to the WA Senate Election. This is partly because I am yet to determine the most effective resources for upper-house predictions (or lower-house if you are in Tasmania…) and partly the result of the hectic weekend I’ve had.
For those who haven’t been following electoral news yet somehow ended up here – or for the readers of the future deprived of the context – the WA Senate election last year was complicated by a relatively large number of votes disappearing between the first count and recount of ballots. It is currently believed that these ballots were stored near a quantity of material to be recycled and thus destroyed.
The High Court, in its guise as the Court of Disputed Returns, has agreed with the AEC that a re-count is required. This is unfortunate for the last parties elected by either count (no doubt hoping against hope that the ruling would install them by validating the most favourable count), but also for the Abbott Government. There has been some wild speculation that the Libs are likely to increase their share of the primary vote because they traditionally perform well in WA. However, this is flawed for several reasons. Most obviously, the Liberal Party’s support is lower now than at the election. As a result – regardless of the general attitude of the state – the vote in WA is likely to have dropped relative to the disputed return.
A large part of the Liberal vote last year was undoubtedly less of a vote for a Liberal government and more of a vote against Labor. Having punished the ALP, voters turned on Abbott in an unprecedented backlash. The polling is closer now, but nothing like the landslide of half a year ago.
Further, I suspect that – despite the apparent (yet unfounded) dislike of hung parliaments – there is greater support for minor-party balance of power Senators in the Senate. This could play against the Government.
Over the weekend I’ve been talking with an employee of a sitting Labor member who is cautiously optimistic about the vote in WA. But let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that internal data is better ore more reliable than public polling.


Here is the Senate as it stood before the election of last year’s senators:
Here is the current state of play:

Clearly the Coalition cannot form a majority in the Senate. However, the number of cross-bench Senators (particularly from micro-parties) will mean that the Libs should be able to past many laws with the right negotiations.
Of particular interest is the Repeal of the Carbon Tax. Apart from the large role this (and the mining tax repeal) has played in the WA campaign, Abbott had promised to act on this promise at the first possible instance. If the repeal fails pass the Senate, we get to dust of section 57 of the constitution:

If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.

In other words, we re-vote. Regardless of one’s political position, a double-disillusion vote will have both negative (e.g. financial) and positive (e.g. blog posts) impacts.
Here’s the current state of the repeal:

In addition to the Coalition, the DLP, LDP, FFP and PUP all support a repeal (the fact that many oppose the Libs’ (and perhaps all) carbon reduction policy is unlikely to dissuade them). The ALP and Greens are in opposition.
That leave’s Xenophon in SA and the Motoring Enthusiasts in Victoria. The former opposes the Carbon Tax, but has his own plan. I doubt Senator Xenophon will support the repeal unless his scheme or one similar is implemented (which it will not be). The latter has no policy on the matter and will probably side with whoever can offer the most with regards to the policies they do have. Which will naturally be the ruling party.
Therefore the Libs or other anti-Carbon Tax proponents need to win four seats for a majority. Many spectators expect the Coalition to hold three seats of their own. The Left recieving the other three looks like a stretch. At this point, then, a double-disillusion seems unlikely.

[Addendum: I stated that the MEP will 'probably side with whoever can offer the most with regards to the policies they ... have' in the absence of a carbon policy of their own (short of small government ideology (anti-tax) and non-specific sustainability principles (pro-action)). However, on reflection, the Motoring Enthusiasts will not want to risk their seat -- which is precarious enough already -- in a double-dissolusion election. This alone may be enough to pressure the MEP and other minor low-primary-vote parties into line. Assuming a minor party gets in in WA, the three Coalition seats may be enough to command a majority on the repeal.]

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