Given some of the attacks I’ve copped on this Blog about preferences, it is worth giving some further analysis about the actual impact of those preference decisions on the results.
I do this not just to address some of the myths floating around but also to highlight what I think is more important, which is that the overall progressive minor party vote has now dropped so low that it can no longer be assumed that a Senate seat in each state is a probability. That reality has to be acknowledged by all those who feel that reducing the dominance of the two major parties is a key part of strengthening our democracy and Parliaments.
NSW is the most complex, so it is worth more explanation. I should note that I am contradicting Antony Green here, which I do with some trepidation, but Vie studied these figures fairly closely (in part using his ABC website for validation). Antony says that Had Democrat preferences flown to the Greens rather than Liberals for Forests and the Christian Democrats, then the final vacancy would have been won by the Greens. I don’t think this is correct. It is true that if Democrat preferences had gone to the Greens earlier, it would have prevented them dropping out at the last count, with the Christian Democrats Party being excluded instead. However, out of all the other parties whose preferences rested with the CDP, only those from the Liberals, No GST and Group K Independents would have gone to the Greens rather than the ALP. 9 other parties (including the CDP) would have flowed to Labor, putting them well over the quota.
Despite the complaints about Liberals For Forests soaking up preferences it is also worth noting that LFF had been excluded from the count before the Greens and so any preferences that were going to the Greens did get to them anyway. LFF had preferences from 16 other parties (which is quite extraordinary) before they got excluded. Of the 17 preference tickets distributed (16 + LFFs own ticket) only 2 went to the Greens, 8 went to CDP and 6 went to the ALP, plus Hemp’s ticket which was split two-thirds to Greens and one-third to Labor. Of the 8 that then went to the CDP, only two (the Democrats and no GST) would have flowed on to the Greens ahead of Labor.
In Victoria, the Family First victory in place of the Greens rested almost solely with the preference decision of the ALP to preference Family First first. Whilst the ALP has copped some flack for this, Id have to say it is unprecedented for someone with a primary vote of under 2% to get elected in a half-Senate election. The lowest previously was The Greens win in NSW in 2001 on a bit over 4%. Both the Democrats and the DLP outpolled Family First on primary votes in Victoria.
In Queensland, Democrat preferences ended up with the Greens, as did preferences from the Socialist Alliance, Group G Independents, the Great Australians, HEMP, Citizens Electoral Council, Australian Progressive Alliance, Hetty Johnston and the ALP surplus. They were still 33 000 votes short of a quota.
In SA, the seat went to Labor instead of the Greens as a result of the Democrats preference decision.
In WA the Greens won the seat with the help of Democrat preferences. The Greens would not have won the seat without these preferences.
In Tasmania the Greens won the seat. The large below the line vote (common in Tasmania) favouring the Greens over Family First enabled them to win the seat.
Having said all this, I believe the Senate Group Voting Ticket should be scrapped. The proliferation of micro parties and the inability of the Electoral Act to ensure these are genuine political parties have started to deliver perverse results. The Democrats have had cause for complaint more than once over the years and 2001 saw it getting worse. However, when people start getting elected with less than 2 per cent of the primary vote, it is beyond a joke. (That is no reflection on the person who was elected, but just on the system itself.)