The mysterious ebbs and flows of Senate preference allocations – officially known as Group Voting Tickets – are now out in the open on the Electoral Commission website.
These often lead to a lot of arguments and accusations between various parties, as well as endless scenarios, based on a myriad of permutations. Before I explore the Queensland Senate preferences in some detail, including explaining the reasoning behind the Queensland Democrats preference ticket, I should emphasise one thing.
Despite all the different scenarios, the one thing above all else that increases my chances is to vote Number 1 for me – so if you want me to get re-elected, encourage people in Queensland to do that. The easiest way is to just put a 1 in the box above the line in Column I.
If you really don’t like the Democrat decisions on where the Senate preferences flow from there, then fill in all the boxes in the order of your preference below the line, from 1 to 65. Even if you make a few mistakes, your vote is still likely to count, as long as it is clear who your first preference is. You can even put a 1 in the box above the line as a back up, in case you make too many mistakes below the line, just to make sure your vote will count.
If you want to see a range of descriptions and opinions of the Senate preference flow in other states, I recommend visiting the Poll Bludger site. UpperHouse Info often also has some useful analysis.
There are twenty-four parties/groups in the Queensland Senate contest, with 65 candidates in total. For the purposes of this explanation, I am assuming (a) that ALP and Liberals will win two each of the first four seats, leaving the final two Senate seats up for grabs, and (b) those final two seats will be fought out between six contenders – the Number 3 candidate on the ALP ticket (Mark Furner), the Number 3 candidate on the Coalition ticket (Ron Boswell), plus Pauline Hanson, Family First (Jeff Buchanan), Greens (Larissa Waters) and the Democrats (me).
This is not to discount the prospect of a smaller party or independent candidate polling better than expected and/or unexpectedly coming up through the field due to a range of leg-ups from other micro-party preferences. It’s just that it gets far too complicated once you get into that many ‘what-ifs’.
I’m reasonably pleased about how the Queensland Senate ticket preferences played out, at least as far as my chances are concerned. My best chance of winning is to poll higher than the Greens (after preferences from smaller parties), so I’m a bit peeved that What Women Want went to the Greens ahead of me (as they did around the country), given the record of the Democrats on WWW’s issues over so many years. However, the negative impact of this is probably balanced out by Climate Change Coalition coming to me ahead of the Greens.
Two of the grouped independents have gone to the Greens, as have the Carers (who then go to Pauline Hanson(!)), whilst Senator On-Line and another grouped Independent are preferencing me ahead of the other main contenders. The Greens and Socialists have also done their usual preference exchange – and despite campaigning mostly on issues like human rights and Indigenous issues, the Socialists still preference the Labor Party ahead of me, I presume on the quaint notion that Labor is the party of the workers/working class.
Family First’s deal with the Coalition was there as expected, as was the deal between Labor and the Greens, which had been pre-announced. The chances of Labor preferences being distributed are not overly high, although if they poll exceptionally well it’s possible. This would make it very hard for me if that happened.
Still, given my claim to a record which shows a much clearer degree of independence from the major parties than either the Greens or Family First, I guess not to have a preference deal with either of them is a good way to show that.
As always, there are a few preference decisions which appear counter-intuitive. The Liberty & Democracy Party (LDP) have put Pauline Hanson ahead of every other main contender, which I find quite odd for a party that espouses economic and social liberalism. I didn’t expect to be overly high on their ticket, although I could have done a preference swap of some sort with them if I’d wished. However, in the end we felt that whilst some of their social and human rights ideas were OK, their pro-nuclear, pro-gun approach made it too hard to justify putting them ahead of the Greens as a progressive party.
Which made it somewhat surprising to see that the Greens preferenced the pro-nuclear, pro-gun, pro-privatisation LDP ahead of the Democrats – presumably in exchange for LDP preferences after Pauline Hanson. The Democrats did the same thing in NSW, presumably for the same reasons.
It was disappointing, although not totally unexpected, to see Family First had done a preference deal with Pauline Hanson. Whilst she is a long way down on Family First’s ticket, she is above of all the other main contenders except for the Coalition. There is also a favourable preference exchange between Family First and the One Nation party. It would seem families don’t come first if they are Muslim, African, Asian or Indigenous.
Another preference decision which is unexpected but which may turn out to my benefit is from Pauline Hanson herself. As mentioned above, she has favourably preferenced Family First. However, the next main contender on her preference ticket is me! ahead of Labor, Coalition and then the Greens. I’m not sure why she chose to do that, as I put her 65 out of 65, but it could be a significant help to me if Hanson polls higher than Family First (as I expect she will), but lower than me (not so sure about that one).
There is a fairly clear left-right or progressive-reactionary split amongst most of the minor parties, although there’s a few that cross this divide. To see every party’s Group Voting Tickets for Queensland (and the other states), click on this link.
In deciding our Senate preference ticket in Queensland, the Democrats used the following general principles as a guide to group the various parties:
• smaller parties and independents who are sufficiently like-minded to justifiably put ahead of the Greens – this group included Climate Change Coalition, Carers Alliance and What Women Want, as well as two grouped Independents – Couper and Alberts;
• smaller parties and independent too philosophically different to be able to justify putting ahead of the Greens, but still OK enough to put ahead of the major parties – this group included the Liberty & Democracy Party (LDP), Socialist Alliance, Senator On-Line, the Fishing & Lifestyle Party and another Independent
• smaller parties and independents who are basically too antithetical to Democrat philosophy to preference ahead of the major parties, given the tiny but real risk that our preferences might end up helping to elect them – there are quite a few of these – Family First ended up here after some debate, along with the DLP, Fishing Party, Shooters, CEC, Fred Nile’s mob, One Nation and then Pauline Hanson last.
Once we’d decided which party fitted into which group, then came the task of deciding what order to put the various parties in. We also had to decide whether to put Labor ahead of the Coalition, or take the traditional Democrat approach of splitting preferences evenly between the two major parties – an approach which reflects the historical fact that Democrat voters as a group did not favour one major party over the other to an overwhelming extent. However, given the importance of ending the current situation where one major party controlled the Senate – and the appalling display of debauching due process which the Coalition had engaged since it gained that Senate control – we decided to put our preferences to Labor ahead of the Coalition.
There is an argument that having any party, no matter how reactionary, win a seat ahead of the Coalition would be justified if it helped end Coalition control of the Senate. However, in the end we felt validating some of the extremist positions taken by many of the smaller parties would be more damaging to the democratic fabric than putting the Coalition ahead of such parties.
Hopefully, all of the above convinces people it is worthwhile trying to decide your own preference by filling in all the squares below the line in the order of your own preference. For those considering doing this, you may be interested to know that your ballot paper will be formal if:
• a first preference is shown by the number marked in the square opposite the name of one, and only one, candidate; and
• not less than 90 per cent of the squares opposite the names of candidates on the ballot paper are numbered as required, or would be if no more than three numbers were changed;
(which basically means you can make two or three numbering mistakes along the way and your vote will still count)