Senate results – balance of power with Xenophon & Family First?

The Senate results can’t be finalised for a couple of weeks until all the absentee and postal votes come in. Quotas can’t be formally determined and preferences distributed until the total number of formal votes are known, so definitive results can’t occur until then. However, the results do seem fairly clear in most states, and I’d have to say barring something quite extraordinary, it seems clear the Democrats have lost their four remaining Senate seats – including mine in Queensland of course.

While I was quite aware there was a strong chance I might lose, I must say I am surprised our Senate vote in Queensland is as low as it has turned out to be. It really doesn’t gel with the feedback we were getting on the ground, or some of the extra support we were getting this time that we weren’t last time. However, the figures are there, so that’s that.

As I’d said many times, if I lost my seat, there was a real chance it would go to the major parties, rather than to the Greens or another smaller party, and it appears this is what is most likely to happen in Queensland. Family First polled about what I expected (and what opinion polls suggested), as did Pauline Hanson. If I had got the extra two per cent and polled above Hanson, that would have probably been sufficient to get me in, but instead her preferences will most likely give that last seat to the Labor Party.

There can be some shifts in overall percentages occur with absentee and postal votes, but they’d have to be fairly significant for the Greens to have a chance for that last Queensland seat ahead of Labor.

Most of the other states seem fairly cut and dried, although late shifts can occur with absentees (which the Greens often do better in) and postals (which the major parties tend to do better in). However, it does appear that the Liberals will only lose 2 Senate seats (Tasmania and South Australia), giving the ultimate balance of power in the Senate to Nick Xenophon plus Steve Fielding from Family First. On any question where the Coalition opposes Labor in the Senate, Labor will need to get the support of all Green Senators and then also Xenophon and Fielding.

It is disappointing that Queensland is now likely to have no Senator outside the major parties, and thus no voice in balance of power situations (nor will New South Wales for that matter, as the Greens have almost certainly lost their Senate seat there). However, that’s what the voters chose.

For people who are keen to see a growth in the parliamentary strength of parties committed to the environment, human rights and social justice, it is worth noting that in 1999 there were 9 Democrat and 2 Greens in the Senate. After this election, it looks like there will be at most 6 Greens – more likely 5 – and no Democrats in the Senate. Not a terribly good net result.

Of the four Democrat seats, 2 appear to have gone to ALP (Qld and Vic) and 2 appear to have gone to the Greens (WA and SA). Ironically, Nick Xenophon’s decision to contest the Senate in SA has not only won himself a seat at the expense of the Liberals, it may well have assisted the Greens to get a seat there that they may otherwise have missed out on. This is because Xenophon appears to have taken a large number of votes from both Labor and Liberal, thus bringing their primary votes down low enough for the Greens to get ahead of Labor on preferences. If this hadn’t happened, the Greens in SA may well have faced what appears to have happened in Victoria, where a high primary vote of around 10 per cent could well still leave them short due to Labor getting very close to 3 quotas.

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  1. It is indeed a sad day for democracy to see the demise of a strong third party voice in the Senate.

    Thanks for all the work from you and the Democrats in Qld. Thanks to you personally for the consistancy of your effort in supporting values that are dear to so many of us.

  2. If Family First and Nick Xenophon hold the balance of power, I fear what concessions they might hold out for.

  3. Andrew, you have always been a strong voice for human rights and particularly important to me, refugees. Thank you for all your tireless and passionate work – I hope this isn’t the end of it! What’s next for you?

  4. Andrew, condolences if below the line, postal, absentee and declaration votes aren’t enough to get you elected. I do agree with your sadness that Qld won’t be represented in the Senate by a minor party (unless you count the Nationals).

    Let’s hope Bob Brown’s successful in getting rid of group tickets and installing above the line preferencing instead. I have a feeling that’ll help the minor parties quite considerably.

  5. I’m very disappointed by the loss, and the extent of it. I’m actually a Greens member but I voted for you ahead of the Greens.

    I hope that you’ll continue to fight for social justice outside the Senate.

    Good luck in the future.

  6. Dear Andrew

    I was very sorry to hear of the result in Queensland, but wanted to thank you for all your tireless and pricipled work supporting the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straitr Islander people.

    You and your staff should be very proud of your achievements which were considerable. I’m sure we will continue to work together in the next phase of your life and career.

  7. Ahh, this is indeed very disappointing news. I had hoped that the balance of power would fall to the minor parties in the senate, specifically the greens and the democrats. It is rather undemocratic to have major parties hold sway in both houses.

    I do hope you continue to take part in Australian politics and maybe we will see the democrats at the next election?

    It is also sad to see Natasha retire (as I believe she is?). She would have made a fine PM given the unlikely chance ! :)

  8. I think the sun is starting to set on the age of the minor parties. The reason for this is due to the mass media, and in particular the Murdoch staple.

    People like Murchoch want to control Australia via proxy, and the medium to do this is via the major parties. He cannot control the minor parties and so he must destroy them.

    It is no coincidence that Rudd had his meeting with Murdoch in New York last year at the beginning of his endless “honeymoon” period. I don’t know deal Rudd signed with the devil in this case, but there can be no doubt that some deal was done, because he was handed this election on a platter.

    The Democrats are now finished, the Greens will be next, and before too long we will have the two-party tyranny, American-style.

    You were shut out of the public arena by the media, you had no real chance to get your message across, so of course, Australians forgot about the Democrats.

    I voted for the Democrats for the first time ever this election. In my seat of Ryan, i did not see a thing from you be it pamphlet or sign, and did not hear a thing from you in the radio or on television.

    But i did not forget. My vote for you was an act of fatalistic defiance at a democratic system that is quickly only becoming a democracy in name only.

    I look at all the sheep on a saturday morning picking up their Courier Mail so they can be “informed” and i shake my head in sadness.

    The only chance the Democrats to revive now is for an energetic, grassroots effort that circumvents the mass media. Hit the streets, shopping centres, lobby the people hard on Youtube, hold local meetings at the local church, print up thousands of pamphlets on a few PC’s and do letter drops. Whatever it takes to get your message across

    Don’t be too hard on yourself Andrew. Best of luck to you and the Democrats in the future.

  9. The loss of four fine Senators will be felt for some time. Senator Andrew Murray’s support for whistleblower legislation, Senator Bartlett for animal welfare, Senators Allison and Stott-Despoja for women’a reproductive rights, health and privacy issues. It won’t be the same without the Democrats keeping the big parties on their toes. While I was delighted that Howard lost the election and lost his own seat, it’s never good to have any major party with such a large majority and the Greens have a relatively narrow focus so all the important things mentioned above just won’t have anyone to push them along. We’ve lost the voice for the voiceless for the time-being but perhaps they can make a comeback next time. By then it won’t be the big focus it was this time ie. Just Howard vs Rudd, Rudd vs Howard – as though no-one else existed. By the next election that hysteria would have died down so perhaps the media might give smaller parties, who don’t have the big dollars to spend on TV advertising, a chance to put their policies, achievements out there. I think the smaller parties should be given a taxpayer-funded advertising allocation for each election.

  10. Andrew,

    It’s Monday morning and I sit here with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m very happy to see the end of the Howard Government and a new member installed in Bennelong. I’m overjoyed that Mr Howard will not be remembered as some sort of “political genius” but rather as a lucky politician who couldn’t even recognise when the time to stand aside had arrived and as a result a leader who left his party in disarray.

    On the other hand, I’m extremely saddened to see the result for the Democrats. To have no Democrat representation in the Senate is an idea hard to fathom and one which will certainly leave Australia worse off.

    Thank you for your work on social justice issues over many years. As you say in another post, some people may want to point fingers over past mistakes. But we all make mistakes, we’d all do some things differently and finger pointing serves no purpose.

    Best of luck with whatever the future brings.

  11. It’s pretty straightforward Nathan. If you look at Hanson’s preference ticket – shown here at the ABC site – she has the relevant Labor person (Mark Furner) at 50, and the relevant Coalition person (Ron Boswell) below that at 54, and the Greens at 63. At the stage of the count where Hanson is excluded, these will be the only other candidates left in the contest (indeed Boswell may well already be over the line by then), so her 4% or so of above the line votes will flow to Labor – as shown at this count.

  12. I think Family First will probably side with the Liberals in the Senate.

    I guess the National incumbent must have held his Senate seat(?)

    Whoever recently said that country people only vote for the Nationals was not wrong.

    Perhaps the Democrats would do better to amalgamate with the Greens, since most people seem to have swallowed “the great global warming swindle”, warts and all.

    Although we didn’t see a Labor/Greens coalition this time, I think it is a distinct possibility for the future.

    Other than that, some policy changes of a more wholesome, conservative nature would be welcome and beneficial – especially given the rise of Family First.

  13. Andrew

    Thankyou for all your hard work in the Senate over these years. Whilst the result is a good result for Queensland in the lower house it is a sad day when we have handed over the Senate to the major parties.

    Most of all I am disillusioned with my fellow citizens who do not seem capable of thinking more seriously about how they vote and how this affects them.

    Once again thankyou your career and contribution is not forgotten

  14. I’m a Green, but I’d like to say how much I’ve respected the Democrat Senators (minus one) over the years. Sorry to see you go Andrew. I know how totally devoted you were to the refugee cause. I’m sure that if not for your efforts, many refugees would be in far worse positions then they are today. Unfortunately, they are still not home and hosed under the new government. The fight for human rights will have to continue.

    Your contribution, Andrew Bartlett, towards making Australia a better place when it was under the control of the very racist Howard government, has been magnificient. Australians who think about more than how much cash is in our pockets, are greatly indebted to you.

  15. All I can say is:
    Good riddence to a bad smell.
    If the Democrat’s were a truly honest independent political party you would not take sides with anyone.

  16. Very insightful Jenni. Not to mention mature

    And the Democrats took sides with who? Whatever the Democrats flaws, they certainly stayed clearly independent to the end.

    The Democrats are stuffed because they betrayed their voter base and destroyed the core thing that made them different, a perception that at least they’d be honest. Worse still, they wouldn’t even admit they’d done it and just kept sneering at any of their former voters who expressed anger or disappointment.

    The same as the Liberals will stay stuffed until they accept they went way too far with Workchoices and accept that no matter how much they tell themselves their intentions were good, the anger of their former supporters is justified.

  17. WRT growth in the parliamentary strength of parties committed to the environment, human rights and social justice – There may be no net gain in terms of actual numbers but I think there is in terms of philosopocial tenacity. It’s no good having numbers if they sell out as did the democrats in 1999.

  18. Well Elf, not only has there been “no net gain”, there has been a halving. If you really think a halving of total Senate seats still equates to a net gain in so-called “philosophical tenacity” just because of one contentious decision regarding the GST eight years ago, then you are either a fool, or someone who is so blinded by short-sighted partisanship that you care more about your ‘team’ than you do about the environment, human rights and social justice. In which case, your own “philosophical tenacity” is very limited. (and I say that as someone who voted against the GST and remain very critical of many aspects of the decision and the processes followed to reach it.)

    The fact that some Greens and some Democrats may have had a different perspective on the best approach to take on some issues – and I could list a few where I would strongly argue the Democrats’ position produced a better environmental or social justice outcomes (can’t think of any key differences of opinion around the human rights area off the top of my head) – is hardly sufficient grounds for cheering on an overall halving in the number of people who can focus on these issues in the Senate and push perspectives unfettered by major party agendas.

  19. I still think all candidates should run as Independents. Group thinking in accordance with the party leader’s view will never be a substitute for reasoned debate among a diverse group of people.

  20. Thanks for all your fantastic work in the Senate, Andrew. Thanks also for bringing us this blog – it gives an insight into the workings of the Senate that most of us probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

    I am very sorry you’ve lost your seat. There would have been many progressive voters torn between voting for you and for the Greens, being only able to do both if they were prepared to tick 65 boxes!

    Why don’t you consider joining the Greens. You obviously understand the importance of environmental issues and in spite of what an earlier blogger said here, the Greens do not have a narrow focus. They have a strong human rights and social justice platform and would support you on refugees, animal rights, gay rights and all the other causes you hold dear. Please think about it.

    The Democrats drove the first nail into their own coffin when Meg Lees allowed herself to be stitched up by Peter Reith on GST. You would have lost a lot of progressive support over that. Meanwhile the environment has finally become a mainstream issue. The Greens are now the progressive force in Australian politics and the only ones capable of holding a conservative Labor leadership to account. They need people like you! I do hope you seriously consider it. Good luck in whatever you choose to do!

  21. Andrew, I’m very sorry too! We need really good people with a heart, a soul and a conscience. That just about sums you up, except, that you also worked bloody hard. Thank you! I don’t live in Qld otherwise I would have voted for you.
    Thank you also for this blog. This is the true meaning of a democracy, when all sorts of people put their thoughts, feelings and values in the public domain for discussion. It’s great!

    At least we have you in the public arena for the next 6 months. It looks like it’s going to be an interesting time! I just hope that whatever you decide to do in the future, you don’t remove yourself altogether. I’m sure I speak for many people when I say, we’d like to keep in touch!The negative feelings toward Howard was even stronger than I hoped for; sadly, some innocent people were also swept away. Life can be tough at times.

    I suspect, that your family aren’t that devastated. They’ll probably see you more often in the future – that has to be a good thing! Most of us who read what you’ve done and are doing can’t help but be impressed by your commitment and time – there’s always a cost! Sadly, a lot of the time it’s the family!

    Andrew, thank you, and please take care of you!

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