The Senate contest in Queensland was formally declared today, and the results in other states and territories will be officially declared over the next week or so. The understandable focus on who would end up forming government has mean there has been very little attention given to the results in the various Senate contests at this election, especially given it was obvious on election night that the Greens would hold the sole balance of power in the Senate. The net result of all these Senate contests is that the Greens gained 4 seats, the ALP lost 2 and won 1 for a net loss of 1, the Liberal lost 4 (including 1 picked up by the Nationals, leaving a net loss to the Coalition of 3), the DLP gain 1 and Family First lose 1.
But the Senate result is not just about the balance of power on particular votes. It is about electing a range of individual representatives for each state and territory, and it is worth looking at which people will be coming and going as a result of the just completed half-Senate election. Those people who have been elected to the Senate for the first time will not take up their seats until 1 July 2011. Twelve people out of the 36 successful state based Senate candidates are in this position. This ten month wait is probably the longest for any Senator-elects in our nation’s history.
The people elected to the Senate spots in both the ACT and the Northern Territory take up their seats straight after the election. These seats have always returned one Labor and one Liberal, and this time was no exception, with all four incumbents being re-elected. Although in the ACT, the Liberal’s Gary Humphries polled just below a quota – with 32.96%– and had to rely on a few preferences to secure his election. If the Greens had managed to win this seat, that would have resulted in an immediate change in the balance of the Senate, removing the ability of Family First’s Steve Fielding to block legislation everytime he sided with the Coalition (which he has been doing a lot). However, the bizarre decision of the Australian Democratsto direct their above-the-line Senate preferences to the Liberals ahead of the Greens and Labor – the first time the Democrats have ever done this for a Senate contest in any state or territory – means that Humphries is certain to receive the preferences he needed.
The only state where all six incumbent Senators were re-elected was Western Australia, which returned 3 Liberals, 2 Labor and 1 Green. A quick summary of the results in the other states follows:
SA – This state provided the closest contest for the last seat. At one stage Family First’s Bob Day, who polled just over 4%, looked a chance to ge the final seat ahead of the Liberals. But Antony Green’s invaluable Senate count calculator showsthe gap has ended up being too large for their to be any chance of below the line votes changing the outcome. There are four new faces out of six people elected in this state. The Greens Penny Wright has won a seat from Labor’s Dana Wortley. This is the only SA seat that changes hands from one party to another, but retirements from two of the Liberals (with Nick Minchin and Alan Ferguson being replaced by Sean Edwards and former MHR David Fawcett) and one ALP (Annette Hurley being replaced by Alex Gallacher) means there are 4 new faces in the 6 elected, which breaksdown into 3 Liberal, 2 Labor and 1 Green.
VIC – Family First’s loses a seat, which will be won by the DLP’s John Madigan. The DLP win this seat with a ridiculously low primary vote of 2.33%, (although that is a bit higher than the 1.88% Fielding polled when he was elected back in 2004). In an interesting piece of irony, the seat won in 2004 by the Julian McGuaran standing as a Nationals candidate on a joint Coalition ticket when he then took to the Liberals when he later defected, has returned to the Nationals with the election of Bridget McKenzie, while McGauran, now as a Liberal, has lost his seat to the Greens Richard di Natale, who has polled over a quota in his own right. The other incumbent Victorian Liberal Senator, Judith Troeth, is retiring. All of these changes lead to a final result in this state of 2 ALP, 1 Liberal, 1 National, 1 Green and 1 DLP – with three of the six being new faces.
TAS – The ALP’s Lisa Singh (a former member of state Parliament) wins a seat from the Liberals Guy Barnett. The (unwilling) retirement of Labor’s Kerry O’Brien, who has been replaced by Anne Urqhardt, means there are two new faces among the six, with overall result being 3 ALP, 2 Liberal and 1 Green.
NSW – Labor’s Steve Hutchins lost his seat to the Greens Lee Rhiannon. The retirement of Labor’s Michael Forshaw, replaced by Matthew Thistletwaite, means there will be two new faces from this state. The final party breakdown of seats is 2 Liberal, 1 National, 2 ALP, 1 Green.
QLD – There is only the one new person here, with the Greens Larissa Waters winning a seat from the Liberals Russell Trood. All the other five incumbents were re-elected, although the final Liberal, Brett Mason, had to rely on receiving Sex Party preferences ahead of the Fishing and Lifestyle Party, who managed to garner a wide range of preferences from a number of other extreme right groups. The final result here is 3 LNP, 2 ALP and 1 Greens.
The new Senate numbers as of 1 July next year will be :
L/NP/LNP/CLP Coalition: 34
This will include an increase of three in the overall number of women, which rise to 30 out of the total of 76.
If you use a crude left vs right measure (Greens + ALP = left, Coalition + others = right) then this elected has produced a 3 seat shift to the left. The current 37 left vs 39 right will become 40 left vs 36 right. With 39 votes needed to pass motions and legislation, and 38 votes needed to defeat motions and legislation, the Greens will have sole balance of power with at least 2 seats to spare in any situation.
Total Senate seats won this time –
Senate seats won at 2007 election –
The Greens won 3 seats more than the last election, Labor won 3 seats fewer, while the Coalition stood still.