The Australian Senate

September 9th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The AFR reports:

The ABC’s Antony Green is forecasting a Senate with 33 Liberal/National seats, 25 Labor, 10 Greens, one Democratic Labour Party and seven “others”.

The counting in the Senate can take up to four weeks but at the moment those “others” are Democratic Liberal Party in NSW, Palmer United Party in Queensland and Tasmania, Independent Nick Xenophon and a Family First candidate in South , Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party in Victoria and Australian Sports Party in Western .

So, even though the Liberals haven’t gained control of the Senate, they will have a conservative right-leaning cross bench who will support his aim of getting rid of the carbon and mining tax.

What a mess. They will be able to pass laws, but imagine the trade offs. The motoring party and the sports party! Their Senate STV voting system is pretty fucked. The number of first preference votes for the Australian Sports Party in WA was 225 out of a million!

You need 39 votes to pass the Senate, so they need six out of seven independents. Would be worse if they needed all seven as each one could hold out for the maximum pork.

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21 Responses to “The Australian Senate”

  1. tvb (4,315 comments) says:

    There should be minimum thresholds. When preferences get directed to one party then micro parties get representation. Still it adds colour to Australian democracy. Clive Palmer is a hoot, I cannot wait for him providing entertainment for the great Canberra media circus.

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  2. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    I’d still rather have the sporters & motorists making decisions for me here in Australia – than Peter Dunne! :cool:

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  3. georgebolwing (758 comments) says:

    The current electoral system in the senate dates from 1948, and as far as I can tell from here, disaster has yet to befall the Australian people as a result.

    No federal Government has had a working majority in the senate since 1981, yet despite this, both Labour and Liberal/National Coalitions have been able to pass significant pieces of legislation.

    And, of course, the new senators will not take their seats until 1 July next year, so Abbott will have to deal with the current lame-duck senate till then.

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  4. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    But seriuosly David, the preferance system does allow smaller groups to get elected, it’s just that it is sometimes hi-jacked or other parties stuff up – like the Wikileaks party:

    They ended up giving preferances buy an administrative mistake to White Supremesists in NSW! :cool:

    [it's true - it was reported on the ABC last night.]

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  5. Redbaiter (8,274 comments) says:

    Thanks for a good article explaining what is a complex issue.

    The Lib/Nat problem with the senate is partly of their own making for they have strayed from their principles and given rise to smaller parties attempting to adjust.

    Clive Palmer voters could be characterised as being unhappy with the sameness of the two major blocs, (Labour and the Lib/Nats) and high taxes. Palmer is seen as the anti-politician politician.

    Family First is a reaction to failure to support families. The Motoring party was formed as a result of constant hostile legislative attacks on vehicle owners.

    All of these things occur in NZ under the Nats. They should take note of where giving ground to the left eventually leads.

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  6. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    “The Greens Party took 20yrs to get a seat in the Senate – we took just 8 weeks to get two” – Clive Palmer.[he will most likely get two.]

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  7. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    Their Senate STV voting system is pretty fucked.

    You know you supported New Zealand adopting the STV voting system at the referendum in 2011, right?

    How would New Zealand STV have been fundamentally different from that which operates in Australian federal senate elections?

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  8. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    “………..You know you supported New Zealand adopting the STV voting system at the referendum in 2011, right?………How would New Zealand STV have been fundamentally different from that which operates in Australian federal senate elections?…”

    The parties in the NZ system would take advantage of those with short memories for a start! :cool:

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  9. metcalph (1,426 comments) says:

    Graeme,

    Australian Senate elections take place over the state as a whole. Other forms of STV (like the Tasmanian House of Assembly and the Japanese Diet) have STV carried out for specific geographical regions. This reduces the chance of fringe candidates getting in.

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  10. tvb (4,315 comments) says:

    Of course Dunne likes stv because he will get preference flows from all parties. His self interest in this system of voting is not well understood by the public. But it does open up micro parties such as for cannabis reform and something more innocuous like hunting and shooting.

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  11. straya (73 comments) says:

    “You need 39 votes to pass the Senate, so they need six out of seven independents”. Not if they get Madigan, the DLP senator to vote in favour of their legislation – then they need five out of seven. That’s not pie in the sky, for example the DLP will vote for the repeal of the carbon tax.

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  12. BeaB (2,104 comments) says:

    And to think some want the return of an upper house in NZ. And a president.

    More and more party hacks, hobby horse riders and troughers.

    Government, national and local, already costs the nation a fortune for a population the size of a small city.

    Surely we can think of more effective, efficient and economical ways to govern ourselves, especially when no-one has to ride a horse for three days to get to Wellington and we can now all participate more fully through electronic means.

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  13. Ross12 (1,377 comments) says:

    This could be just wishful thinking by the ABC ( lefty bias !!)

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  14. flipper (3,941 comments) says:

    A very good West Australian analysis of their election, but with implications for New Zealand, especially the media aspects.

    ****
    “Last night the concession speech Rudd gave was delusional. It was quite unlike Whitlam in 1975 or Keating in 1996, after their heavy defeats. The triumphant, jubilant cries of vindication from Labor were blind to the fact that an incumbent government lost badly, and after only two terms. We know 70% of ABC journalists vote Labor-Green. Which one is trying to bring Labor back to a sensible position? Such a fog of illusion in the minds of the Labor Party can only be kept alive by active support of the media. Bizarrely, the journalist fans do the party no favours by allowing the delusion to pass as is. By ignoring the flaws, the soft media virtually filter for the incompetents to rise to the top.
    “In a sane world an investigative media would also have doggedly pursued the Craig Thompson affair and never allowed it to drag on in limbo for years. In the proper course of events he would have faced charges far sooner, and the Gillard government would have faced a savage by-election (see the Dobell results below). How many voters even now know that Gillard herself is under police investigation or that two journalists who started to mention it were sacked? If the opposition leader was under police investigation, it would have been a hot-button, high rotation bullet point. But Gillard was only the Prime Minister, right? What universe does this make sense in? The media IS the problem.” ***

    To read more….
    http://joannenova.com.au/

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  15. kiwi in america (2,495 comments) says:

    Graeme
    The STV system envisaged for NZ (had that option won the indicative referendum in 1992 and then prevailed over FPP in 1993) was the Irish system of multi member electorates likely with a cap of 7 or 9 MPs.

    flipper
    The Aussie MSM are no different from their US and NZ counterparts. At least in the US the right has a strong voice with Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and Examiner, NY Post and many excellent blogs. In the UK the tradition of partisan national newspapers sees the Telegraph and the Murdoch broadsheets blunting the left leaning influence of the BBC. NZ sadly has few options outside of NBR, Investigate, Kiwiblog and Whaleoil

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  16. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    Top stuff Flipper.

    Just about every women who was a presenter, repeater, or quest on the ABC on election day – wore red.

    It wasn’t coincidence – they do it each year. Rings, pendants, broaches – but mostly jackets.

    The Liberals are going to take on the ABC and bring it back into line with it’s charter.

    They are also going to get rid of the laws that Gillard has put into place regarding journalistic freedom.

    They are also going to get rid of the ‘offensive speech’ laws.[the type Andrew Bolt was charged with.]

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  17. PaulL (6,019 comments) says:

    @Harriet, I saw the clear direction from George Brandis that he wanted to push the human rights commission back towards focus on basic rights – such as freedom of speech. And as you say, overturn some of the recent laws that compromise free speech in order to address other “rights”.

    I din’t see where they were going to push on ABC. I can see that it makes sense, and that they get frustrated at the biased coverage. But in a political sense it’s very hard to do anything about it – so I’d expect they’ll go the other way and trim the ABC budget rather than try to fix them. It’s probably just not worth their time to chase.

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  18. Harriet (4,770 comments) says:

    Yeah you’re probably right PaulL, but I have read in the past in the likes of The Australian where it has been mentioned that they are wanting to bring the ABC back into line with it’s charter. Cutting the budget is probably one way to do it, and that has been said from time to time by the Liberals and others.

    BTW – I’ve noticed over the last 3 yrs that the Liberals have used the MSM to drive home to the ‘low info’ voter the basics, like stopping the carbon tax, and boat people, and waste. That’s given them a huge voter base who don’t follow politics. And along the way they have targeted through the likes of The Australian, the smaller but more educated voting groups, like those who support freedom of speech and the ‘more pointed’ topics that the low info voter would switch off to. 3 yrs of near perfect ‘campaigning’ by the Liberals I think. Cheers.

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  19. Inky_the_Red (750 comments) says:

    KIA There are only voting for 6 senators (or 2 in ACT and NT) so that is similar to the 3-7 proposed for STV in NZ.

    Graeme the main difference between to the Aussie and NZ proposed is that in Oz you have 2 choices one rank every single candidate in order or tick for a party who rank them for you.

    In NZ and Ireland you only have to rank candidates until you don’t care. With dozens of candidates that is difficult without making an error and creating an invalid ballot. (I am aware that Graeme believes everyone should rank all candidates which is fair enough in Wellington but somewhat harder in NSW)

    The letting the party choice for you has resulted in more micro parties who have done deals to get this result. However to get a seat the total micro parties had to get 14.2% of the vote. It appears that many people are not happy with the coalition, labor or greens.

    It must be a good system as the greens are calling for reform.

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  20. PaulL (6,019 comments) says:

    @Inky_the_Red: fundamentally this problem happens because people are too lazy to rank all the candidates. So in one sense when voters do stupid stuff they get stupid results.

    But in another sense, in some states there were 97 candidates. Ranking them all is hard. And they had some interviews with people post-voting explaining why they’d voted how they had. These people weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. The guy from the Liberal Democratic Party, who fluked first on the list in one of the states, basically said he thought they got lots of votes because people thought they were the Libs.

    The actual mechanics of the process in Australia are quite hard, and 97 candidates is a lot. If you get any of your ranking wrong your vote is invalid. So most people vote above the line. So you look down the list, vote for the 1 party you want, then preferences flow based on that (who has time to rank 97 people in order).

    If you don’t like the major parties much you probably vote for one of the minors – after all, it’s only the Senate. In recent years the minors have been preferencing amongst themselves with lots of obscure deals – so the votes don’t pop out onto one of the major parties all that easily. And the elimination starts at the bottom – so the order the quotas are redirected matters too (eventually it also matters which votes are redirected – so once we’re moving votes for the Libs to second preference, it depends which of the votes they grab from the pile, they don’t all go the same place).

    Overall, I think it’s a bit of a nightmare, whilst being theoretically quite a good idea. I’d like to see a voting system that was less cumbersome but still gave minor parties a decent shot. Not sure what that is.

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  21. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    If New Zealand had STV, we would also have above-the-line voting, and as noted by others, unless there is a double dissolution, and the full senate is up for election, states are only electing six senators, so not greatly different from the five-MP seats the Royal Commission recommended for New Zealand if we went that way.

    I think the weirdest feature of the Australian STV system, that we wouldn’t have, is the double dissolution (which this election wasn’t), because when that happens, the quota is halved and even more minor parties get in :-)

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