The September 7 election produced a new half senate to take their place on the first of July 2014 for six years made up as shown in the table.
LNP is the Liberal National Coalition and and generally the got the balance you would expect .
ALP is the Australian Labor Party
GRN the Australian Greens
PUP is the Palmer United Party
LDP is the Liberal Democratic Party
FF is Family First
NX Is the Nick Xenophon Group
AME is the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party
ASP is the Australian Sports Party.
There were six seat up in each State and 2 in the ACT and the NT. The primary votes caught by these groups is tabled below.
With six seats up for grabs in each f the states you would need to amass something close to 15% to secure a seat.
Because the Major Parties tend to do well on primaries they have generally done well in the wash up. In NSW where LNP got 34.81 % they secured three seats as a result of the preference flow. Interestingly the LDP secured a seat generally thought to have polled well on the basis of a confusion of the name and have managed poll position on the bed sheet that passed for a ballot paper for the Senate. If that assumption os correct and say about half of them really meant to vote LNP the chances are high that the Greens would have secured the sixth seat in NSW.
In South Australia the Nick Xenophon group has polled extremely well, and would have to be a ringing endorsement for him, and it would take much for the group to secure a second seat in South Australia.
Victoria has elected The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party with a primary count of one half of one percent. This has been achieved though a monumental effort based on preferences and no doubt some luck in the process. some of the video material of the candidate seems less parliamentary than average.
Western Australia has returned a candidate for the Australian Sports Party with a primary count of 2070 votes. This also has been achieved through considerable preference deals.
Interestingly the system is working as it was intended to work, however there are a number of cracks developing as people have clearly worked out how to manipulate the system. Under the current system once the votes are counted the least votes are distributed either according to the preferences on the ballot paper or if above the line then as directed by the above the line group, ad so on. The problem is in fact created by above the line voting which reduces the number of invalid votes on a paper which may well have more than 50 candidates. This has meant that the minor parties have worked together to secure seats rather than let them go to the major parties.
In reality the idea that some of the people elected to parliament are people who I don’t want there is fundamental to the working of a democracy. The difficulty this result produces in the Senate is that there will be 8 people representing minority interests who have the power to pass or block legislation that the two major parties cannot agree on – ie the balance of power. This indeed gives their minority interests a place in the sun for six years. In point of fact over the years the minority parties have done great service to Australia and the national interest, The DLP, The Democrats, The Greens in Early Days, and the likes of Nick Xenophon have all contributed much and made the Senate work.
There are alternative voting systems which may seem fairer, however Australians have the ability to vote below the line and that would steal from the minor parties the ability to deal, however we would have to number more boxes. One possibility if we went that was would be to allow votes to expire, by which I mean allow them to be valid even if all the boxes were not numbered. That way you could pick your top ten or twenty and effectively say ‘and none of the rest’. It seems to me any method of ballot has some issues, however without doubt one of the big issues is the count, and the level of manual labour involved, and in this day and age I really wonder why we can;t have online voting – which could error trap and let the voter know that the ballot is not yet valid, and would centralise the rolls to eliminate those who want to vote early and often, and would mean that ballots would be resolved much earlier and more accurately.