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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-18-10 09:46 AM
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In search of a friendly Senate
Edited on Sun Jul-18-10 09:48 AM by depakid
JULIA Gillard's main goal at this election is to win a second term. But she also has a second aim: to return with a less obstructive Senate.

If the polls are right, she will get it. Labor and the Greens between them are likely to win at least three seats in every state. And if that happens, the Greens alone will have the balance of power from next July.

That matters. Kevin Rudd lost office, in part, because he could not get the Senate to pass his emissions trading scheme. And that, in turn, was because Labor suffered an electoral disaster when we elected half of this Senate in 2004.

As a rule, the six Senate seats contested in each state divide 3-3 between the parties of the left and those of the right. The parties won't admit this but, usually, Labor and the Greens compete against each other, and the Liberals compete against independents and smaller parties of the right.

But sometimes Senate elections produce odd results - and in 2004 Labor's weak vote created two of them. The senators elected then are the ones now facing re-election.

In Queensland, Labor won just 31.6 per cent of Senate votes, and saw Fishing Party preferences help Barnaby Joyce squeeze through to take the left's third seat, giving the Coalition four of the six seats in the state.

In Victoria, Family First's Steve Fielding polled just 1.85 per cent of the vote, yet then climbed step by step on everyone's else's preferences to take the left's third seat. Labor too directed its votes to him ahead of the Greens, only to find he was not really its type of guy.

Senators serve six-year terms, so those senators are up for re-election this time. And the odds are that the Coalition will lose that fourth seat in Queensland, and - barring bizarre preference deals - Senator Fielding will go down in Victoria.

In 2004, the Coalition won 19 of the 36 Senate seats from the states, Labor 14, the Greens 2 and Family First 1. But in 2007, the odd results were on the other side: in Tasmania, Labor took the last seat from the Coalition, and in South Australia, Nick Xenophon took another seat off them.

The half of the Senate not up for re-election this time has just 16 Coalition senators, 16 Labor, three Greens and Xenophon. But that won't be repeated this time. Xenophon is not standing, the Liberals have rebounded in Tasmania, and the polls suggest the Greens will erode Labor's vote.

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