After everything was said and done (well, before the Western Australian result was annulled), the 2013 Federal Election saw no single party hold the balance of power in the Senate.
The loss of six senators from the Australian Labor Party was to see the end of the ALP-Greens alliance wielding control of the Senate at the change-over of terms on 1 July 2014.
The final result saw the balance of power in the Senate being distributed across a rag-tag group of micro parties and independents, with six parties and two independents being represented in the eight-member cross-bench alone, as declared by the Australian Electoral Commission
Senate make-up resulting from 2013 Federal Election
Achieving a majority requires the support of 39 senators, meaning that the Coalition Government needs the votes of the three Palmer United (PUP) senators, and 4 of the minor party/independent senators.
Ricky Muir, the Motoring Enthusiast senator has agreed to vote in a bloc with PUP. The other minor party senators, from the Sports, Liberal Democrat and Family First Parties are all likely to be sympathetic to the conservative cause. This is provides the six additional senators to achieve a majority. This means that the Coalition’s major election promises, such as the repeal of the Carbon Price Mechanism and the Mining Tax, are likely to be achieved.
The Western Australian by-election places into question the presence of three Liberal senators and one each from Labor, the Greens and the Sports Party. After the 2013 election, WA provides a 4 to 2 split between “conservatives” and “progressives” respectively.
Current polling as seen the support for the Coalition fall significantly since the 2013 Election. Crikey’s poll bludger is currently projecting a 6.6% swing away from the Liberals and this will most probably to cost them a Senate seat, allowing both a second ALP Senator and the Greens’ Scott Ludlam to be re-elected at the by-election.
A possible wild-card scenario will come from the likelihood that we will see a seat be picked up by a conservative minor party, most likely PUP. Leaving us with two Liberals, two Labor, one Green and one PUP (or other micro party).
Possible Senate make up post WA by-election
Anti-Government sentiment is surely going to aid the cause of incumbent ALP Senator Louise Pratt, who was the main casualty of the WA Senate recount. There has been a lot of attention directed at the Green’s Scott Ludlam, easily the most prominent senator during the whole re-count saga. He has maintained this momentum, drawing over half a million views to his “Welcome to WA” speech, directed at Tony Abbott, as his farewell to the Senate before the by-election.
This situation would make it more difficult for the Coalition to command a majority in the Senate. The loss of a supporter, with WA now sending senators divided by a 3-3 split between the political centre, would draw the two ongoing independents into the fray.
The “minor party bloc” would not be a pathway to the guaranteed passage of legislation, and would place more power into the hands of independents. Nick Xenophon and John Madigan, veritable mavericks within the Australian Senate, may or may not be acquiescent to the Coalition’s intention.
Ultimately, relying on these two, as well as the impulsive populist political opinions of Clive Palmer, makes for a more volatile senate. While the mix of minor parties was certainly a surprising outcome of the 2013 election, it was an outcome that was going to be more manageable for the Coalition. Xenophon and Madigan are now seasoned politicians, and will be more coy in their dealings with the Government.
Michael Mazengarb is a post-graduate student Australian National University, completing a Master of Climate Change. An environmental mercenary, he has worked numerous roles pursuing environmental conservation and climate change action. Michael edits Omnishambles, and generally writes with a progressive perspective.
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