The High Court has ruled that Steve Martin, from the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), is eligible to enter the Senate, dismissing the argument that his mayoral position disqualified him under the Constitution’s Section 44.
After the decision Martin quickly rejected any suggestion he might stand aside to allow Lambie to return to the Senate, despite her clear wish that he do so.
Lambie resigned from parliament last year because she had dual citizenship, inherited via a Scottish father.
Martin said he was excited at the case’s outcome and the prospect of taking up the opportunity to work for Tasmania in the Senate.
Asked whether he might defect to become an independent, as did a One Nation replacement senator, Fraser Anning, Martin said he was entering the Senate as a JLN candidate and there were still a few steps to be gone through. He would not be drawn on anything “hypothetical”.
The issue in the case of Martin, who was number two on the JLN ticket at the election, was whether, as mayor of Devonport, he held an office of profit under the crown.
Former One Nation candidate Kate McCulloch maintained that he did. The full bench decision, which was unanimous, has now clarified the constitutional position in relation to local councillors generally.
Lambie said at the weekend: “My heart is set on coming back to the Senate”.
Martin was “entitled to that second seat. If he wants to run through with it, well he’s entitled to do that. Unfortunately I broke the rules, whether it was intentional or not, and I have to sit on the sidelines and pay the price for that,” she told Sky.
“I’ll be brutally honest, if it was me in his position I would be extremely loyal and I would step down. That’s what I would do, but that is not up to me – that is up to him.”
Next week the court will hear the case concerning the successor to former Nick Xenophon Team senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, who also resigned in the dual citizenship crisis.
Kakoschke-Moore is arguing the vacancy should not go to the next candidate on the ticket, Tim Storer, who, after a falling out with the party, is no longer a member of it. She maintains the seat should go back to her; she has now freed herself of her British citizenship.
The court also has before it the status of ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher, who did not receive confirmation of her renunciation of British citizenship until after her nomination.
Meanwhile, the Coalition is awaiting the court’s judgment in the case of David Gillespie, an assistant minister.
At issue there is another part of Section 44, which prohibits anyone being chosen for, or sitting in, parliament if they hold a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth.
A tenant in a Port Macquarie shopping centre owned by Gillespie’s family company has an Australia Post franchise. Australia Post is a government business.
After going to the polls on November 25, Queenslanders finally have a state election result as Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls conceded defeat on Friday.
Following a four-week campaign, votes were counted for almost a fortnight until Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party was confirmed the victor. Palaszczuk is the first female premier to win back-to-back elections. In 2015, she’d become the first woman at state or federal level to lead her party to government from opposition.
But it’s not the clear-cut result Palaszczuk desired. Labor appears to have won 48 seats in the 93-member parliament to the LNP’s 39. This leaves Palaszczuk’s returned government with a slim majority and a diverse crossbench.
A complex contest
With a record field of candidates in an expanded number of electorates – many with redrawn boundaries – this shaped as a complicated election. Adding to its unpredictability was the reintroduction after 25 years of compulsory preferential voting.
While two-party-preferred swings were generally not as large as at the last two state elections, overall figures showed a fragmented statewide vote. More than 30% gave their first preferences to minor parties and independents. This exceeded the One Nation-driven protest vote in 1998.
This continues the trend of a declining primary vote for the major parties. Combined with compulsory preferencing, several electorate contests duly developed into three- or even four-horse races, extending the time needed to correctly distribute preferences and declare results. Some seats were decided only after the arrival of postal votes, up to ten days after the polling date.
Like the previous Queensland and federal elections, a close and protracted count left the government in extended caretaker mode. Voters in Queensland and the rest of Australia may need to accustom themselves to a new norm of tight, drawn-out contests, where party leaders’ election night speeches might be obsolete.
Winners and losers
Labor went into the election with a notional seat count of 48 following the redistribution. Despite a 2% decline in its statewide vote, it emerges with little change in its electoral stocks.
Gains in the state’s southeast corner at the LNP’s expense offset a few seat losses in central and north Queensland, where persistent unemployment has been a worry.
To the government’s relief, every cabinet member held their seat. Deputy Premier Jackie Trad survived one of the stronger challenges, a 10% two-party-preferred swing to the Greens in South Brisbane. Brisbane’s inner suburbs, as in other state capitals, are now highly vulnerable to a rising green tide.
The LNP suffered a negative swing of almost 8% – and even higher in parts of the southeast. High-profile casualties included shadow frontbenchers Scott Emerson, Ian Walker, Tracey Davis and Andrew Cripps in the north falling victim to erratic preference flows.
Emerson has the distinction of losing the newly created seat of Maiwar in inner Brisbane to Queensland’s first elected Greens MP, Michael Berkman.
In other firsts, Labor’s new member for Cook in far-north Queensland, Cynthia Liu, is the first Torres Strait Islander elected to any Australian parliament. Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch becomes the state’s first Indigenous MP to be returned at an election.
One Nation’s Stephen Andrew, who defeated veteran Labor MP Jim Pearce in Mirani in central Queensland, becomes the first descendent of South Sea Islander labourers to enter state parliament.
Besides bread-and-butter issues of job creation, power prices and transport infrastructure, neither Palaszczuk nor Nicholls could escape the dominant themes of this election. The proposed Adani coal mine project animated voters in different parts of the state for different reasons, as did the spoiler role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was presumed to play.
Together, these factors reinforced an impression of “two Queenslands” in contention during the campaign.
Protests against the Adani mine’s environmental impact – and questions over its long-term economic benefit to regional communities – featured regularly once the election was called. Palaszczuk succeeded in defusing the issue to some extent early in the campaign with an abrupt declaration that she would veto federal infrastructure funding for the mine’s construction.
A feared backlash in places of regional discontent and high youth unemployment, like Townsville, didn’t entirely materialise, with Labor incumbents holding seats against expectations. But these concerns, in tandem with uncertainty over the Adani project, saw Labor lose Bundaberg and nearly lose the traditionally Labor-voting Rockhampton to independent candidate and former mayor Margaret Strelow.
The LNP’s position on supporting the Adani mine with public funds, and Nicholls’ prevarication over dealing with One Nation, appear to have hurt the party in Brisbane especially. But so too did Labor reminding voters of Nicholls’ role as treasurer in the Newman government.
As the election neared, Nicholls was swamped by constant questioning about cosying up to One Nation.
While always difficult to quantify, the federal Coalition government’s woes amid the same-sex marriage debate and citizenship fiasco likely did the LNP few favours.
Role of the minor parties
The Greens and One Nation capitalised on the dip in major party support, gaining significant vote shares of 10% and almost 14% respectively. However, each party won only a single seat.
Critically, both parties stripped valuable primary votes from Labor and the LNP, especially the latter’s vote in the regions. This will furrow the brows of federal Coalition MPs through this term of government. For good measure, One Nation preferences likely helped unseat some LNP MPs in the southeast.
The party’s state leader, Steve Dickson, lost out to the LNP in Buderim, while Senate outcast Malcolm Roberts didn’t present a serious threat to Labor in Ipswich.
Despite its failings, One Nation attracted more than 20% in the seats it contested and finished runner-up in two dozen of them, perhaps largely down to Hanson’s constant presence throughout the campaign.
Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), though standing candidates in only ten seats and not making much impact on the campaign, might have done best of all the minor parties. Its primary vote improved to more than 2%, gaining it another seat in Hinchinbrook on Labor and One Nation preferences.
KAP’s targeted approach might prove unwelcome news for the federal Coalition, which can expect similar levels of focused disaffection from conservative regional voters elsewhere. But a fragmenting primary vote spells trouble for all the major parties.
What next for Queensland?
Queensland now enters its first fixed-term period of government. The next election is due on October 31, 2020, with four-year terms following that.
Labor holds only 13 of 51 seats outside the Greater Brisbane area. With all seats decided, factional negotiations will now unfold to determine the make-up of Palaszczuk’s new cabinet. It’s fair to assume it will be Brisbane-centric.
With such a concentration of government MPs in the capital, Palaszczuk’s team will presumably clock up many kilometres – and spend some political capital – reassuring the regions they’re not forgotten.
In the wake of an underwhelming result for the LNP, Nicholls announced he is stepping down as party leader and won’t contest a leadership ballot early next week. The likes of David Crisafulli or Tim Mander, or potentially Deb Frecklington, loom as Nicholls’ likely successors.
Party insiders have complained that the election result proves the marriage between the formerly separate Liberal and National parties in Queensland has failed and should be broken up.
After five days of counting since the Queensland election on November 25, it is likely that Labor will win 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The ABC is currently calling 47 of 93 seats for Labor, 38 for the LNP, two for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP, one One Nation and one independent).
Two of the four uncalled seats are straightforward two-party contests. The LNP is very likely to win Burdekin, and Townsville is still lineball. Unless Labor loses a seat already called for it, they will have 47 of the 93 seats, a bare majority. The most likely such seat to be lost is Macallister.
A major break for Labor occurred in Rockhampton. On primary votes, Labor had 32%, independent Margaret Strelow 24%, One Nation 21% and the LNP 18%. Strelow had been expected to win on LNP and One Nation preferences, but LNP preferences flowed strongly to One Nation, putting it ahead of Strelow at the point where one was excluded. Labor has won on Strelow’s preferences by about 3,000 votes, according to the ABC’s Emilia Terzon.
In Macallister, Labor had 37% of the primary vote, the LNP 26.7%, and an independent, Hetty Johnston, 23.2%. Labor trounces the LNP after preferences, but Johnston could move ahead of the LNP on Greens and minor candidates’ preferences, especially as the Greens put her above Labor on their how-to-vote card.
However, according to the Courier-Mail as quoted by the Poll Bludger, Labor is “very confident” this scenario will not happen.
The Electoral Commission of Queensland frustratingly removed all its two-candidate results on Tuesday. The ABC’s two-candidate results are projections, not real votes. The Electoral Commission of Queensland conducted two-candidate counts on Monday in contested seats where the wrong candidates were selected on election night.
In Noosa, independent Sandy Bolton thrashed the LNP. In Cook, Labor convincingly defeated One Nation, but in Mirani One Nation defeated Labor. In Maiwar, Labor defeats the LNP on Greens preferences if it stays ahead of the Greens. In Burdekin, the LNP is slightly ahead of Labor after preferences.
The Greens are currently just 12 votes ahead of Labor in Maiwar on primary votes. Scrutineering information reported by Kevin Bonham suggests the Greens will gain on the preferences of a minor candidate. If they win the battle for second against Labor, they will easily defeat Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson.
KAP is likely to gain Hinchinbrook from the LNP from third place, on first Labor then One Nation preferences.
Assigning the four uncalled seats to the likely winners, the final seat outcome is likely to be 47 Labor, 39 LNP, three KAP, one One Nation, one Green and one independent, with Townsville still in significant doubt.
Same-sex marriage plebiscite aftermath polling
The same-sex marriage legislation passed the Senate on November 29, 43 votes to 12. Additional protections for religious freedom were not included in the final bill. This legislation will go to the lower house next week.
While many commentators have focused on western Sydney’s large “no” vote in the plebiscite, I think the strong support for “yes” in rural and regional Australia is important.
Only two rural electorates – Maranoa and Kennedy in Queensland – voted “no”. In electorates based on the regional cities of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Newcastle and Townsville, “yes” won at least 62%. In Oxley, where Pauline Hanson was first elected in 1996, “yes” won 60%.
In last week’s Essential poll, 42% thought current laws already provided enough protection for religious freedoms, while 37% thought any same-sex marriage legislation passed should include more protection for religious freedoms.
By 63-27, voters supported allowing ministers of religion and celebrants to refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings. However, by 48-43, voters opposed allowing service providers to refuse service for same-sex weddings, and by 44-42, they opposed allowing parents to withdraw their children from classes which do not reflect the parents’ views on marriage.
In this week’s Essential poll, 47% thought religious protections should be addressed separately from the same-sex marriage legislation, while 32% thought the legislation should include these protections.
In YouGov, by 46-36, voters thought the same-sex marriage legislation should incorporate new religious protection laws.
Essential 54-46 to federal Labor
This week’s Essential poll gave Labor the same two-party lead as last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Labor, 36% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800 for its voting intentions, with additional questions based on one week’s sample.
88% were concerned about energy prices, 83% about food prices, and 80% about housing affordability. At the bottom, only 57% were concerned about cuts in penalty rates.
49% thought the government should provide subsidies to speed up the transition to renewable energy, 16% thought it should let the market decide, and 12% slow the transition down.
By 64-12, voters supported a royal commission into the banking industry. 33% thought the economy was good, and 24% poor (30-29 good in May). However, by 39-31, voters thought the economy was heading in the wrong direction (41-29 in May).
In last week’s Essential poll, voters thought the government should run full term by 47-32, rather than call an early election. 36% expected Labor to win the next election, 20% the Coalition and 18% thought there would be a hung parliament.
44% (steady since January 2017) thought the economic and political system is fundamentally sound but needs to be refined. 32% (down eight) thought the system needs fundamental change, and 10% (up four) thought it is working well as it is. By 35-32, voters were satisfied with the way democracy is working in Australia.
This week’s YouGov, conducted November 23-27 from a sample of 1,034, had primary votes of 32% Coalition (up one since last fortnight), 32% Labor (down two), 11% One Nation (steady) and 10% Greens (down one). Despite the primary vote shift to the Coalition, Labor’s two-party lead increased a point to 53-47 on more favourable respondent preferences.
This is the first time in YouGov’s polling that Labor’s respondent-allocated two-party vote has matched what Labor would have got using the previous election method. In previous YouGov polls, the respondent allocation has always skewed to the Coalition, sometimes by as much as four points.
41% thought Malcolm Turnbull a weak leader and just 21% thought he is a strong leader. By 43-30, voters disapproved of the cancellation of this lower house sitting week. By 55-36, voters thought the government has a responsibility for the safety of the Manus Island asylum seekers.
By 46-40, voters favoured changing the Constitution to allow dual citizens to run for office (45-37 opposed in October). However, voters were opposed by 47-31 to allowing those who work for the state to run for office.
The two major Bennelong byelection candidates were both favourably perceived nationally. The Liberals’ John Alexander had a 40-29 favourable rating, and Labor’s Kristina Keneally a 39-29 favourable rating.
New England byelection: December 2
While the Bennelong byelection on December 16 is receiving much attention, the New England byelection will be held tomorrow, with polls closing at 6pm Melbourne time.
As far as I know, there has been no polling for New England publicly released since the byelection campaign began. Any result other than a clear win for Barnaby Joyce would be a major surprise.
But just before he walked into the chamber to be sworn in, Anning flagged he would sit as an independent.
Anning later declared he had not left One Nation – it was Hanson who had kicked him out.
The setback for Hanson comes as One Nation’s vote is apparently surging in the Queensland election. Polling published in The Courier-Mail at the weekend showed strong support for One Nation in various regional and urban fringe seats with a vote of more than 20% in some, although it would not have won any of the seats on the figures.
The Anning defection follows weeks of tension with Hanson and her adviser James Ashby, and a bitter clash at the One Nation party meeting on Monday morning.
Hanson said in a statement that before the High Court decision she had tried to speak with Anning while he was overseas, but her efforts “fell on deaf ears”. She’d had to communicate through his brother Harry instead.
She had indicated to Harry Anning “that given the work Malcolm Roberts had achieved as chair of the banking inquiry and his role in challenging climate change, it would be in the federal party’s and Australia’s best interests” for him to be returned to the Senate.
Anning had made no attempt to contact her or any One Nation executive members after multiple requests to discuss his plans, she claimed – something Anning disputes. “Instead he chose to release scathing media releases demanding I pledge my support to him without even meeting or speaking to him,” she said.
The statement said Anning only spoke with Hanson on Monday morning “but those talks quickly failed when she refused to allow several Anning staff into the party meeting. The staffers had formerly worked for Roberts and she would not have them at the meeting “because of their disloyalty to their former employer and myself.”
Anning then walked out of the meeting.
One Nation senators Brian Burston and Peter Georgiou sought to mediate, but they were told “only minutes before he was sworn into the Senate” that Anning would sit as an independent, Hanson’s statement said.
Anning had a different version. He said he had been verbally attacked in the partyroom. “This was profoundly shocking to me as I had been a friend and supporter of Pauline for over 20 years … the attack was so vitriolic that I was obliged to simply walk out.”
He said Burston and Georgiou had told him Hanson demanded he not employ the staffers – he had said this was unacceptable. He believed these demands were actually coming from Ashby, “who had previously conducted a witch-hunt against anyone he thought supported me, and it was he who had turned Pauline against me”.
At the last minute, Anning’s office asked Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and the Australian Conservatives’ Cory Bernardi to escort him for the swearing in, which his One Nation colleagues had been due to do. Anning said Hanson had told the One Nation senators not to do so.
“The next thing I knew, I saw on the TV that I had supposedly become an independent. This was news to me!
“It seems that without even contacting me, Pauline has unilaterally kicked me out of her party,” he said. “I have to say I’m stunned.” He said it was “simply false” to say he’d left One Nation. “If I’m no longer a One Nation senator, it is because Pauline has expelled me by press release.”
Hanson’s statement said she believed former employees of Roberts contacted Anning several months ago, encouraging him to move to Bernardi’s party if Roberts lost his seat.
She said before Roberts came under the citizenship cloud she had asked Anning to contest the state seat of Gladstone, but he dismissed the request on the grounds he and his wife were moving permanently to the US.
Leyonhjelm said Anning told him on their way into the chamber that he wouldn’t be sitting as a One Nation senator.
He had been aware of the tensions earlier but had been told by a One Nation senator at the weekend that all was well with Anning.
Asked if Anning might join the Liberal Democrats Leyonhjelm said he had not spoken to him about that. Anning would have to be comfortable with the party, he said.
Roberts is running for a seat in the Queensland election.
The ongoing legal controversies surrounding Western Australian senator Rod Culleton – described by a Federal Court judge as “something approaching a carnival, if not a circus” – took a new turn on Wednesday. Senate President Stephen Parry made the constitutional step of notifying the WA government of a Senate vacancy due to Culleton’s disqualification following a long saga over his eligibility to sit in the upper house.
Even before the 2016 election results were formally declared, questions were being asked over whether Culleton was actually eligible to be a senator. Since that time, two key constitutional issues have emerged.
The Court of Disputed Returns
The first issue relates to a larceny charge in New South Wales concerning a A$7.50 tow truck key. Culleton was convicted in March 2016. However, the conviction was annulled in August, meaning it “ceases to have effect”.
While Culleton later pleaded guilty at a rehearing in October, no conviction was ultimately recorded.
In November, the Senate referred this conviction’s constitutional impact to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. The issue is whether Culleton’s election was valid under Section 44(ii) of the Constitution, which provides a person is incapable of being a senator if they have:
… been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a state by imprisonment for one year or longer.
The larceny conviction falls squarely within this section’s scope. The critical question is whether Culleton had actually been convicted at the time of his election (and was therefore ineligible), given this was subsequently annulled.
The central issue concerns the word “annulment”. If the Court of Disputed Returns holds that the conviction never existed then this issue falls away. If, however, the effect of an annulment is not retrospective then Culleton was never eligible to be elected.
At the conclusion of hearings on December 7 the court reserved its decision. It is not scheduled to sit again until January 30.
There is no guarantee that a decision will be handed down at the next sittings, or before the Senate next meets on February 7. However, the court has previously recognised the public interest in this matter being resolved expeditiously.
Culleton’s bankruptcy proceedings
The second issue concerns bankruptcy proceedings filed against Culleton.
On December 23, 2016, a Federal Court judge ordered that Culleton’s estate be sequestrated (or seized to pay his debts). All proceedings under the order were stayed for 21 days; this stay was due to be lifted on January 13.
Culleton continues to assert he is not bankrupt, and is able to pay his debts. However, the Federal Court judge dismissed this. He noted that, despite assertions made before the court, there was “no material evidence” produced to support these claims. An appeal against the sequestration order was filed on January 11, but no date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.
The effect of a sequestration order is that the debtor becomes a bankrupt. In Culleton’s case, this then enlivens sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. These provide that an undischarged bankrupt is incapable of sitting as a senator, and their Senate position becomes vacant.
Parry’s statement indicated he has received from the inspector-general in bankruptcy and the Federal Court registry documents recording Culleton’s status as an undischarged bankrupt. The necessary constitutional implication is that Culleton’s Senate position is vacant.
What happens next?
This saga still has some way to go before its conclusion. But it is almost certain that Culleton will not be able to continue as a senator.
Even if he successfully appeals the sequestration order and the Court of Disputed Returns rules in his favour, Culleton still faces further constitutional hurdles. Another creditor’s petition is yet to be heard by the Federal Court, and a stealing charge is listed for trial in Perth in September 2017. These could each result in Culleton being constitutionally precluded from sitting as a senator.
From a constitutional perspective, however, it is critical that the correct grounds for disqualification are established. This will affect how a replacement senator is chosen.
If the Court of Disputed Returns rules that Culleton was never eligible to be elected, then – based on precedent – the most-likely outcome is that the second-listed One Nation candidate from the 2016 election will be declared elected. This happens to be Culleton’s brother-in-law, Peter Georgiou.
If, however, Culleton was initially eligible but is subsequently disqualified as an undischarged bankrupt, then a casual vacancy would arise to be dealt with under Section 15 of the Constitution. In this case, One Nation would recommend a party member to fill the vacancy, and the WA parliament would formally appoint this replacement.
If the WA parliament is not in session – which is a distinct possibility given a state election will be held on March 11 – then the WA governor will make the appointment, which must then be confirmed at the next state parliamentary sittings. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has already tweeted that she has selected a “great person” as a replacement if a casual vacancy is declared.
Given these possibilities, it would be prudent to wait until both the existing bankruptcy appeal and the Court of Disputed Returns’ decision are finalised before taking any steps to fill the vacancy. This is far from ideal given both the close numbers in the Senate and that WA will be under-represented in the “states’ house” for as long as the position remains unfilled.
However, the removal of a senator who was duly elected by the people only six months ago is not something to be done lightly. And it is certainly not something to be done on anything other than conclusively determined constitutional grounds.
The federal election result is on a knife-edge, with the outcome between a majority Turnbull government and a hung parliament.
Malcolm Turnbull has been delivered a major rebuff and left potentially embattled, with bitter recriminations breaking out in conservative ranks. Even if the Coalition ends up with a majority, Turnbull will have an uphill struggle to manage a party that includes many who are his enemies.
There were immediate calls for a review of the superannuation policy that the government took to the election, which cut back concessions for high-income earners and deeply angered the Liberals’ base.
Liberal ministers blamed Labor’s Medicare scare campaign for turning voters against the Coalition.
Late in the night the swing against the government was 3.6%. The election has seen a high vote for small parties.
Turnbull waited until after midnight to address his supporters, declaring: “I can report that based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament”. In his speech, he did not accept any blame for the bad result or suggest he would make any changes as a result.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the Coalition was “on the cusp” of being able to claim the 76 seats needed to form majority government.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who spoke to supporters around 11:30PM, said the outcome might not be known for days but whatever happened one thing was sure: “the Labor Party is back”. He said the Liberals had “lost their mandate”.
Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said there was “too much on the table to call it tonight”.
The ABC said that with more than 70% of votes counted, the Coalition was on track to win 72 seats, and Labor set to claim 66, with five crossbenchers including one Green, and seven seats in doubt.
An unanticipated big swing in Tasmania has cost the Liberals Bass, Braddon and Lyons. Labor has won Eden-Monaro (NSW), Macarthur (NSW), and the notional Liberal seat of Burt in Western Australia.
In Queensland, Assistant Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy appears to have lost Longman and the Liberals may lose Herbert. The Sydney seat of Lindsay is likely to fall, as is Macquarie. In the Northern Territory, Solomon is set to fall.
Nick Xenophon’s Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) candidate Rebekha Sharkie has taken Mayo from former minister Jamie Briggs, who had to quit the frontbench after an incident in a Hong Kong bar. Briggs tweeted “After a tough fight tonight hasn’t been our night”.
The Liberals could win the Victorian Labor seat of Chisholm. The Labor-Green contest in Batman is neck and neck.
Despite Turnbull calling the double dissolution to clear out small players in the Senate, the new Senate will contain a plethora of micro players. They will include three South Australian senators from NXT. Pauline Hanson has been elected to a Senate seat in Queensland. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch has claimed a Victorian Senate seat. Independent Jacqui Lambie has been returned in Tasmania.
In his speech Turnbull took on criticism, already being aired, that he should not have called a double dissolution, saying this had not been a political tactic but had been driven by the “need to restore the rule of law to the construction industry”.
Even if Turnbull wins majority government he may not have the numbers to get the industrial relations bills, which were the trigger for the double dissolution, through a joint sitting.
The backlash in conservative ranks erupted immediately.
Senator Cory Bernardi said in a tweet to Liberal pollster Mark Textor:
Broadcaster Alan Jones clashed with one of Turnbull’s numbers men, senator James McGrath, on the Network Seven panel. “There were a lot of bed-wetters in the Liberal Party and you seemed to be the captain of the bed-wetters,” Jones said. McGrath hit back, saying Jones was “not a friend” of the Coalition.
Tony Abbott’s former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and Attorney-General George Brandis had a spat on the Sky panel over the government’s superannuation changes. Credlin said the changes would not go through the Coalition partyroom in their present form; Brandis retorted she was not in the partyroom.
Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said there had been strident criticism in emails to his office of the superannuation changes. “I for one will be advocating we reconsider aspects of it.”
Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said the party’s base was “furious” with the superannuation policy. “I certainly hope the partyroom would look at this issue.”
Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt called for Turnbull to quit. “You have been a disaster. You betrayed Tony Abbott and then led the party to humiliation, stripped of both values and honour. Resign.”
Morrison, asked if Abbott could have won the election, replied “highly unlikely”.
Roy and Peter Hendy, member for Eden-Monaro, were both heavily involved in the Turnbull coup.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said “undoubtedly” the Medicare scare campaign had been an important factor in the result. She said a number of people on election day had raised Medicare with her at polling booths.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Labor’s Medicare’s scare was more effective than the government had thought during the campaign. “No doubt the absolute lie Labor was running on Medicare was effective.”
Turnbull lashed out over the Medicare scare, saying “the Labor Party ran some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia”.
He said that “no doubt” the police would investigate last minute text messages to voters that said they came from Medicare.
Abetz said the “three amigos” in Bass, Braddon and Lyons had been swamped by the Medicare campaign.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held New England from independent challenger Tony Windsor. Independent Cathy McGowan retained Indi. The Nationals have taken Murray from the Liberals, and headed off a challenge in Cowper from independent Rob Oakeshott.
The poll has seen the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives – Linda Burney in the NSW seat of Barton.
The pre-poll count continued to 2AM. There will be no more counting until Tuesday.
Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to deflated supporters in the early hours of Sunday morning was extraordinarily lacking in self-awareness.
Turnbull had just brought his party a devastatingly bad election result. That’s true even if he manages to reach majority government, which remains far from clear despite his assertions. In the early hours of Sunday things got closer as more votes were counted. With 77.6% of the vote counted, the ABC tally had the Coalition and Labor on 67 seats each, five crossbenchers, and 11 seats in doubt.
Yet Turnbull showed not a scintilla of humility. He made no gesture of contrition, no promise that he had heard the message the people had delivered.
Instead he denounced Labor’s scare campaign – as if the Liberals themselves have not at times been masters of that dark art. And he made an unconvincing attempt to justify a double dissolution that has ended up producing a Senate as potentially difficult as the last one, with the added negative of including Pauline Hanson, so giving her a national platform.
There is now a bizarre parallel between Labor and the Liberals in turning triumph into disaster. Kevin Rudd won convincingly in 2007. He was then removed by his party and successor Julia Gillard came out of the subsequent election with a hung parliament. Tony Abbott had a strong win in 2013, was replaced – and now the Coalition will have a tiny majority or there will be another hung parliament, with the outcome depending on the crossbenchers.
Turnbull and his supporters can argue that if Abbott had still been leader the loss would have been greater, and that’s probably correct. But it is unlikely to be an argument that will do Turnbull much good in the days ahead when there won’t be a lot of Liberal love around.
Turnbull complains about Labor’s lies about Medicare’s future, but they were made more credible to the public because of the Coalition’s previous lies and actions. Did it think people would not remember Abbott’s 2013 promise of no cuts to health? Or the attempt in the 2014 budget to bring in a co-payment, unsuccessful though it was? Or the various subsequent moves for cuts and user pays measures?
Labor’s campaign might have been exaggerated and dishonest, but the Coalition itself had effectively given the ALP the building blocks for it.
Turnbull’s argument that he called a double dissolution not to change the nature of the Senate but because the lawlessness in the construction industry had to be confronted is facile. He did not even make the industrial relations legislation a central talking point in the campaign.
And in his speech he overlooked the point that even if he reaches majority government it is doubtful he would have the overall parliamentary numbers to get the bills through a joint sitting (although at this stage it is impossible to be definite about what the new senators might do).
In the wash-up, everything from the Coalition’s strategy for the past eight weeks – running almost entirely on a “plan” based on company tax cuts – to the mechanics of getting the case across, will be under internal criticism. It will be remembered that Turnbull’s pitch for leadership included his ability as an economic salesman. That, as it turned out, he over-hyped.
The Liberal conservatives will try to unravel policy. They started on election night with their bugbear – the superannuation changes. Assuming the Coalition survives in government, how will the ructions in the Liberals now play out for the same-sex marriage plebiscite?
Turnbull was looking for a mandate to allow him to be his own man. Instead of getting that, his government has been left struggling to survive.
If it does, the conservative forces will now take one of two views of him: as someone who must be forced to follow their will on core policies, or as someone who at a future date should be replaced. Or maybe they will adopt both views.
Turnbull’s enemies within his party have played this election craftily. Abbott was mostly quiet during the campaign, although in the final week he made clear that he thought the issues of budget repair, national security and border protection had been underdone. His former chief-of-staff Peta Credlin used her role as TV commentator to run an at times sharp critique of the Turnbull campaign. Now the conservatives will be full-throated.
Turnbull talks about the need for stability and unity. The Australian public is faced with instability. Whatever the result ends up being, there is no clear mandate and an extremely difficult Senate.
Turnbull, if he is still prime minister, would be confronted by the prospect of internal disunity plus a chaotic upper house that could likely make it nearly impossible to do much that is meaningful.
As happened when he was opposition leader, Turnbull is again in a situation where he didn’t read the danger signals. He thought he was more persuasive than Bill Shorten; he and his strategists (apparently) believed that whatever the national polls said, the marginal seats would stick. They said the election would be close but appeared confident it was in the bag.
Turnbull will pay a high price for his misjudgements, though it is unclear exactly how high.
After counting into the early hours of Sunday morning, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) currently has Labor leading in 72 of the 150 lower house seats, with the Coalition ahead in 66.
There are seven not-yet-determined seats, where the AEC selected the wrong candidates to count on a two-party-preferred basis and now has to realign the count. The Coalition will win five of those seven seats, and Labor one, bringing the totals to 73 for Labor and 71 for the Coalition.
However, late counting, particularly of postal votes, favours the Coalition. The AEC lists five seats as close, and in three of those Labor is narrowly ahead. If the Coalition wins these three on late counting, the Coalition would lead the seat count 74-70. Other seats where Labor currently leads could also be won by the Coalition on late counting.
Current sitting crossbenchers Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan and Adam Bandt easily retained office, and will be joined by the Nick Xenophon Team’s (NXT) Rebekha Sharkie, who crushed Liberal Jamie Briggs in Mayo.
The NXT could win a second seat in Grey, one of the seven seats where the AEC needs to realign the count.
However, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott both lost their bids to return. The Greens are unlikely to win a second seat.
Labor gained all three Tasmanian seats that were previously held by the Coalition, and also gained Solomon in the Northern Territory. Labor gained seven seats in New South Wales, at least two in Queensland and at least one in Western Australia.
The current primary votes are 41.8% for the Coalition (down 3.7% on 2013 election figures), 35.3% for Labor (up 1.9%), and 10% for the Greens (up 1.3%). “Others” have a collective 12.9% (up 6%). In South Australia, the NXT won 21% of the vote. The Coalition and Greens are likely to gain a little at the expense of Labor in late counting.
Kevin Bonham says the current two-party swing against the Coalition in the 138 classic Coalition vs Labor seats is 3.3%, which will probably moderate to 3% when counting is finalised. The Coalition is thus likely to win the two-party count by about 50.5%-49.5%, but will lose many more seats than it should have based on sophomore effects. Perhaps Labor’s marginal seats campaign was strong enough to overcome sophomore effects.
Sitting members usually have small personal votes that are not associated with their parties. When one party wins a seat from another party’s sitting member, they should get an additional boost at the next election, but this didn’t appear to happen last night.
The final pre-election polls were very close to the overall primary and two-party figures, but single seat polls were poor. Yet again, national polls were much better than seat polls.
Though it is unlikely Labor will form the next government, this is a much better result for Labor and Bill Shorten than was expected, particularly when Malcolm Turnbull was riding high in the polls after deposing Tony Abbott.
For Turnbull and the Coalition, this was a bad result. However, it is clear that Turnbull’s popularity dropped between February and April as he abandoned his more “liberal” approaches to climate change, same-sex marriage and other issues. Had Turnbull been more progressive on some issues, it is likely he would have been comfortably re-elected.
Reformed system produces even messier Senate
Even if the Coalition scrapes out a lower house majority, it will have fewer senators than it currently has.
One of the newly elected senators will be Pauline Hanson. Here is the Senate table, based on results at the ABC. There are 76 total senators.
The three definite “Others” are Pauline Hanson in Queensland, Derryn Hinch in Victoria and Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania. Most of the undecided seats will be contested by micro parties, with One Nation in the race for other seats.
The Coalition had 33 seats in the old Senate, so this will be reduced. This will make it difficult to pass the industrial relations bills that were the reason a double-dissolution election was called, even with a joint sitting.
Normally only six senators for each state would be up for election, but as this election was a double dissolution all 12 were up. The quota for election was reduced from 14.3% to 7.7%, and this has benefited smaller parties.
Under the old Senate system, it would have been possible to calculate Senate seats using the group voting tickets. As preferences are now up to voters, it is unlikely we will know the outcome of some of the undecided Senate seats until the AEC has data entered all votes and pressed the “button” on its computer system, probably by late July or early August.