Saturday, November 9, 2013

Greens win WA senate recount as new election appears likely

WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam was officially re-elected to the senate on November 4 after an historic recount of WA senate votes from the September federal election. He and the Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich were winners in favour of the ALP's Louise Pratt and the candidate of the Palmer United Party.

Prior to the recount, a 14 vote difference between Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers Party led to a preference flow that supported Pratt. After the recount, a 12 vote margin favoured Ludlam. The call for the recount was vindicated by the fact that hundreds of votes changed hands in the process.

The recount has been marred, however, by the loss by the Australian Electoral Commission of almost 1400 votes which may have changed the result. Most commentators believe that a new election will be the only way to resolve the matter.

A new election would be significant because it would test the levels of support for the Labor Party (which won only one seat) and the Liberal Party (which won three senate positions) after the early attacks of the Abbott government become known. It will also impact on whether the Greens or Palmer United Party have more influence in the senate balance of power after July.

Another feature of a new election would be a likely increased involvement by so-called ``micro parties'' who have been emboldened by the wins by Dropulich and other newcomers. Already it has been reported [ ] the ``preference whisperer'' Glenn Druery is planning another micro party preference swap explicitly designed to elect small right wing parties instead of Greens.

The Socialist Alliance – which has welcomed Ludlam's re-election – has called a WA state conference for December 7 with the intention of fielding candidates in any new poll. Socialist Alliance WA co-convenor Sam Wainwright has made clear that the party will maintain its principled preference policy of supporting the Greens and other progressive candidates before Labor and then Liberals.

``Being a small party is not in itself a virtue,'' Wainwright told Green Left. ``If we are unsuccessful, we'd prefer that our preferences help to re-elect a Green senator than to support a right wing party.''

[This article by Alex Bainbridge was written for Green Left Weekly #988. Photo: Scott Ludlam speaking at refugee rights rally 20 July 2013.]