WA Senate Election
A re-run of the Western Australian Senate election will take place tomorrow.
The re-run was ordered following the loss of 1,370 ballot papers that were cast at the 2013 federal election. Australian Sports Party candidate Wayne Dropulich and Greens (WA) candidate Scott Ludlam successfully petitioned the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to conduct a recount of the election, during which time it was discovered 231 votes from the Division of Forrest were lost. These votes have never been located, and a further 1,139 ballot papers from the Division of Pearce were then found to also be missing.
The AEC subsequently conducted an inquiry into the election, which identified a number of deficiencies in the handling of the ballot papers. The inquiry concluded that the reason for the ballots being misplaced may never be known.
As a result, the AEC lodged a petition with the Court of Disputed Returns, seeking orders to void the WA Senate result. The Court determined that the only relief appropriate was, in fact, to void the election result because the scale of lost votes “could not be dismissed as irrelevant or trivial”.
On the advice of the Prime Minister, the Governor of Western Australia asked that writs be issued for another election to take place tomorrow, Saturday 5 April.
Tomorrow’s Senate election re-run will be the third occasion in just over twelve months that Western Australian voters have gone to the polls – last year, state and federal general elections took place in March and September respectively.
As a result, a lower than usual voter turn-out could affect the final outcome, with the party’s running grassroots campaigns to try and get people out to vote.
The campaign has been largely fought on national issues and their impact on Western Australians. The Liberals’ campaign has focussed on the damage caused to the WA economy by the former Labor Government’s carbon and mining taxes, while Labor has run on possible cuts in the federal budget to funding for services and the possibility of job losses.
Palmer United Party (PUP) leader, Clive Palmer MP, has spearheaded his party’s campaign, with some media analysts suggesting that PUP has outspent the major parties several-fold. PUP has everything to gain in this campaign; if the party can win a WA seat tomorrow, it will hold three crucial seats on the crossbench – and the balance of power – in the new Senate from 1 July.
The profile of Greens’ lead candidate, Scott Ludlam, has been boosted as a result of his party’s social media campaign at this re-run election. The incumbent Senator’s YouTube video message to Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been viewed over 800,000 times. However, Labor’s failure to direct its second preference to The Greens may hamper his prospects.
The Liberals have historically enjoyed stronger support in Western Australia than in the eastern states. Last September, as at previous elections, the Liberals would have secured three Senate seats. We would expect a similar outcome tomorrow.
However, Labor and The Greens suffered swings against them in 2013. Historically, Labor would have expected to win two Senate seats in WA, with the sixth seat fought out between the minor parties. However, in the initial 2013 count, the PUP would have secured the fifth WA Senate seat, while in the re-count, Labor would have been reduced to just one seat, with the Australian Sports Party and The Greens securing the final two seats.
This election is unprecedented and the final outcome uncertain. With greater scrutiny of micro-party preference arrangements this time around, along with a strong PUP campaign, we would expect that if the Liberals were to again win three seats, Labor will likely win two of the remaining seats with the final seat to be fought out between The Greens and the PUP.