Saving the Senate

Discussion over the Labor leadership, and the government in general, is now academic, in the pejorative sense of the term. Barring a shock on a larger scale than that of 2001, Abbott is going to win the election, whenever it is held, and win it easily. Nothing Labor does or doesn’t do can make any real difference now.

At this point, the only issue to be considered is whether he can be stopped from gaining control of the Senate. Labor and the Greens have 21 seats from 2010, and Labor can be assured of 1 each in the territories (there’s a perennial hope that a Green or independent will win the second ACT seat, but I’m not counting on it. That means they need to win a combined 3 seats in every state for a majority, and can block legislation if they win 3 in at least five states.

Appalling as Labor’s situation is, they should still muster enough support for two senators in each state, but have (AFAICT) no realistic chance of getting three anywhere. So, what’s needed is to elect a Green in every state.

What can be done to achieve this? The first requirement is that the geniuses who run Labor’s preference strategies should not pull the stunts they have in the past, cutting deals with rightwing independents in the futile hope of adding one to their numbers. If anyone reading this has any influence in this respect, they should exercise it now.

The second is to make a positive case for the Greens that will appeal to people who don’t like Abbott, but can no longer justify a vote for Labor. In my view, the Greens are now the real inheritors of the best traditions of Labor, as opposed to the kind of hardhat/HiVizVest posturing that passes for “Labor values” in the ALP. But that case needs to be spelt out for voters who are understandably turned off by the entire political scene.

Suggestions welcome

172 thoughts on “Saving the Senate

  1. Maybe the Aust public has gone too far down the road (the one that goes off to the right ) and things still have to get worse before they can get better . Perhaps we should just prepare for Abott to complete the process, and have faith that people can change quickly when they have to . Some faith in the Earths regenerative abilities woud also be good .

  2. 40 years of neolib social engineering is hard to shift as long as the vast majority feel relativley “relaxed and comfortable ” . Old media makes it harder . Labor should give up chasing them to the right .
    Maybe in 10 years when half a generation of people has died off with the newspapers , internet news still wont be controlled by big money and the global western stagnation will have been here long enough to allow significant change .

  3. I think it’s more likely than not that the Libs will win three Senators in SA, even if Xenophon is re-elected (as seems to be expected). Against Xenophon in 2007, they won 2.5 quotas on primaries, and the polling suggests a large swing to the Coalition in SA this year — that would get them close to or past 3 quotas on primaries. Labor gets 2, and Sarah Hanson-Young misses out.

    Zed Seselja won a pretty handsome swing to the Liberals in last year’s ACT election, so I’m not confident that the Greens can pinch his Senate spot, though they may as well try harder than usual.

    I think Qld could go in any number of ways. Katter’s party polled the equivalent of 0.8 quotas at last year’s state election, so I think they’ll comfortably get a Senator. But are they getting votes from mostly disaffected Labor voters, mostly disaffected LNP voters, or an even combination of both? In terms of swings from the 2010 result, Labor is stronger in Qld than anywhere else, so I think there’s a decent chance of ALP+GRN winning 3 Senators, though perhaps that’s just optimism on my part that Katter will take votes mostly off old LNP supporters. I won’t be surprised either if there’s 3 LNP 1 KAP or even 2 LNP 1 KAP 1 Shooters and Fishers or something.

  4. Absolutely nothing that this “Mel” has posted, so this is the problem.

    Oh I see, the burden of proof is on him to refute your accusations rather than for you to produce any supporting evidence.

    That seems fair.


  5. Chris, in the absence of an unqualified apology you will be banned immediately and permanently. I remind everyone, but particularly Chris, FB and Mel that personal attacks on other commenters are prohibited

  6. A tactic would be to have a separate Senate campaign focussing on the individual senators, some of whom really bear little scrutiny without provoking alarm and also look at the preferencing arrangements.

    Labor would need to agree to exchange preferences with the Greens if that was possible. It seems however that Simon Crean’s strategy is now apparent – he never wanted Kevin Rudd to be leader last week; he wants that role for himself and will work against anything that will save Labor in the House of Reps or the Senate as per the statements about superannuation today.

    I doubt that Labor can overcome this persistent race to the bottom. That Crean thinks he has a chance at the leadership shows how delusional the dinosaurs of the party are.

    The Greens strategy should be to gather preferences and to market themselves as responsible and reasonable human beings and eschew candidates with crazy hairstyles and wild ideas. One of the main impediments that the Greens face is that so many of their supporters like to present edgy images which alienate many who might otherwise vote for them.

  7. John, with your permission, saving the senate should include will the greens elect any senators north of Tasmania?

    the greens will fight the WA Nats for the last seat in WA.

    Nick no pokies will take the last seat in SA with a quota on his own right.

    Katter will take the last seat in Qld with a little help from LNP.

    the greens have no retiring senators in NSW or Vic. they may win the last seats in those 2 states from Labor on Liberal preferences? will the Liberals put the Greens last?

  8. I totally agree with Quiggins- the only hope is if the Greens can block Abbott in the Senate.

  9. I don’t think we should listen to what David Barry says because he sells chemtrails to the UN.

  10. Disagree:
    The Greens need a political thrashing by the ALP and ex-ALP voters – they were the ones who by refusing to deal with Rudd on the ETS – caused the ETS to hinge on the LNP support.
    Result – the carefully worked ETS package was dumped. The ALP implosion can be traced to that decision of the Greens to be “pure”. They can’t be rewarded for this.
    The Greens need to mature before they can participate in a democracy – true they can be a block but at what price – continuing marginalisation.
    Abbott is just the latest in the radical right’s slow project to re-make Australian society in their image, people aren’t like that and they will kick back eventually.
    The Greens are not the inheritors of the best traditions of the ALP unless you mean years in the wilderness failing to be relevant to the political discourse.
    Like it or not most people who decide elections are reasonably middle of the road who might get all tribal about their football club – but will not give a fig about the political tribes. Seeing them for what they do not for their rhetoric.

  11. @ratee the Libs had 37 senators after the 2007 election and with family first had 38 which is enough to block any carbon tax and other legislation.

    the views of the greens did not count in the senate between 2007 and 2010 unless they, family first and nick no pokies all agreed to sum to a vote of 39:37..

  12. @ratee

    The Greens need a political thrashing by the ALP and ex-ALP voters

    Actually, we will be OK in the election. Our core support will remain, though I suppose we might lose a few ‘tactical’ voters. We are a party with coherent and abiding principles, so for us, whether we do a little better or a little worse is neither here nor there.

    they were the ones who by refusing to deal with Rudd on the ETS

    That turns the history on its head. Rudd quite deliberately refused to deal with us, instead, deciding to play cute with the Libs, in the hope of crafting a deal that would split the Libs and prevent us from supporting it — allowing the ALP to claim all of the credit and to weaken Turnbull. It was all a game to him, but that said, it was stunningly artful — and it very nearly worked. Turnbull was rolled — by one vote. But the coalition ranks largely held on the issue and then, having tried to outmanoeuvre us, the ALP appealed to us — whom he’d tried to marginalise — to help him salvage some respectability by voting for a deal only a fossil fuel apologist could support.

    Unsurprisingly, we said no thanks. Even then, Rudd might simply have played his last card — a s57 dissolution — and run on “who has the mandate. He’d almost certainly have won — saving his Carbon Polluters Reward Scheme and his leadership — but as has now become clear, he had no stomach for a serious fight and eventually gave up the moral ascendancy and therewith the leadership. From then on, he was apologising for his policies.

    That his supporters blame us for his opportunism, cowardice and cravenness is ludicrous.

    Like it or not most people who decide elections are reasonably middle of the road who might get all tribal about their football club – but will not give a fig about the political tribes

    It’s the job of political parties to shake people out of apathy and ignorance rather than pander to it. The preference of the ALP for the latter over the former course explains most of their current predicament. They just can’t get enough ignorant, malign or foolish people — or people likely to indulge such folk — to vote for them — and they want us of all parties, to cover them as they try. LOL …

  13. @Fran Barlow

    The Greens just did not have the numbers in the senate to pass the CPRS. Before denouncing Rudd for either taking the same line as Gillard or accepting advice from Gillard, you really need to consider the state of the parties. All you’re doing is giving aid and comfort to the Labor Right who are fast developing the Greens as the main culprit in a ‘We was robbed’ narrative for after the election.

    And you’re doing that by describing a state of the world that did not exist between 2007 and 2010.

  14. Terry, the allocation of ALP preferences could make a difference – as they have in getting fringe conservatives like fielding elected at the expense of the greens.

    I think there’s one important argument that I haven’t seen anyone make. The libs have started to float proposals to change voting rules (which naturally would disadvantage ALP). If Abbott gets control of both houses, stand-by for a campaign for the oz and conservative commentariat. The temptation would be overwhelming.

    How about appealing to the ALP to pref greens this time around – or run the risk of losing votes when Abbott changes the rules of the game

  15. @John Quiggin

    Well it’s interesting that Mel made baseless and nasty attacks in the past on several people including me. Mel was the original attacking offender who stirred the hornets’ nest up and got several people, including me, seriously angry. We pushed back because we were not going to take that sort of rubbish lying down. Mel appears not to have suffered any reprimand or threat of ban for his initiating role in this imbroglio, at least so far as I can see.

    Prof. J.Q. if you want to let the original offender off scot free and ban those who defended themselves vigorously then I am baffled at your sense of proportion and justice. If you do proceed to ban targets of Mel who pushed back then you better ban me too. I will exit in sympathy and solidarity with those others who exercised self-defence and proportionate response.

  16. @Chris labour preferences will not matter because the greens and labor will be competing for the last senate seat in nsw, vic and tasmania.

    Katter and nick no pokies will win the last seats in qld and sa

    The greens will need labor preferences to keep their seat in WA out of the hands of the WA nats.

    The libs will get a quota in the ACT. The libs got 40% in the assembly elections while the greens lost threevof their 4 MLAs

  17. @Alan

    The Greens just did not have the numbers in the senate to pass the CPRS.

    Irrelevant. In July 2009, Abbott was arguing for the Libs to roll over and give the regime what it wanted. Rudd only had to ask and he would have received. He could have said that he was implementing Garnaut and the Libs, to avoid a split, would have yielded. He didn’t need the Greens. He also had s57 up his sleeve. On the downside, we would have supported the deal, and the Libs could simply have abstained. Rudd wanted to split them and marginalise us — and so he couldn’t take yes for an answer.

    All you’re doing is giving aid and comfort to the Labor Right who are fast developing the Greens as the main culprit in a ‘We was robbed’ narrative for after the election


    Unlike you, I have zero interest in the cant uttered by the Labor right, or the Labor “left” for that matter. The ALP is a centre-right party, squabbling with another centre-right party that is somewhat to their right on a number of issues. If the ALP want to delude themselves to salve their pain — and recent events suggest they do — that’s scarcely a problem for us.

    And you’re doing that by describing a state of the world that did not exist between 2007 and 2010.

    You seem to prefer the notional world to the living and breathing world of winter 2009. Why is that?

  18. @Ikonoclast

    The fight was already well under way by the time it came up on my radar, so I don’t know who started it. I’ve advised all participants that further attacks will merit a ban, but, despite his offering what appears to be a totally baseless slur, I’m giving Chris anohter chance.

  19. @Fran Barlow so all them communists who infiltrated the ALP could have just as easily joined the other central right parties? The unions could have just as easily joined other centre right parties. Bob hawke, ben chifley and bob menzies arm in arm?

  20. @Jim Rose

    so all them communists who infiltrated the ALP could have just as easily joined the other central right parties?

    In the 1950s, there was a clear and organic link with organised labour. That link has now atrophied. That said. it was Chifley who used troops to smash the coal strike of 1949, ushering in 23 years of coalition rule. The DLP was pro-Menzies.

    Bob Hawke did suppress the BLF, expressed his solidarity with Reagan around the airline pilots dispute.

  21. And what is the this garbage about about “communists infiltrated the Labor party”.
    GROW UP, Jim Rose.

  22. This is heresy but I’m starting to think the only thing that will stop the ALP from dragging the leftmost edge of the Overton window further and further right is optional preferential voting so they can’t take Green preferences for granted. Until the Greens or another left of centre party become sufficiently established to govern, Labor will go on being just slightly better than the Libs. Abbott may be obnoxious and scary but maybe we need destruction to get rebirth.
    I think optional preferential woud be attractive to the Libs as it would probably instantly remove 5% of Labor’s 2pp. I don’t think this requires a referendum, so maybe something to hope for if the senate isn’t saved.
    Perhaps this is just being fed up with Labor, I criticised Rudd as Howard lite and now find Gillard more conservative, and the tribal nature of the Labor defences really annoys me.
    I know this reads as a concern troll but I’m starting not to care.Think I’ll sink into political apathy 😉

  23. John Quiggin

    You are being unfair. I do not and have never made any baseless slur and I certainly never make baseless attacks.

    The post you deleted was ENTIRELY factual in every detail, and I am quite willing to link to the source. I deliberately did not include the company name, and product serial numbers purely because this was not relevant. Not because there was no such ‘base’.

    While of course, evidence is not proof – it is however grounds for seeking clarification.

    I am quite happy to provide the detailed basis for seeking this clarification.

    I have no view over fluoride – but I do not accept the type of crude jibing we have witnessed at those who are seeking to expose concerns they rightfully have.

    The jibes were continual and exaggerated.

    In fact I made no claim, I only sought clarification.

    However I am quite happy to let the matter rest, provided there are no more attacks on those querying fluoride.

    That may be the best course of action.

  24. FB: “That said. it was Chifley who used troops to smash the coal strike of 1949, ushering in 23 years of coalition rule.”

    Chifley did the right thing. What alternative did he have?

    The claim that Chifley ending the strike put the conservatives in power for 23 years is simply false. If the working class was behind the Communists who were employing their union power to use industrial action to smash democracy, they would have drifted off to the left not the right. How is that not obvious?

  25. CW has accused me of selling a particular range of fluoride based products and he further claims I have sold them directly to children.

    He now also claims that he has evidence to support his allegations.

    Chris Warren can either retract his accusation and apologise or the matter can be pursued in the courts. FTR, I have said nothing to CW that justifies this attack.

    Sorry for wasting your time with this, PrQ.

    Please also note that I have commented on this blog since 2006 (back in the Dogz v Katz days) without a problem such as this arising.

  26. Can I congratulate Mark Bahnisch on the Save the Senate idea?
    There are compelling reasons for the Senate, with its quota system, to be kept in place free of tinkering with by the major parties.
    Its voting system allows for representation of viewpoints often purged of the major (neolib) parties for ideological reasons; legitimate critiques but ones unpalatable to the majors, usually involving civil liberties and environment and science/rationalism.
    The Australian People have much to thank the Democrats, then the Greens and also several independents, over time, for allowing suppressed takes on issues that can often deeply affect Australians, but are not presented always accurately by the majors.
    Nor should people resent conservative independents once in a while taking a seat in the Senate, they represent views that progressives often find anathema, yet whose presentation often provides an inadvertent means for clarifying leftish views themselves.

  27. Chris, I have no intention of contacting you in an unprotected setting given that you’ve engaged in a stalking exercise and falsely surmised that I am someone I am not. If you say sorry I will accept it and never mention the matter again and promise to treat you respectfully in future.

  28. PrQ offered a warning on 22/3/2013:

    “OK, everyone has had their say for and against Mel. I’m now going to ban Mel if he (I assume) makes any personal criticism of Megan, Chris or Ikonoklast, and vice versa. This policy is in effect immediately and permanently.”

    Can we please all respect it.

  29. @Fran Barlow

    At #16 you had the Greens refuse to help Rudd with the CPRS.

    At #23 the state of the parties in the senate is grandly declared irrelevant.

    How, in your account, did Rudd turn to the Greens for support as you claim at #16 and what help could the Greens give as you claim at #16?

    This stuff matters because after the prime minister you want to retain delivers a defeat that makes 1975 look cheerful, the subsequent analysis must not be dominated by invented historical facts like Rudd inventing the phrase ‘breaking the business model of the people smugglers’ and Rudd could have passed the CPRS with Green support.

    I’ve always said that Rudd should have taken the CPRS to a double dissolution without the loopholes required to try and get a deal from the Coalition and from his deputy. He should have taken the CPRS to caucus when his deputy and treasurer advised him to drop it. I’ve also said that Rudd was wrong to isolate himself from the Greens and from his own backbench.

  30. Chris, you’re banned. This is not the venue to make accusations like the one you’ve made. I gave you the chance to retract and you declined.

    To everyone else, can we please get back on topic and avoid personal attacks completely.

  31. I am so tired of the Greens being bashed over Rudd’s ETS. It was a stupid package that locked in a bad target and would have achieved nothing. He was to blame.

  32. @Judy Cameron

    I couldn’t agree more. Rudd could not pass the CPRS with Greens support and isolated himself from the Greens anyway. Mind you, Gillard has also isolated herself from the Greens and is entirely capable of deciding to drop the ETS before the election. It’s all part of elevating ‘tough as nails’ to an art form.

  33. green support in NSW and Vic should be enough to take the last senate seat from Labor in 2013.

    Labor just got 2 quotas in Qld and WA in 2010 so they and the greens may compete for the last seat in 2013 in a close run thing in Qld. katter’s mob may be elected 5th.

    for the greens to stop a WA Nat taking the 4th WA senate seat, that will be interesting.
    most senate above the line preference flows will be to the Nats with the exception of the australian sex party. there are the shooters, christian democrats, DLP and liberal democrats all garnering votes for wider spectrum than the coalition can.

  34. I have a suggestion of how Greens policies (or anyone else’s for that matter,) can reach voters: present your arguments in graphic form! As a teacher, I know that most people struggle to understand basic statistics. If Barnaby Joyce confuses millions and billions, what hope does the average punter have?
    A simple diagram, say comparing debt to GDP ratios of various countries, or the proportion of mining companies’ profits paid in tax, might cut through.

  35. Wa upper house quotas were libs 3.35, nats 0.34 and christian democrats, family first and shooters 0.34. A 4th Nat in WA seems likely.

    the senate will be 36 coalition, 1 WA Nat, 1 katter, 1 DLP and Nick no pokies. Anything less is the less likrly senate outcome.

    Repeal of the carbon tax is assured

  36. @Jim Rose

    Repeal of the carbon tax {price} is assured

    I’d regard this as unlikely. Even allowing that a house and senate hostile to carbon pricing is elected, it won’t be seated until July of 2014. By that time most of the 249 or so organisations with liqability will have had to buy permits (and may have bought forward permits). Some will have spent money based in part on carbon pricing. In practice, there would need to be a phase out, possibly running into 2016 when there would need to be a new election held in circumstances sharply different from those obtaining now.

    Gillard and Rudd would be distant memories. The Abbott regime will almost certainly have proven inept and unable to carry out anything like its programs of blood oaths. It would also have had to reverse the tax threshhold changes for low income earners and if we believe it, be paying out compensation to businesses and getting a surplus and raising defence spending and taxing companies for extravagant PPL — in short — there would be no place to hide. By then, the shine should have come off Barry O’Farrell and the memory of Obeid somewhat dimmed. Newman should be back in the field.

    Undoing carbon pricing would not be easy and it might be that it prejudices Australia’s trade position since other jurisdictions with carbon pricing — South Korea, large parts of China, Europe — will be looking for equivalence.

  37. @Fran Barlow

    You are assuming the tough as nails faction of labor will not simply dump the ETS as they have on two previous occasions. Perhaps they’ll ask for a citizens assembly first.

  38. @David Barry
    David, don’t be too sure about Zed – he may not be the candidate! There is a Liberals meeting tonight at which the preselection will be challenged, because Zed took advantage of party members being relaxed and comfortable to spring an ambush on Gary Humphries. Whatever the outcome, it may well leave the ACT Liberals with a significant proportion disillusioned, and provide an opening for Simon Sheik.

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