Hello politics lovers (or haters), did you miss my rants/posts/cartoons/conversations?
I sure missed you!
It has been awhile between blog posts for a few reasons – a trip overseas and the start of the new school year being major culprits. However, since my last blog post we have had a change in government (you can cheer or boo here depending on your points of view), a very interesting and ongoing battle about the concepts of mandates and most interestingly for those of us here in WA, some missing ballot papers.
Now as all smart politics students know, the senate ballots in each federal election are only ever half senate elections. This is because as per section 13 of the constitution, slightly more than half of the Senate is contested at each general election (half of the 72 state senators, and all four of the territory senators), along with the entire House of Representatives. Except in the case of a double dissolution, senators are normally elected for fixed terms of six years, commencing on 1 July following the election, and ceasing on 30 June six years later.
So there were some missing ballot papers from the WA senate results and as a result, it would seem it has disadvantaged one of the parties. Antony Green pointed out for us that there was a chance of a completely new election being called for WA voters. Which is what has happened! The Court of Disputed Returns has overturned the result and called an entirely new election which will be held for WA voters on April 5th, 2014. This simply had to happen because of uncertainty over the filling of the final two out of the six vacancies. On the first ballot paper count, Labor’s Louise Pratt and Palmer United Party’s Zhenya ‘Dio’ Wang won the two seats remaining in contention. On the re-count excluding the ballot papers that went missing, the final two seats were won by the Greens’ Scott Ludlam and Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich. This is a significant difference.
For the current Abbott government the ruling of a new election is a blow. Of the six seats up for election in September 2013, four seats were not affected by the closeness of the count. Those Senators whose election was not in doubt (they won their proportion free and clear of any missing papers) included all three elected Liberal candidates. However, while two Senate seats are left in doubt by the count, the only option for the court was to re-run the election for all six senate seats.
Antony Green (ABC) has answered another question really well for us. If there was a known issue with numbers straight after the election and during the count, why did they declare a result? It isn’t urgent as the new senators don’t start until July so why not wait and see if the missing papers show up? Or do another recount?
“One question I have been asked is why the AEC has declared the result if it knows there is a problem?
The answer is simple. The electoral act specifies that Court of Disputed Returns challenge cannot begin until a result is declared. Having spent the last week trying to locate the missing ballot papers, the AEC had little choice but to declare the result so that the Court of Disputed Returns process could begin.”
The re-election could easily put one of the Liberal’s “safely won” seats in doubt. If the Liberal Party lost a seat at the re-election, it would weaken the Abbott government’s position in the Senate and strengthen the alliance of minor parties that has developed around Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party. Alternatively, the Liberal Party might maintain its support from the federal election, and could potentially turn the election into a “referendum” on repeal of the carbon and mining taxes.
We can already see they are taking the issue very seriously with the political action ramping up in WA today with Abbott, Shorten and Palmer targeting voters. This article from PerthNow (always check bias and validity) outlines statements that do seem to support the idea of the Libs using the election to promote their mandate.
Another issue that has come to light is the lack of understanding over what it is people are voting for. The majority of voters in Australia would be hard pressed (in my opinion) to explain how many senators they are voting for, why it is that many, what difference this election could make (it could swing the balance of power further away from the liberals and towards the minor party alliance in the senate which is a pretty BIG deal) or even what role the senate plays in day to day government.
What do you think about having to vote again in WA? Will you change your vote? Have the political actions of the government swayed you one way or another since September? Do you fully understand why it is that you have to vote again or even what it is you are voting for?
Cartoon Source: Cathy Wilcox