ACT Senate: Can the major party dominance be broken?

Unlike the states, who have 12 senators elected for 6 year terms, with 6 seats up for grabs at each ordinary election, the ACT and the Northern Territory have 2 senators with 3 year terms, with both spots being up for grabs at every election.

Due to there only being two candidates, the senate quota is 33.33% +1, and so historically the senate spots have been divided up between the major parties, who each achieve a quota in their own right.

However, in the ACT there have been a couple of occasions where the Liberal party vote has come very close to dropping below the 33.33% quota, leaving a strong minor party with an outside chance of victory. In 1998, the Australian Democrats’ candidate Rick Farley came close to pulling off an upset victory, when he polled 16.7% of the primary vote, and the Liberal candidate Margaret Reid only polled 30.9% of the primary vote.
However, Reid managed to get over the quota thanks to One Nation preferences. The full count can be followed here.

In 2013, Simon Sheikh from the Greens is hoping to pull off such an upset, and is considered a serious, but outside chance.
One of the problems he faces in achieving election is whether the Liberal vote will once again drop below the 33.33% threshold in the ACT. Initially, this seems unlikely, as opinion polls consistently show both an increase in the Coalition’s primary vote and a two party preferred swing to it across the country.
However, it is speculated that the Liberal vote may go against the national trend and fall, due to the very reasonable fears about the impact of an Abbott-led government that may conduct a slash and burn on Canberra-based public sector jobs.

However, even if the Liberal vote does drop significantly below 30% (to, say, the approx 31% polled in 1998), Simon Sheikh’s task has been made considerably harder, thanks to the decision of the Animal Justice Party, which allegedly supports Animal Rights and Animal welfare to preference the ALP, and then the Liberal party ahead of the Greens (and in fact, put the Greens last on their group voting ticket).

This is, apparently, due to the ACT Greens supporting a kangaroo cull in the ACT (which is also supported by both the ALP and the Liberals), and the wish of the Animal Justice Party to “punish” the Greens for this decision.


However, this completely ignores that this is a federal election, where the most important animal welfare issue that is occurring at this level of government is the live export of cattle, and controversy over the animal cruelty involved in this issue.

Are the Animal Justice party really speciesist, and do they really believe that the lives of 1600 kangaroos are more important than the 700,000 cattle and 2.5 million sheep that were live exported in 2011? (source: World Society for the Protection of Animals )

It is difficult to understand how this decision of the AJP will help advance animal rights, and people who are concerned about animal rights and welfare should reconsider voting for them.

If there is a backlash in the ACT against the Liberal party, then Simon Sheikh is in with an outside chance of taking the 2nd seat, but the most likely outcome is the status quo being maintained with both the ALP and the Liberals getting one spot each.

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