by Malcolm Mackerras

When I appeared on Switzer on the night of Monday 20 January I, among other things, made predictions for forthcoming federal elections. In this article I elaborate on my reasoning for those predictions.

I begin with the Griffith by-election on February 8. My prediction on Switzer was that the division of the two-party preferred vote would be 53 per cent for the Labor candidate, Terri Butler, and 47 per cent for the Liberal National Party candidate, Bill Glasson.
 
At the September general election the two-party preferred votes were 45,805 (53 per cent) for Kevin Rudd and 40,604 (47 per cent) for Glasson.
 
So, in effect, I am predicting a repeat of last September’s vote. My reasoning begins by estimating that Rudd had a personal vote worth four per cent. Absent general factors, that loss would give Glasson 51 per cent and Butler 49 per cent. However, I think the current poor standing of the Abbott Government in the opinion polls will cancel out that loss – hence my 53-47 prediction, Labor’s way.
 
I should mention that I always refer to this as “the second Griffith by-election”. Created in 1934 the first member was Francis Matthew John Baker (Labor). Having won the seat in 1934 and 1937 he died in March 1939. At the by-election in May 1939 the count was 27,790 votes for William Patrick Conelan (Labor) and 27,782 for the candidate of the United Australia Party (the predecessor of today’s Liberal Party), a Labor majority of just eight votes. That was one of three cases in which a conservative federal government very nearly took a seat from a Labor opposition at a by-election.
 
As it is the record remains that December 1920 was the last case of that happening. The Labor member for Kalgoorlie, Hugh Mahon, was expelled from the House of Representatives and lost at the by-election his expulsion created.
 
My second prediction on Switzer was that the High Court would absolutely void the declared result of the Senate election in Western Australia in September last year. Having studied all the circumstances and all the documents in this case, I have come to the conclusion that such is the only course truly open to the High Court.
 
I do admit, however, that the Court just might, in effect, do its own count. On that basis, the following six senators would be declared elected. In order of election, they would be David Johnston (Liberal), Joe Bullock (Labor), Michaelia Cash (Liberal), Linda Reynolds (Liberal), Zhenya Wang (Palmer United Party) and Louise Pratt (Labor). By the way, Johnston, Cash and Pratt are current senators.
 
For the Court to do that would mean kicking out of the seats to which they have been declared elected two winners – Senator Scott Ludlam of the Greens and Mr Wayne Dropulich of the Sports Party. Neither of these men would be allowed to appeal to the people against such a decision by the High Court.
 
That would be especially unfair to Ludlam who came third in the count of first preference votes. With a quota for election of 187,183 votes Johnston secured 512,246, Bullock 345,330 and Ludlam 122,752. The problem for Ludlam was that, unlike Johnston and Bullock, he was not elected on first preferences.
 
My third prediction is dependent on my second prediction being proved correct. My prediction is that there will be a re-election in March or April in which the following will be elected and in this order – Johnston, Bullock, Cash, Pratt, Reynolds and Ludlam.
 
In other words I am predicting that the Labor vote at the re-election will exceed two quotas, unlike the situation in September when the Labor vote was only 26.6 per cent, or 1.86 quotas. (Two quotas is the equivalent of 28.6 per cent of the formal vote).
 
The Greens have been carrying on for some years about the wickedness of the present Senate electoral system. I have always disagreed with them because I support and defend the system. What I now propose to do is show the extent to which this system has been generous to them. However, the figures below assume that the election of Ludlam in September 2013 is confirmed by the people of Western Australia in March-April 2014.
 
Australia-wide, in August 2010 the Greens polled 1,667,315 votes or 13.1 per cent of the Senate formal vote of 12,722,233. For that they won six of the 40 seats, or 15 per cent.
 
In September 2013 the Greens polled 1,159,588 votes or 8.6 per cent of the Senate formal vote of 13,413,019. For that they won four of the 40 seats, or 10 per cent.
 
Combining the two votes Australia-wide we have 2,826,903 for the Greens for a total formal vote of 26,135,252 which is 10.8 per cent. For that they will have 10 of the 76 senators, or 13.2 per cent.
 
Assuming I am right in my predictions the Greens will say, quite correctly:
 
“At the September election we secured the re-election of all our incumbents, Adam Bandt in Melbourne and our senators in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. However, we actually did better than that. In July we shall welcome in another senator (Janet Rice from Victoria) producing the biggest federal Parliamentary party we have ever enjoyed.”