05 July 2016
by Phillip Coorey
Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch may not be around for long
Pauline Hanson's re-emergence as a political force could be shortlived due to a plan to relegate her and other controversial new Senate entrants to a three-year term.
It is understood that both the Coalition and Labor are considering using their combined numbers in the Senate to invoke a never-before used provision to determine who serves full six-year terms and who serves three-year terms following a double dissolution election.
Under the countback provision, Ms Hanson, Derryn Hinch in Victoria, Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania, some Greens and other minor and micro-party senators would be among those who would be given three-year terms. That means they would face re-election again in 2019 which would be a half-Senate election where twice the number of votes are needed to win a seat. Under the reforms to Senate voting passed earlier this year, they would struggle to win back their seats.
Because the July 2 poll was a double dissolution election, it was a full Senate election, meaning all 12 senators in each state faced re-election. But to rebalance the Senate, only half of those will receive a full, six-year term and the other half will receive a three-year half term.
After both the 1983 and 1987 double dissolutions, the six-year terms were granted to those senators who received the highest number of votes.
But, as an alternative there is the countback provision. Under this, each elected senator would be ranked as if it was a half-Senate election, and their vote matched against the much higher quota for a seat of 14.28 per cent.
The Senate would be recounted on this basis and it would overwhelmingly favour the major parties.
For example, in Queensland, the top six spots would be filled by three Liberal-National Party Senators and three Labor Senators and they would consequently receive six-year terms. Ms Hanson won 1.2 quotas in the double dissolution but under the countback system, this would rate as just over half a quota in a half-Senate election and she would be relegated to the bottom six. Similarly, Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters who won a full quota in the double dissolution, would be relegated to a three-year term.
In South Australia, Senator Nick Xenophon would make the top six based on the sheer size of the NXT vote but the other NXT Senators expected to be elected on his ticket in South Australia would be bottom six, meaning he could again be a lone voice following the 2019 election.
Act of goodwill
The Constitution only says that after a double dissolution, half the senators must receive six years and the other half three. It is silent on the mechanism.
It is up to the 76-member Senate to choose the mechanism and Labor and the Coalition will still easily have a combined majority, despite the Coalition being expected to lose two Senators.
Sources said both major parties have "turned their minds to the question" of invoking the countback mechanism.
Liberal Senate leader George Brandis said on Monday he had endeavoured to contact Ms Hanson and other newly elected Senators as an act of goodwill. He said all had been legitimately elected and that must be respected, regardless of their ideology or other views..
Ms Hanson used a fiery opening press conference to lay out her demands which included a royal commission into Islam.