22 June 2016
by Phillip Coorey

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Senate

The make-up of the Senate could be even more complicated after the July 2 election with predictions of a larger crossbench than that which Malcolm Turnbull tried to eradicate by changing the voting rules and calling a full-Senate election.

The analysis, conducted by The Australia Institute, is supported by a separate assessment by ABC election expert Antony Green, and is based largely on voting intention in published polls.

The most likely scenario at this stage is that after the election, there will be nine Senate crossbenchers, of which up to six, and a minium four, will belong to the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). This would be one more than the old eight-member crossbench.

The Coalition is on track to lose one senator and drop to 32 spots. Labor, which now has 23 senators, could end up with 26 while the Greens will lose one in South Australia to reduce their total to 10.

To pass legislation through the Senate, a government needs 39 votes. If the Coalition wins the election, it will need the support of either Labor, the Greens or seven members of the crossbench. Senator Xenophon will become a key player because his bloc of votes will be critical to delivering the third option.

If Labor wins the election, its task will be more challenging. If it is opposed by the Coalition on a measure, it would need on every occasion the support of the Greens and four of the crossbenchers.

Hanson likely to win a spot

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist, who for many years was chief of staff to former Greens leader Bob Brown, said Pauline Hanson was likely to win a spot in Queensland while both Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania and Family First's Bob Day in South Australiastood a good chance of being re-elected.

He said Senator Xenophon looked like landing four spots in SA and could win two more outside his home state. The last spot in NSW could be won by either the NXT or incumbent Liberal Democrat Party senator David Leyonhjelm.

Before the election was called, the Coalition and Greens passed laws to stop micro-parties gaming the preference system and winning Senate seats with a tiny primary vote. But because this election is a full-Senate, double dissolution, the usual quota of votes required to win a spot is halved.

Mr Green said the two factors cancelled each other out and that was why the current crossbench could expand to nine. He said the Western Australian Nationals stood a chance of securing the last spot in that state, as did the Katter Australia Party candidate in Queensland.

Published polling shows a surge in support for minor and micro-parties. Last week's Fairfax/Ipsos poll showed 14 per cent for "others" and 14 per cent for the Greens.

This means there could be upsets in the lower house as well, especially in SA where support for the NXT is so strong that a raft of Liberal and Labor seats are either under threat or too hard to call.

"The two-party system has been smashed in South Australia," Mr Green

said.