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The Western Australia senate election has been entertaining at best and a debacle at worst, but now with 68 per cent of the votes counted and the outspoken hero of the piece (Greens Senateor Scott Ludlam) able to catch his breath a little, what do the results really mean for Western Australia and, more importantly, Tony Abbott’s government?
In a nut shell, both the Greens and Palmer United Party have secured a seat each (Senator Ludlam and Dio Wang respectively), along with two Liberals and one Labor candidate with one seat still to be determined.
The clearest message that came out of the election results was a message sent to Labor and the Liberal Nationals that they are not in favour, with a 6.7 per cent swing towards the Greens and a 7 per cent swing to Palmers party. On the other hand, Labor suffered a 4.8% swing against it after details of the controversial Labor candidate, Joe Bullock, were uncovered in the lead up to the vote. Louise Pratt, the second ticketed ALP candidate is fighting it out for the sixth senate spot with Liberal Linda Reynolds. The Liberals saw a swing of 5.5 per cent against it and have acknowledged what they believe is a protest vote from Western Australian constituents.
On current results, the Coalition government is on track to hold 33 seats in the 76-member chamber. This means if Labor and the Greens team up they will hold a majority and be able to oppose laws and make it difficult for the government to pass legislation easily through the Senate.
For the Abbott government, securing the support from six of the eight crossbenchers will be the only viable way to pass their controversial repeal of the carbon and mining taxes and proposed industrial relations changes.
This may be easier said than done, as Clive Palmer now holds a significant balance of power. The eccentric billionaire has gone on record many times to ensure the public and the government understand he will not make it easy to get legislation through the Senate, particularly when it comes to Mr Abbots paid parental leave scheme.
“We believe in paid parental leave, but we don’t believe in people are that are very wealthy just getting a higher rate than the average working woman or stay-at-home mums,” Mr Palmer told ABC Melbourne.
As we wait to see what happens to the final Senate seat – which currently looks like it may go to the Liberals – we can be sure that the WA Senate will be an interesting spectacle as the Greens and Palmer pick up votes from those disenfranchised with the two major parties.