Friday, February 19, 2010

Australian election update

Here in Australia we are coming into an election round that will give all election tragics much to watch and discuss, with both Tasmania and South Australia to go to the polls on 20 March.

The ABC election web site for South Australia provides a detailed overview of past elections, current seats and contests. There doesn't appear to be an equivalent for Tasmania, but ABC election analyst Antony Green's blog provides a range of material including details of the electoral system and seat contests. As always, William Bowie's The Poll Bludger provides a range of interesting material for the election tragic. This is one blog where it pays to read the comments.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald's Phillip Coorey suggests that the Federal Government is setting up a double dissolution election, but with health as the trigger, not the environment.

In September, the Senate rejected the Government's proposal to means test private health insurance. Coorey suggests that the Government has made this bill its top priority for Senate debate. If, as seems likely, the Senate rejects the bill again, then Labor will have a double dissolution trigger that is likely to be more electorally palatable than the increasingly polarised discussion on an emissions trading scheme.

While it is hard to see the Rudd Government losing such an election, it still commands a major lead in the opinion polls, the now constant newspaper criticism on delivery problems is, I think, having an erosive effect. The Australian in particular is running almost constant negative stories.

For those who do not know Australia, the paper is one of two national dailies, the other being the Australian Financial Review. All the other major dailies are state based. Depending upon your starting perspective, the paper's overall tone can be variously described as centre, centre right or right.

The big risk for Labor in a double dissolution election lies in the Senate. The proportional representation whole state voting system used for the Senate makes it easier for minority parties to gain seats.

Normally, half the Senate is elected at each general election. In a double dissolution election, all Senate seats are up for grabs, reducing the quota required for election. With the national Green vote steady on 12%, well up from the last election, a double dissolution election may well give the Greens a clear balance of power in the Senate.

Interesting times.

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