Tuesday, June 25, 2024

"Freedom Parties" Did Not Cost One Nation A WA Senate Seat

Sometimes I find items of interest in the oddest ways.  Today I was searching for tweets about WA Labor (as of 3:45 pm) Senator Fatima Payman in connection with her possible stance on a Greens motion that the Senate consider recognition of Palestine to be a matter of urgency.  I found this tweet by Mark Rowley, to which he links a video in which he tells Pauline Hanson how One Nation was diddled out of a 6th Senate seat by "freedom friendly" micro-parties, hence blaming them for the election of Payman.  

I thought this was an interesting thing to look into.  I find that minor right wing media is often a hotbed for incorrect claims about the electoral system and election results and this case is no different.  

Payman won the 6th Western Australian Senate seat over Filing by a margin of 23490 votes.  Rowley's video singles out three particular micro-parties, the Great Australian Party (led by former One Nation Senator Rod Culleton, who was disqualified from the Senate in 2017), the so-called "Informed Medical Options Party" (IMOP) and the Australian Federation Party.   These parties between them polled 27791 primary votes.  Rowley says that if these parties had voted for "the likes of One Nation" (are there any likes besides One Nation itself?) the party "would have been looking at a 6th Senate position".

The claim is false.  It is false because many voters for these parties preferenced One Nation anyway.  The WA Senate count started with the election of two Labor and two Liberal Senators off the primary votes and surpluses.  There was then a long series of exclusions leading to the election of Dorinda Cox.  At this point the lead candidates for all of GAP, IMOP and AFP were still in the contest meaning that their preferences all ended up landing (not necessarily directly) with Payman, Filing or exhaust.

These votes split as follows:

Filing made a net gain of 14740 votes vs Payman from those shown in the table.  The table does not show 420 votes for minor GAP, IMOP and AFP candidates, from which Filing gained about another 79 votes vs Payman (determining the exact number is more work than it is worth because of the complication of a tiny number of these votes flowing to the Greens then forming part of Cox's surplus).  

Since Filing actually gained about 14819 votes in margin terms from GAP, IMOP and AFP, every voter for those parties voting for him instead would only have delivered an extra 13051 votes in margin terms.  He would still have lost by about 10439 votes.

It doesn't actually matter whether or not these micro-parties "preferenced One Nation" since their voters did so anyway in very significant numbers.  But for the record the video's claim that these three parties did not preference One Nation is not correct at least in the case of IMOP.  IMOP issued a how to vote card that did in fact preference One Nation seventh.  A vote that copied this card would have flowed to One Nation after the first six parties were excluded.  However, in a classic case of why people banging on about Senate how to vote preferencing is stupid, only 44 of the 2923 IMOP ATL voters copied the card as far as 7 (50 having done so to the minimum 6).  Meanwhile some 1302 IMOP ATL voters had independently decided to put One Nation in their first six!  (I am also not sure what is the point of Rowley talking about Culleton, Kinsella and Wilyman combined getting more BTL votes in their own right than Filing, since ATLs are counted to the lead candidate,  but I digress.)

What about the Liberals?

Rowley's video touches on the fact that the Liberal card included One Nation at position 6 in nine rural and outer suburban divisions but One Nation were left off the order in six inner urban divisions (together with some nonsense about "the back of the ballot paper" by which he may mean the back of a how to vote sheet).  How much impact did the Liberal how to vote cards in these divisions have?

Liberal cards omitting One Nation were distributed in Perth, Fremantle, Moore, Tangney, Swan and Curtin, with the Curtin variant flipping Western Australia Party into second ahead of Australian Christians.  Allowing for the possibility that these Senate cards could have influenced some votes cast outside the divisions they were distributed in, in the whole state 73856 voters matched to one or other of the no-PHON cards, compared to 73940 matching the PHON-included card.

These votes were included in the votes that flowed from Michaelia Cash to Dean Smith and then on to Ben Small.  But because Smith didn't have that much of a surplus, this is the same movie as the one in Victoria - they weren't each worth very much.  The 73856 votes that flowed to the Australian Democrats may sound a lot, but their value after Smith's surplus was about .09388 of a vote each, meaning their combined potential value to One Nation was only about 6933 votes.  A very small number of these votes continued past 6 slightly advantaging One Nation anyway, but no, the Liberals' decision to not preference One Nation in selected seats did not cost One Nation the seat either.

I doubt many of them will see it, but I hope this article indicates to the people who do support minor right wing parties (including One Nation) that people within these movements talk a lot of nonsense about elections.  Much of the nonsense is talked in the name of blame games of this sort, and it serves only to further fracture minor right politics in Australia.  In fact the 2022 Senate election was one in which minor right party voters did in general support other minor right wing parties, albeit to no avial outside Victoria because of the high quota in a half-Senate election.

Addendum: in debate on Twitter, Rowley has made false claims that parties determine voter preferences (they have not done so since Senate reform was passed in 2016).  He has especially claimed that One Nation were not going to receive preferences from the named parties on account of One Nation not being part of something called Cadco formed between them (this was linked to the majorslast campaign.)  This ignores the fact that the majorslast site did recommend preferences to groups outside the alliance, though its HTV card generator is now defunct so I have not been able to further test it.  Of the 22723 voters who voted ATL for one of the three stated parties in WA, 4948 voted all three as their top three in some order.  Far from such voters freezing One Nation out, 646 of these then immediately preferenced One Nation 4th and many others would have preferenced them later.  

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