Greenslide takes upper house by storm

Newly-elected Greens MP Adam Bandt. Picture: CRAIG SILLITOEWhile the Greens surprised few by securing the balance of power in the Senate, the magnitude of their coming of age was unexpected even among party optimists. The party looks to have won a Senate seat in each state, come within reach of tipping the Liberal Party out of the ACT and scoring a record national vote for a third party.”From where I sit,” said the party’s leader, Bob Brown, ”that’s a Greenslide.” And it’s as difficult to disagree with that assessment as it is to foretell with certainty the precise make-up of the next Senate, from next July, such is the unwieldiness of the beast.The Democratic Labor Party – the result of an ideological schism in the 1950s – may make a comeback after a Senate absence of 36 years. John Madigan, a Ballarat blacksmith, has won just 2.2 per cent of the primary vote but is favoured to nudge out Julian McGauran, who was demoted to third on the Coalition ticket after defecting from the Nationals, and Steve Fielding, the Family First senator whose 2004 election was considered a fluke of preference flows.Senator McGauran is also at risk from Labor’s third candidate, the former union leader Antony Thow.The Senate may provide other surprises. With a likely nine senators – six elected on Saturday, the other three in 2007 – the Greens will decide the outcome of legislation opposed by the main parties. The Coalition, which had a brief Senate majority when John Howard was prime minister, will most likely have 34 senators to Labor’s 31.In NSW, the former Legislative Council MP Lee Rhiannon is odds-on to wrest the sixth Senate spot from Labor’s Steve Hutchins, with the help of Sex Party preferences.The NSW result will depend not just on the Rhiannon-Hutchins struggle but on whether the persistent independent Glenn Druery can sneak past the third Coalition candidate, Fiona Nash.The Coalition has lost Senate seats in Queensland and Tasmania and is in a battle for the sixth spot in South Australia, where Bob Day of Family First is challenging the Liberal Party’s David Fawcett.The Greens’ highest hopes for a senator on the eastern seaboard were invested in Victorian Richard Di Natale, and he repaid that faith by garnering a quota – 14.3 per cent of the vote.Penny Wright has been elected for the Greens in South Australia and Larissa Waters in Queensland, where the Coalition shrank below its 2004 high-water mark of four senators.In the ACT, Lin Hatfield Dodds, former president of the Australian Council of Social Service, scored a record vote for a Greens candidate in a state- or territory-wide poll but fell just short of the 33 per cent required to unseat Gary Humphries, a Liberal who benefited from Democrat preferences.Christine Milne was returned in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia.
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