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Honour proves a tenuous concept

MORE One Nation than Australian Democrat votes elected disgruntled WA Democrat Senator Andrew Murray at the last election.

Despite this, many Democrat party machine activists claim that his seat belongs to the Democrats, rather than to Senator Murray.

During the imbroglio between Senators Meg Lees/Andrew Murray and former party leader Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Senator Stott Despoja constantly claimed their seats were party property, a view even Labor leader Simon Crean endorsed.

Even after Senator Stott Despoja had resigned, former WA Democrat Senator Jean Jenkins restated this claim.

Ms Jenkins, a backer of new interim leader Senator Brian Greig, criticised the party’s anti Stott Despoja senators, the so-called ‘gang of four’.

“Instead of doing the honourable thing and resigning their senate seats so that loyal members could be appointed in their place, they have chosen to make their leader’s position untenable,” Ms Jenkins said.

Like so many, she runs the tenuous argument that seats won by Democrat candidates are party property, not the candidate’s.

Understandably, Senators Lees and Murray reject this absurd proposition.

Let’s put aside Senator Lees and the three non-WA ‘gang of four’ senators and focus solely upon Senator Murray’s seat and determine who really owns it; he, the party, or perhaps someone else.

I’ve just obtained an interesting research document, which begins: “On just whose votes was Andrew Murray elected?”

It points out that, at the last election, WA Democrats polled 64,773 votes (5.9 per cent), almost an exact tie with the Greens WA’s 64,736 votes.

Therefore, if surplus vote transference had been different, the Greens’ Rachel Siewert would now hold Senator Murray’s seat.

Why didn’t that happen?

It’s a question all Democrats, including Ms Jenkins, should contemplate.

The quota for election in that contest was 157,933 votes, 14.29 per cent of the total vote, the paper says.

Senator Murray won only 41 per cent of a quota in his own right, so needed at least 93,200 extra votes.

“After the elimination of all minor tickets Murray had 70,262 votes – 6.4 per cent of the total, and 44.5 per cent of a quota,” the paper says.

“He trailed the Greens by 5500 votes.

“Then the National Party was excluded, electing Liberal Ross Lightfoot and redistributing most of Liz Davenport’s Liberals for Forests preferences that had initially gone to Nationals candidate, Hendy Cowan.

“Murray now had 76,372 votes (6.9 per cent of the total, or 48.4 per cent of a quota) but Siewert (Greens WA) advanced to 85,754 votes, or 54 per cent of a quota.

“Murray was able to close much of this gap when 7041 surplus Liberal votes were distributed.

“Ninety five per cent of these went to the Democrats, raising Murray’s total to 83,084, (7.5 per cent of the total WA vote, or 52.6 per cent of a quota).

“Then 62,821 Labor votes were distributed between the three remaining candidates – Murray, Siewert and One Nation’s Graeme Campbell.

“Labor split their ticket votes 50-50 between Democrats and Greens. Murray thus advanced to 114,024 votes (10.3 per cent of the total or 72.2 per cent of a quota). But he still trailed Siewert who had 117,219 votes.”

The paper then points out the crucial final distribution was that of One Nation votes, with a huge 90 per cent of that party’s 83,447 preferences going to Senator Murray, who thus ended up with 189,385 votes (17.1 per cent or 1.2 quotas) against 124,888 for Siewert.

That was the crucial cruncher. Without One Nation’s solid backing Senator Murray wouldn’t have won it for the Democrats.

So, of the 189,385 votes that elected Senator Murray, Democrat voters contributed just 64,773 (34.2 per cent); One Nation voters, 75,361, a hefty 39.8 per cent; Labor, 30,940 (16.3 per cent); Liberal/National 6712 (3.6 per cent) and various minor voters 11,599, or 6.1 per cent.

“More One Nation votes re-elected Murray than Democrat votes,” the paper says.

“Of the other five senators elected, two were elected entirely on Labor votes and two on Liberal votes.

“Lightfoot needed some preferences but obtained 80 per cent of his quota from Liberals. The Christian Democrats and Nationals covered his shortfall.

“Murray, in contrast, represents an electoral cocktail and it would be presumptuous of the Democrats to demand that he vacate the seat for anyone else.”

What Democrat party machine backers won’t say when claiming the party ‘owns’ the seat is that Senator Murray was elected by more One Nation voters than Democrat ones.

This is somewhat embarrassing, especially for those on the left of this presently imploding party.

“All these statistical arguments matter less than the constitutional reality that no senator is obliged to vacate their seat to oblige a political party that endorsed them,” the paper says.

“Murray was elected on the lowest primary vote of any Senator at a half-Senate election in WA in recent years, with the exception of Dee Margetts (Greens) in 1993, who had 5.5 per cent of primary votes compared to 5.9 per cent for Murray in 2001.”

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