Sixth senate spot shapes as main electoral battleground in SA
Posted 3 hours 29 minutes ago
There aren’t many contests to capture the nation’s interest in South Australia this election, but the Senate race will be one.
A battle between the Greens and high profile Independent Nick Xenophon for first preference votes could shape the balance of power, imposing its influence on the next government.
At 25, Greens candidate Sarah Hanson-Young made history as the youngest Senator when she was elected in 2007.
Five years later, she faces the risk of early and involuntary political retirement.
“Tony Abbott wants this seat so that he can get effective control of the Parliament,” she says.
“And he’s doing everything he can to do it. So I’ve got a fight on my hands.”
Megaphone negotiations are not a good way to deal with these issues.Independent Senator Nick Xenophon responds to Bob Brown
Her prospects aren’t helped by the presence of Nick Xenophon.
He may not have the backing of a party machine, but the ‘No Pokies’ campaigner has built a large public profile in his experience in the Senate and the Legislative Council of the South Australian Parliament.
“I’m having to do this as a grassroots campaign, going to community centres, appealing for volunteers,” he says.
“Because my biggest challenge is to have enough people at polling booths to hand out how-to-vote cards for me.”
Watching Senator Xenophon campaign, recognition seems to be the last of his worries.
He won 14.78 per cent of first preference votes at the 2007 election, securing a quota in his own right.
Several of his opponents expect that vote to grow towards 20 per cent, a figure he secured when re-elected to the state parliament in 2006.
Because my seat is on such a knife edge, [Nick Xenophon has] effectively preferenced the Liberal Party over the Greens, giving Tony Abbott a leg up to control the Parliament.Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young
So dominant is the Xenophon juggernaut, the Greens – through former Leader Bob Brown – made a public pitch to secure the independent’s preferences, but the bid backfired.
“Megaphone negotiations are not a good way to deal with these issues,” Senator Xenophon says.
He has instead decided to run a split preference ticket, meaning his excess votes would flow to Labor and Liberal candidates before the Greens.
That’s a worry for Sarah Hanson-Young.
“Because my seat is on such a knife edge, he’s effectively preferenced the Liberal Party over the Greens, giving Tony Abbott a leg up to control the Parliament.”
Coalition control of both houses of Parliament is a mathematical impossibility according to South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham.
But he does acknowledge the re-election of Nick Xenophon, coupled with Sarah Hanson-Young losing to a Liberal, could deliver real benefits to a Coalition government.
“South Australia is critical to breaking the Labor-Greens stranglehold. Absolutely essential,” he says.
“And we really would rather not have to govern in a situation where the Labor and Greens alliance in the Senate can still hold us to ransom.”