Take a look at the Senate


As is always the case, the election campaign has been very much focused on the House of Representatives. But there are some interesting potential outcomes in the Senate.

In short, I think the Coalition is in danger of losing a senate seat in at least four states and the ACT (probably not New South Wales or South Australia). The Greens have good prospects of gaining seats off the right in Queensland and off Labor in New South Wales, and may win a seat in South Australia depending on the strength of support for Nick Xenophon. Most states will elect two Labor and one Greens, with the possible exceptions of South Australia, where they may just win two, and Tasmania and Western Australia where I think there are slim chances they could win four seats between them.

While I don’t know who would win the seat, I also think the door is open for minor parties of the right to defeat the third Liberal in Victoria or Western Australia, while they are competing for the third seat with Nick Xenophon in South Australia, Jacqui Lambie’s ally Tammy Tyrrell in Tasmania, and a number of right-wing threats including Pauline Hanson, Clive Palmer and Campbell Newman in Queensland.

New South Wales

Labor and the Coalition are each defending three seats. The last election saw the Coalition win three seats, Labor two and the Greens one.

It seems likely that the Greens will gain a seat off Labor, and polling would need to substantially be understating the Labor position for the left to win a combined four seats, leaving the Coalition with two and Labor with three.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Coalition could also lose their third seat to a right wing minor party like One Nation or the United Australia Party. One Nation ended up on about two thirds of a quota in 2019 – a swing of about 5% would probably see them pick up the third right-wing seat.


The Coalition is defending three seats, alongside two Labor and one Greens. The last election produced the same result, and that outcome is also the most likely in 2022.

It seems unlikely that Labor can win a third seat, with polls suggesting Labor making relatively small gains here.

There may also be some prospect of the Coalition losing their third seat. If that takes place, a minor party candidate from One Nation, United Australia or the Liberal Democrats could have a chance, or potentially even Derryn Hinch.


The Liberal National Party is defending three seats, along with two Labor and one from One Nation. The last election elected three LNP and one each from Labor, One Nation and the Greens.

One of the most plausible opportunities for the left to gain a Senate seat would see the left (likely the Greens) pick up one of the right-wing seats. I estimate they would need a combined swing of about 3.1% for the Greens to pick up a seat without taking away one of the two Labor seats. This is quite achievable considering current polling.

This then sets up a race for the third right-wing seat between Pauline Hanson, third LNP senator Amanda Stoker, UAP founder Clive Palmer and former premier Campbell Newman, running for the Liberal Democrats.

It’s hard to say how Palmer will go. He may break through with a bigger vote in different political circumstances to 2019, but Hanson seems like the favourite. I think Stoker will be hurt by a decline in the LNP vote.

Western Australia

The Liberal Party is defending three seats, with Labor defending two and the Greens one. The 2019 election produced the same result.

The main question is whether the Liberal Party will lose their third seat, and then whether there’s a chance for Labor to pick up a third seat at their expense, or if the seat may go to a right-wing minor party.

The Liberal Party polled 40.9% in the Senate in 2019, but Bludgertrack suggests the Liberal primary vote is down over 8%, putting them around 32-33%. That doesn’t leave much after electing two senators.

The polling average has Labor’s primary vote up 8.8% but it hasn’t impacted on the Greens primary vote, who are up 0.8%. That’s two thirds of a quota in extra votes on the left. If you add that to the primary votes in the Senate for those two parties in 2019, it’s 49%, which is 3.43 quotas. So it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the left could win four seats.

Alternatively, the UAP or One Nation could get ahead of the third Liberal and win.

South Australia

The Liberal and Labor parties are each defending two seats. The other two seats were originally won by the Nick Xenophon Team in 2016: Stirling Griff, who is now a member of the Centre Alliance; and Rex Patrick, who filled Nick Xenophon’s vacancy in 2018 and later became an independent.

The big question at this election is what happens with those two former NXT seats.

Nick Xenophon announced a late candidacy, with Griff running as his running mate.

While the last Xenophon campaign, for the 2018 South Australian state election, was seen as a failure, he still polled 19.4% for the upper house, compared to 21.8% in the 2016 federal election and 24.9% in 2013.

So the big question is how much of a vote Xenophon can poll after four years out of politics. It seems likely that he will retain a lot of his previous support, enough to reach a single 14.3% quota. It’s also not out of the realm of possibilities that he could poll sufficiently to be in with a chance of winning a second seat for his running mate Griff. His 24.9% vote in 2013 was not enough to win two seats, but that was due to unfavourable preferences under the group voting ticket system – it would likely be enough under the current system.

All of this makes it hard to know what will happen with the remaining seats. If Xenophon wins one seat in the current environment it seems likely the remaining seats will split as two for Labor, two for Liberal and one for the Greens. If he wins two, it seems most likely that the remaining seats will split as two for the left and two for the right, particularly since South Australia does not appear to be on track for a particularly large swing to the left. I wouldn’t rule out a possible outcome, however, of 2 Labor, 2 Xenophon, 1 Liberal and 1 Greens.


The Liberal Party is defending three seats, Labor is defending two and the Greens are defending one. At the last election, the Labor and Liberal parties each retained two seats, with the Greens retaining one seat and Jacqui Lambie regaining her seat.

Labor and the Greens should easily retain their seats, and the Liberal Party’s first two should be safe.

The big question is how the Jacqui Lambie Network performs. Lambie herself is not up for election, but JLN is running Tammy Tyrrell. JLN polled 8.9% in 2019. If the party’s vote was much lower, they would have trouble winning a seat.

If the Lambie vote is not high enough to retain that seat, the question will be about where that vote goes. You would expect a swing to Labor, making it hard for the Liberals to win a third seat, but a 4-2 split would be a big deal and the Liberal Party would do better from the remaining preferences if they can offset a general swing by winning back Lambie voters.

Australian Capital Territory

The territory Senate contests are different due to the election of just two senators. In the entire history of territory Senate elections, there has never been a result other than one Labor and one Liberal (or Country Liberal in the NT) senator.

There have been numerous pushes over the year from parties like the Democrats and the Greens to defeat the Liberal senator in the ACT without any success.

Recent polling suggests independent candidate David Pocock is in the strongest position of any of the challengers, although I don’t take exact polling figures too seriously.

The challenge for a candidate in winning the seat currently held by Seselja is similar in the Liberal House of Representatives races where independents are challenging. The challenger needs to peel away enough votes to make it to the final round of the count, in this case staying ahead of the Greens, the second Labor candidate and other independents, but then also win over enough Liberal voters to defeat the Liberal in the final count.

Overall it seems plausible that a decline in the Liberal vote in current circumstances could see Seselja lose.

Northern Territory

There is no realistic prospect of a change in the Northern Territory from the current split of one Labor and one Country Liberal.

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  1. Tasmania will be 2 Labor 2 Liberal ( bye bye Eric Abetz ) 1 Green as well as 1 JLP ( Tammy Tyrell ). Tasmanians vote under the line ( and often completely ) 4 times more than the Australian average. 2 JLP senators in Canberra.

  2. Great analysis as always! Officially have my EXCEL sheet finished with the key HoR seats and Senate seats to watch. Onya Ben, bring on Saturday.

  3. I think there will be a collapse in the One Nation vote with several supporters having jumped to the UAP. Locally One Nation has not had the supporters to man pre-polling booths or hand out how to vote cards while UAP has been very well supported. This is in significant contrast to the last State and Federal elections where One Nation had a very visible presence. In fact the entire One Nation ground campaign has been virtually non existent compared to previous elections.

  4. Pardon my schadenfreude if Amanda Stoker loses her Senate seat to a far right candidate. You reap what you sow.

  5. Wow, Ben, you are much more bullish on Xenophon than I am. I would not be surprised if he won a seat in the final cut up but I don’t expect him to reach quota, and Griff in my opinion has no chance at all. While I could easily be wrong – I don’t know what the mood in SA is like at all – I feel like the loss of incumbency, the lack of a party name on the ballot, and the various internal troubles Xenophon left in his own party in the wake of his resignation will lead to a much more muted level of support this time.

    However, even a muted level of support relative to Xenophon at his zenith could be worth a seat so my prediction for SA is 2-2-1-1, although it could easily be 3-2-1 if the Xenophon vote collapses more dramatically.

  6. Six (6) Green Senators were elected or re-elected at the 2019 Federal Election. This was on the back of Labor Party preferences. This was because the residues of the Labor Party quotas in 6 states were just a little less than the primary quotas that the Greens received. This is because the primary Labor vote was relatively low in 2019. As such, the Greens were lucky in 2019. If Labor will receive a higher vote in 2022, then it will work the other way. That is, Labor will feed off the Greens preferences and the Greens will be decimated.

  7. John, that is incorrect. The Labor surplus was not “just a little less” than the Greens primary, it was a lot less in every state except Queensland. In Queensland, Labor was a good ways short of two quotas and their surplus was a little ways behind the Greens so the situation you describe did more or less take place, but in every other state Labor reached two quotas with little or no surplus to distribute to the Greens. It would therefore take a quite substantial swing to “decimate” the Greens, probably involving a significant part of the swing to Labor coming at the expense of the Greens themselves as opposed to the Coalition or others.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see a contest between 3rd Labor and 1st Green for a seat in NSW and possibly SA or Tasmania (depending on how Xenophon and JLN do respectively) but the picture you’ve painted, where every state was a close split in this way and the Greens were just lucky the Labor vote was low, isn’t at all reflected in the actual numbers.

  8. In relation to John’s comment I thought I’d check the core hypothesis that Labor prefs put the Greens over the line. The reality is well short of the claim. As Dryhad says, it would take a substantial swing for Greens prefs to be electing Labor candidates in the Senate.

    * In New South Wales, Labor got about 2.06 quotas, so their prefs were near-irrelevant. The Greens started with 0.6q and climbed to almost a quota, finishing sixth and well clear of unlucky seventh.

    * In Queensland, the Greens came sixth and Labor’s #2 candidate came unlucky seventh; precious little help from preferences there!

    * In South Australia, Labor got about 2.12 quotas, which is slightly more relevant than in NSW. The Greens started on 0.75, so the Labor excess was probably about half their prefs received.

    * In Tasmania, the Greens started on about 0.88 of a quota and steadily got to the line, finishing 4th with two Labor candidates (Bilyk and Singh) still in the count – precious little help from prefs there.

    * In Victoria, Labor started on 2.15 and the Greens on 0.73, and by the time Labor’s #3 candidate excluded the Greens had already climbed to 0.98 quotas off micro prefs – assured victory. So Labor prefs didn’t really do much of anything there.

    * In Western Australia, Labor started on a bit over 1.9 quotas, the Greens on a bit over 0.8. Both Labor #2 and Greens #1 got over the line independently.

  9. I like to look at the last 8 or 9 from last time to get an idea of how the final numbers went. So at that stage you have 4 or 5 with a quota and can see what happened.
    NSW 670,761
    Labor Quota
    Labor Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition 379,327
    Green 499,859
    ON 299,228
    Christ 198,890
    Shoot 150,914
    Hemp 147,832
    Coalition 143,861
    Labor 114,106

    QLD 414,495
    ALP Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    ON 358,802
    GRN 347,237
    Coalition 346,280
    ALP 273,776
    HMP 92,163

    Vic 534,207
    ALP Quota
    ALP Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Green 513,148
    Coalition 356,895
    ON 176,653
    Hinch 174,352
    ALP 163,793
    UAP 142,325

    WA 206,661
    ALP Quota
    ALP Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Green 190,839
    ON 102,095
    HMP 43,271
    UAP 34,438
    Christ 31,886

    SA 156,404
    ALP Quota
    ALP Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Green 151,429
    Coalition 120,662
    ON 71,680
    UAP 45,724
    Xen 38,376
    HMP 35,975

    Tas 50,285
    ALP Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Coalition Quota
    Green Quota
    Lambie 49,400
    ALP 45,532
    ON 25,591
    ALP 24,132


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