Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits the Macadamia Processing Company at Alphadale with Page MP Kevin Hogan and Deputy Barnaby Joyce.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits the Macadamia Processing Company at Alphadale with Page MP Kevin Hogan and Deputy Barnaby Joyce. Cathy Adams

ELECTION 2016: The twist no one saw coming

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull could be facing an uphill battle on his agenda, should he win the election this week, as disillusioned voters look to those outside the major parties, particularly in the Senate.

While Mr Turnbull called the first double dissolution election since 1987 in order to "clean out" the crossbench, Griffith University senior lecturer Dr Duncan McDonnell, says a new Senate crossbench could make things just as difficult for the next Prime Minister.

Dr McDonnell, who studied the rise and fall of the Palmer United Party, has examined the rise of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and other crossbenchers in this campaign.

Senator Xenophon, who has candidates for the Senate across the country, is tipped to pick up at least one extra seat in his home state of South Australia.
 

Glenn Lazarus takes a seat in a Kenworth rig at a recent convoy.
Glenn Lazarus takes a seat in a Kenworth rig at a recent convoy.

In Queensland, Dr McDonnell said the NXT candidate Suzanne Grant will be up against PUP-turned-independent Senator Glenn Lazarus, and a resurgent Pauline Hanson, for the final Upper House seat.

"Hanson's really in with a 50-50 shot at getting the seat - I think it's her best chance in well over a decade of actually getting elected, she did well in 2004, but was beaten on preferences, and this time she might actually get in," Dr McDonnell said.

Those seeking a win at this weekend's election will also have an easier time of it than usual - the double dissolution means Senate candidates only need just over 7% of the state-wide vote - half the usual 14% needed to secure a spot on the red leather.

While Dr McDonnell said that the PUP was "dead in the water" in this contest, the sentiment Clive Palmer capitalised on was the same that Hanson, Xenophon, Lazarus and their ilk were targeting.

"I think Hanson's appeal is to the voters in provincial and rural areas particularly - those people who feel they've been left behind by the major parties, who feel the elites in Canberra or Brisbane have no understanding," he said.

"Really all these groups are looking to capitalise on that - the interesting things this election are that Hanson comes with a side dish of anti-immigration, while the NXT is challenging both major parties of the left and right from the centre."

Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail in Airlie Beach
Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail in Airlie Beach Peter Carruthers

Any predictions?

Dr McDonnell said that "anyone who tells you they know the outcome in the Senate ahead of time is either a prophet or quite deluded".

"We know that some, like Xenophon and the Greens, will be returned and maybe increase their power, all the polling is done on the lower house seats, so it's hard to translate that into the Senate," he said.

But the trend towards people voting against the major parties  - about 40% voted for independents, the Greens or donkey voted in 2013 - is, Dr McDonnell said, being replicated across the "mature Western democracies".

Presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party Donald Trump
Presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party Donald Trump AP

He said the rise of figures such as Donald Trump in America and Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom and far-left and far-right parties in Europe were a symptom of "plummeting satisfaction with democracy" globally.

"Everywhere you look, voter turn-out has been falling for a long time and democracy is not at its healthiest in Australia now," Dr McDonnell said.

"Many people would say they like the idea of democracy, but they dislike the reality of how it actually works.

"Coupling that with the convergence of the two-parties in the major two-party systems on the political middle ground, and many voters feel it doesn't make much different which of those options they vote for, so they look to those outside the majors."

Whomever voters choose to elect, the likelihood is that the next PM will need to bargain with a Senate crossbench.

And it could be more diverse than the last one.



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