PM’s woes may be worse

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull could be facing an uphill battle if he wins Saturday's election as disillusioned voters look outside the major parties, particularly in the Senate.

Mr Turnbull called the first double dissolution election since 1987 to "clean out" the crossbench, but 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 studied the rise and fall of the Palmer United Party and has examined the rise of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and other crossbenchers in this campaign.

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

In Queensland, Dr McDonnell said the NXT candidate Suzanne Grant would 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.

Dr McDonnell said while the PUP was "dead in the water" in this contest, the sentiment Clive Palmer capitalised on was what 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."

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.

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

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."

Whoever voters 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. - ARM NEWSDESK



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