Another Double Dissolution?

It looks like the Coalition government is going to have a narrow majority and I have already seen calls for a double dissolution (DD) election. I remember that this sort of thing started up after the Coalition won in 2013, and I never quite saw why people wanted it. It seemed to just be code for “new election now” but also with some sort of magical expectation that it would give them the result they want ie. not a coalition government. In reality, there is no reason why a new election soon after the last one should give a substantially different result.
In fact, now that we’ve had a DD election in recent memory I thought this sort of thing would stop, but it hasn’t.
There is no reason to expect a DD, this would have to be called by the Liberals because they think there is an advantage in it, and they would need a trigger so it’s not happening until well into the term anyway. I think a lot of times people are thinking more along the lines of the Whitlam dismissal but there were very particular circumstances there.

It also seems to be prompted by the small majority in the house, however, Labor a long way from the numbers to form Government, if the Liberals did lose any members to court challenges (e.g. in Chisolm) or defections or by-elections, then they would still have the support at least half of the cross bench. Even if they did lose that support, there is no reason to expect a DD election.

Anyway, despite all this, I thought I would have a look at another reason why a DD is not an attractive proposition – what would the senate look like?

Now the counting hasn’t finished and we don’t know the exact make up of the senate right now, on top of this you can’t just extrapolate the current numbers since a DD is likely to attract more effort from smaller parties, and in some cases sitting members were not up for re-election this time (Australian Conservatives, Centre Alliance) but would be in a DD. Also the smaller quota in a DD means that issues such as preference flows and exhaustion rates are much more important and there is way more uncertaintly in the outcomes.

All of these caveats aside, I gave it a go.

For comparison, here is the most likely outcome of the current Senate:

Liberal / National35
Labor26
Green9
Centre Alliance2
One Nation2
Australian Conservatives1
Jacqui Lambie Network1

The main uncertainty here is that the last 3 spots in Queensland are being consested between the Liberals, One Nation, Greens and Labor. I have assumed that Labor are missing out, though the next most likely outcome appears to be for the Greens to miss out.

My estimates on a DD under the same vote percentages are as follows:

Liberal/National31
Labor 25
Greens9
One Nation5.8
United Australia Party2.3
Jacqui Lambie Network1
Shooters Farmers and Fishers1
Centre Alliance0.3
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party0.3
Democratic Labour0.2
HEMP0.1

Major disclaimer – I did not do a sophisticated model of the results because it really isn’t worth it. These are really rough estimates. There is a big margin of error, but almost entirely restricted to the smaller parties.

The only things I’m certain of are the numbers for Liberal and Labor, plus I’m quite certain of at least 8 for Greens, 4 for One Nation and one each for Lambie and Palmer. The rest have a fair degree of uncertainty. The fractions are from where I’ve decided, say, the last spot in a state is most likely to be one of two options and I gave them 0.5 each, and I did not think that hard about these. There could well be parties not listed here who would have a chance as well (e.g. Conservatives if Bernardi managed a large personal vote).
I am quite confident of the broad trends though – a bigger crossbench, and most of the difference from the current situation being a big move to the right.
A DD is particularly bad for the Greens since not only could they go backwards from the current position, but also after the next half-senate election they could otherwise expect to have potentially 12 senators, this would lock in a lower total for another couple of terms instead.
The reduction in the Liberals is not really a win for progressive voters, since it would only mean they need to negotiate with cross-benchers furthers to the right to pass legislation.

So the basic lesson is, a DD is not even remotely on the cards at this point, but if it was and you want a more progressive parliament, it is absolutely not what you want if voters were to make similar choices to what they did in the recent election.

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