The New South Wales Greens senator Lee Rhiannon has warned Labor to abide by fairer Senate rules in the allocation of six and three-year Senate terms following the double dissolution election. “If Labor supports the first-six-elected method rather than the fairer method of a half Senate recount then Labor will be helping the Coalition boost their Senate numbers at the next election,” Rhiannon said. “The main reason for is that under a recount method [Justice party’s] Derryn Hinch wins a long-term Senate seat at the expense of a Liberal senator.” At issue is how long senators have before they face the next election. Senators are elected on six-year terms but only half the Senate faces an election at the end of every three-year House of Representatives term. Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to call a double-dissolution election means the Senate needs to determine which senators are on a three-year term and which are on a six-year term, in order to fall back into the usual election pattern.
There are two counting methods which are available to the Senate. The first, which has been used historically in double dissolutions, sees the first six of 12 state senators receive the six year terms and the remainder appointed for three years. The second is a Hawke government reform known as section 282 which creates a second Senate count to allocate positions that more closely replicate a half-Senate election.
“Section 282 is more democratic and the Senate has acknowledged that on previous occasions,” Rhiannon said. “If the crossbenchers are interested in reducing the power of the major party duopoly then they would support the fairer recount method.”
The Australian Electoral Commission has yet to conduct the second count but the Senate is not legally committed to use the s282 results to determine the terms. Previously the “first six” method has been used.