Australian Senate special election in Western Australia, 2014
The election was called after the result of the 2013 Australian federal election for the seats was voided by the High Court of Australia, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, on 20 February 2014. The election came about as a result of 1,375 ballot papers being lost during an official recount in November 2013. The High Court ruled that because the number of lost ballots far exceeded the margin for the two remaining Senate seats, the only acceptable remedy was to throw out the results and hold a fresh election. This decision set in motion the process of an special election.
The election is unprecedented in Australian federal politics. An election was held in South Australia in 1907 for the election of one senator under a previous electoral system. Half-Senate elections without a corresponding Australian House of Representatives election have occurred several times due to effluxion of time, the last one having been held in 1970.
The date was set by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on the advice of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. However, the onus for setting times and processes fell on the Governor of Western Australia, Malcolm McCusker, on the advice of Premier Colin Barnett, in McCusker's obligations under the operation of the Election of Senators Act 1903 (WA).
The sixth and last seat was a close contest between third Liberal candidate Linda Reynolds and second Labor candidate Louise Pratt. Reynolds was ahead in the ABC's detailed count projection, with Antony Green predicting on 10 April "It is clear the Liberals will win the last seat". The result was confirmed by the Electoral Commission on 29 April. The score at the final count was 188,169 to Reynolds versus 176,042 for Pratt, a margin of 12,127. The projected margin on Green's calculator, which treats all votes as above-the-line, was a narrower 8,109.
There were a number of candidate changes from the original election. Notable changes included:
- Shane Hill replaced Peter Foster as third candidate on the Labor ticket
- David Wirrpanda was no longer on the Nationals ticket
- Des Headland assumed second place on the Palmer United ticket
- Anthony Fels switched from lead Katter's Australian Party candidate to lead Mutual Party candidate
- Fiona Patten, who was the lead Sex Party candidate in Victoria in 2013, became their lead candidate at the special election
The Socialist Equality Party and Australian Independents contested the 2013 election in Western Australia, but did not contest the special election. The Socialist Alliance, Pirate Party, Voluntary Euthanasia Party, Building Australia Party, Mutual Party, Republican Party and Democratic Labor Party did not contest the 2013 election in WA, but decided to contest the special election.
Sitting members are shown in bold text. Tickets that elected at least one member in 2014 are highlighted in the relevant colour and successful candidates are indicated with an asterisk (*). Candidates marked with ‡ were declared elected after the final count in 2013.
|Labor candidates||Liberal candidates||Greens candidates||Palmer candidates||Nationals candidates||Katter candidates|
|Shooters & Fishers candidates||Australian Christians candidates||Family First candidates||Australian Sex Party candidates||Wikileaks candidates||Liberal Democrats candidates|
|Democrats candidates||Smokers' Rights candidates||HEMP candidates||Socialist Alliance candidates||Voice candidates||Fishing & Lifestyle candidates|
|Secular candidates||Pirate candidates||Freedom & Prosperity candidates||Sustainable Population candidates||Outdoor Recreation candidates||Animal Justice candidates|
|Motoring Enthusiast candidates||Sports candidates||Rise Up Australia candidates||Voluntary Euthanasia candidates||Building Australia candidates||Mutual candidates|
|Republican candidates||DLP candidates||Group C candidates||Ungrouped candidates|
Electoral events timeline
- 7 September 2013 (Election Day) – The Liberal-National Coalition defeats the Australian Labor Party.
- 17 October – A recount of all "above-the-line" Senate votes made in Western Australia is initiated after an appeal by the WA Greens and the Australian Sports Party is upheld.
- 31 October 2013 – The AEC announces that it is unable to find 1,375 ballot papers during the WA Senate recount.
- 4 November 2013 – The AEC declares the result of the WA Senate recount, awarding the last two seats to the Greens and Australian Sports Party, instead of the ALP and Palmer United Party.
- 15 November 2013 – The AEC, Palmer United candidate Wang, and voter Simon Mead lodge a petition with the High Court of Australia in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns, asking that the WA Senate result be declared null and void.
- January 2014 – Justice Kenneth Hayne, in the Court of Disputed Returns, hears submissions from the AEC and political parties. On 30 January 2014, Hayne reserved his decision.
- 20 February 2014 – The Court of Disputed Returns voids the results of the WA Senate election. Hayne ruled that the margins between Palmer United and the Australian Sports Party for the fifth seat and the Greens and ALP for the sixth seat were far exceeded by the number of missing ballots. Hayne ruled that since the voters who cast those missing ballots had effectively been "prevented from voting", no remedy short of a new election was appropriate.
- 21 February 2014 – Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn announces his resignation, which will take effect on 4 July 2014.
- 28 February 2014 – McCusker announced the election date as Saturday 5 April 2014 
- 13 March 2014 – closing date for nomination of candidates.
- 5 April 2014 – election day.
2013 Senate result background
The Senate has 76 seats. Forty seats were up for election; six in each of the six states, two for the ACT and two for the Northern Territory. The terms of the four senators from the territories commenced on election day; all other terms take effect on 1 July 2014.
Distribution of preferences have occurred for all Senate seats in all states and territories. The Senate will see the Coalition government on 33 seats with the Labor opposition on 25 seats and a record crossbench of 18 – the Greens on ten seats, Palmer United on two seats, with other minor parties and independents on six seats – the LDP's David Leyonhjelm, Family First's Bob Day, Motoring's Ricky Muir, Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich and incumbents Nick Xenophon and the DLP's John Madigan. Muir will vote in line with Palmer United. The Coalition government will require the support of at least six non-coalition Senators to pass legislation.
Most Senate votes cast in Western Australia were subject to a formal recount. During the recount it was determined that 1,375 WA Senate ballot papers could not be located. After the final recount the result was duly declared which changed the last two predicted WA Senate spots from Palmer and Labor back to Sports Party and Greens. Mick Keelty, a former AFP Commissioner, was requested by the AEC to investigate the issue of the misplaced ballot papers. On 15 November, the AEC petitioned the High Court, acting as the Court of Disputed Returns, to seek an order from the court that the WA Senate election of all six senators (3 Liberal, 1 Labor, 1 Green, 1 Sports Party) be declared void.
Given the closeness of the margins that favoured the final two declared candidates, the petition is based on the premise that the inability to include 1,370 missing ballot papers in the recount of the WA Senate election means that the election was likely to be affected for the purposes of s 362(3) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.— Australian Electoral Commission, 15 November 2013
A record number of candidates stood at the election. Group voting tickets came under scrutiny because multiple candidates were provisionally elected with the vast majority of their 14.3 percent quotas coming from the preferences of other parties across the political spectrum. "Preference whisperer" Glenn Druery organised tight cross-preferencing between many minor parties. The Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich won a Senate seat on a record-low primary vote of 0.2 percent in Western Australia, his party placing coming 21st out of 28 groups on primary votes. The result caused discussion across a range of organisations and parties about whether there should be changes to the GVT system.
2013 nationwide Senate result
|Party||Votes||%||Swing||Seats won||Total seats||Change|
|Australian Labor Party||4,038,591||30.11||–5.02||12||25||–6|
|Palmer United Party||658,976||4.91||+4.91||2||2||+2|
|Liberal Democratic Party||523,831||3.91||+2.10||1||1||+1|
|Family First Party||149,306||1.11||–0.99||1||1||+1|
|Democratic Labour Party||112,549||0.84||–0.22||0||1||0|
|Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party||67,560||0.50||+0.50||1||1||+1|
|Australian Sports Party||2,997||0.02||+0.02||1||1||+1|
2013 WA Senate result
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"serious administrative issue came to light" during the recount
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- Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, Section 13. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
- Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973, Section 6. Retrieved August 2010.
- AEC Twitter feed
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- Most recently updated divisions, Senate: 2013 election, AEC
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- Druery, Glenn (21 August 2013). "The 'preference whisperer'". ABC News.
- Jabour, Bridie (13 September 2013). "'Preference whisperer' defends role in minor parties' Senate success". The Guardian (Australia).
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- Green, Antony (13 September 2013). "The Preference Deals behind the Strange Election of Ricky Muir and Wayne Dropulich". ABC News. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
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