Labor and the Palmer United Party say they will challenge the result of the West Australian senate recount, with the fallout from Saturday’s disputed result likely to trigger a fresh poll.
Greens candidate Scott Ludlam and the Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich won Senate spots on Saturday after a controversial recount.
The recount has changed the outcome for the final two WA seats, with Labor’s Louise Pratt and the Palmer United Party’s Dio Wang missing out.
Earlier in the recount it emerged that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) had lost 1,375 votes, which remain missing.
ABC election analyst Antony Green said the final result may need to be decided by a fresh election if the Court of Disputed Returns cannot determine winners.
“There is a high probably of it being forced to a re-election,” he said.
“On the first occasion there was a 14-count difference; on the recount the difference was 12 votes the other way.
“The votes missing in the recount might have changed the result.”
He said the outcome could now swing on the preference flows of two minor parties, the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Australian Christians.
WA Senate recount results
- David Johnston – Liberal Party
- Joe Bullock – Australian Labor Party
- Michaelia Cash – Liberal Party
- Linda Reynolds – Liberal Party
- Wayne Dropulich – Australian Sports Party
- Scott Ludlam – Greens
“That’s the critical count,” he said.
“The Shooters and Fishers Party led by 14 votes [on the initial count], but on the recount, the Shooters and Fishers were excluded, then their preferences went to Dropulich and then Ludlam was elected.”
PUP leader Clive Palmer says the missing votes cost his candidate a seat and the original results should stand.
“There were 1,375 West Australians who voted, did the right thing, were counted the first time, then just disappeared. What sort of precedent is that for Australia if we want to remain a first word country?”
In announcing the results on Saturday, AEC spokesman Phil Diak said the AEC will closely examine the Senate outcome and any potential challenges.
He says the investigation into the missing votes, led by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty, is now starting.
“So we’ll be looking at those things,” Mr Diak said.
“But from here, we will be declaring the poll and then returning the writs to the State Government of Western Australia.”
‘I’m delighted with the outcome': Ludlam
Mr Ludlam has welcomed the results of the recount after earlier missing out.
“I would like to thank the work of the Electoral Commission and in particular, my scrutineers,” he said at a press conference. “I’m delighted with the outcome.”
But Mr Ludlam also warned that the Senate race may not be over yet.
“We know of course that other parties are likely to take a very close look at the numbers,” he said.
“They obviously would be keeping their options open.
“The Electoral Commission also indicated that they may consider a referral to the Court of Disputed Returns.
“Hopefully this allows us to get on with our jobs with a degree of certainty. But I’m also well aware there could be a few twists and turns in this yet.”
Shortly after the announcement Greens leader Christine Milne congratulated Mr Ludlam.
Congratulations @senatorludlam fantastic result for the Greens in WA recount but the saga is not over yet
— Christine Milne (@senatormilne) November 2, 2013
The Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich says there are still obstacles the AEC needs to work through, but he is excited about potentially heading to the Senate.
“It’s still a waiting game at this stage. We’re still going to wait and see,” he said.
“We’re obviously excited about it, but we’ll continue to wait.”
Mr Dropulich says it is an unusual start for a first-time politician such as himself.
“It’s probably very different from most politicians’ first time getting into politics, but different things happen to different people and we’re lucky enough to be in this position,” he said.
Palmer vows court challenge
In a statement, Mr Palmer said his party would challenge the results and that the loss of ballots was either incompetent or criminal.
“The AEC has got this wrong on so many levels, which I’ve been saying for the last eight weeks,” the statement said.
“How they can lose 1,375 votes is simply beyond belief and demonstrates incompetence or criminal conduct.
“The original count should stand as it is the only count where we’ve had a full count of all votes.”
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) November 2, 2013
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek earlier said WA residents would be disappointed with the missing votes.
“I think that there’s a level of exhaustion really in the West at the number of times that people have had to go to the polls here recently over the last few years,” he said.
“But I would just caution against imagining that this is something that is common or happens all the time, we need to take a sober and sensible approach to what happens next.”
On Friday, the Federal Government said it was unlikely “skulduggery” was behind the disappearance of the votes.