After 210 days, one recount, 1370 lost ballots, an Australian Electoral Commission investigation, a Court of Disputed Returns ruling and two AEC resignations, Western Australia will finally get one more chance to vote for six Senate seats on Saturday.
And the result they deliver could make the numbers in Australia’s Senate very interesting for Tony Abbott, whose performance as prime minister will be thoroughly polled six months into his tenure.
While the federal government won’t change following WA’s fourth election in just over a year, the ability for the coalition to make change through policy will be affected.
And if the late campaign whispers come true, and the Liberals drop the third seat they won at the original poll and Labor gains one, then the horse trading in Canberra with the minor parties will reach Magic Millions proportions.
The last day on the hustings was dominated by how many feet Labor’s number one candidate Joe Bullock could fit into his mouth at once.
After revelations earlier in the week of a 1996 conviction for assault, it’s been revealed he delivered a speech last year to a Christian group during which he admitted he didn’t always vote Labor, and had called some of the ALP membership “mad”.
That prompted an apology via email to Labor members, with the partner of Labor’s number two candidate Louise Pratt urging the WA electorate to vote below the line.
The free kick for the Liberals was gleefully accepted by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
“When Labor’s number one candidate says he doesn’t vote Labor, why should anybody else,” Ms Bishop said.
Ironically, Mr Bullock is almost certain to win a seat, despite his gaffes, and it was the Liberal’s third candidate Linda Reynolds who was battling hardest.
“We are not considering not picking up that third seat. Linda Reynolds won that spot fair and square,” Ms Bishop said.
With preference deals and a more favourable senate ticket position set to benefit Ms Pratt, the heavyweight battle between Clive Palmer and Greens Senator Scott Ludlam will be vital on Saturday and beyond.
After a week of carpet bombing the electorate with radio and TV ads, Mr Palmer appeared to self-destruct on the eve of the election with an angry interview with the ABC followed by a grumpy morning on radio.
Asked by 2UE’s morning show about a sign writing business in New South Wales that claims it is still owed thousands of dollars by the Palmer United Party, the billionaire got shirty.
“Well that’s just bulls***. That’s not true. There’s no action against us, there’s no letter of demand. It’s just Rupert Murdoch … making up another story. I’ll see you later, bye bye,” he said, before hanging up.
Senator Ludlam, who has campaigned hard against a waning vote from the last election, said he was confident.
“There was a swing against us in WA, and I think we have taken care of that,” he said.
And it was expected all parties would have to battle against a lower turnout from the election-weary WA population, with predictions of polling levels as low as 75 per cent.
After another blunder involving an unsecured ballot box, the AEC said there had been no more issues – so far.
A record number of 75 candidates will contest Saturday’s election, up from 65 in September.