news Technology-focused Greens politician Scott Ludlam has formally lost his Senate seat in Western Australia, the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed today, in a move which will be interpreted as a substantial blow to the digital rights movement in Australia.
For the past several weeks since the Federal Election was held, Ludlam has been locked in a hard-fought battle to hold his seat, due to a complex flow of preferences between tiny political parties such as the Australian Christians, the Australian Sports Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party. For a while it looked as though Ludlam would hold his seat, but this afternoon the AEC confirmed the final count had left the Greens politician out of the race.
The final WA Senate vote elected three Liberal Party candidates, two Labor candidates and a candidate from the new Palmer United Party, despite the fact that the Greens took 9.48 percent of the initial vote and the Palmer United Party took 5 percent of the initial vote.
In a statement, AEC state manager for Western Australia, Peter Kramer, said the Senate count had involved the keying-in of votes into a computerised system, and today an automated process was used to distribute preferences and determine the six elected candidates.
“As with all aspects of the count, the automated distribution of preferences undertaken today was open to scrutineers appointed by the candidates,” Kramer said. “Approximately 96 per cent of voters cast their ballot above-the-line on the Senate ballot paper while four per cent voted below the line.”
In a post on Twitter, Ludlam thanked all of his supporters who had gone through the waiting period with him “Checking for recount possibility; meantime your support means a lot,” the politician wrote.
Ludlam told ABC Radio that it appeared the Palmer United Party had been elected on roughly half the vote of the Greens, but that was the sort of result Australia’s electoral system threw up occasionally. He added there was an urgent need for electoral reform.
“It is an elegant system being expertly gamed and manipulated,” Ludlam said. “The whole purpose of an electoral system is to accurately as possible reflect the voting will of the Australian people. It has let us down in this instance.”
In a separate statement, the Greens said they disappointed with the provisional result of the Western Australian Senate count. “Scrutineers have identified the result may have come down to a 14 vote margin and will likely require a recount before the final result is known,” the statement read. “The Greens will provide an update on the provisional count once scrutineers have assessed the grounds for a recount.”
In the statement, Ludlam thanked the 124,000 people who voted Green in WA, and the Western Australian and national campaign teams for their work during the election campaign. “In particular, I acknowledge Senator Christine Milne for her dedicated and tenacious leadership: the role of the Greens has never been more crucial than now,” Ludlam said.
The news will come as a blow to the Australian digital rights community, due to Ludlam’s role over the past half-decade after he was elected in 2007 increasingly coming to focus on holding powerful government departments and law enforcement bodies, politicians, corporations and other groups to account for increasing privacy rights violations and the encroachment of telecommunications surveillance in the digital age.
Ludlam will particularly be remembered for a series of fraught encounters with bureaucrats from the Attorney-General’s Department over data retention, telecommunications surveillance and Internet censorship issues, as well as his opposition to Labor’s Internet filtering plans and support for Labor’s National Broadband Network project.
However, the politician will be seen on the Canberra stage for some time yet, with his Senate term not expiring until mid-2014.