Six more years: Ludlam on track for Senate win



news Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam looks set to be re-elected to the Senate for another six years in Western Australia’s Senate by-election, with projections late on Saturday night showing the technology-focused politician had easily won a full Senate quota.

In early October, the Australian Electoral Commission announced that Ludlam had lost his seat, with candidates from the Liberal, Labor and Palmer United parties elected to the Senate from Western Australia in September’s Federal Election, 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.

The news came 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 has also been extremely active in the National Broadband Network debate, in which the Greens have backed Labor’s all-fibre deployment model as well as opposing the privatisation of NBN Co.

However, the Greens and the Australian Sports Party successfully appealed for a recount of the vote, given the very small margin in some parts of the counting (just 14 votes in one place) and the reported existence of anomalies in the count. At one point, Ludlam revealed “hundreds” of misplaced votes had been found.

Ludlam eventually retained his seat in the AEC’s recount, but a permanent decision on the issue was taken to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, with the Australian Electoral Commission and several other parties arguing that the loss of 1,370 ballot papers during the election meant that a new election should be held. The Court eventually ruled the WA Senate vote invalid in the September election, meaning a new by-election had to be held this weekend.

According to the ABC’s election analysis, as at midnight on Saturday night the Greens, with Ludlam as the party’s lead candidate, were projected to pick up 120 percent worth of a Senate seat quota. To do so, at that stage, the ABC calculated that the Greens had picked up 17.2 percent of the vote, representing a swing to the Greens of about 7.7 percent. These figures were calculated based on only 21.1 percent of the vote, but ABC election analyst Antony Green appeared to be quite definite about his projection that the Greens would pick up a WA Senate seat.

The news will be interpreted as a significant win for Australia’s digital rights community, as Ludlam has been at times over the past several years the sole parliamentarian raising issues around data retention, electronic surveillance and Internet censorship, with both Labor and the Coalition taking the same broad approach to the issues of supporting the wishes of Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence community.

Ludlam has been particularly effective at holding the Attorney-General’s Department to account, bringing to light the department’s efforts to revamp Australia’s telecommunications interception powers along lines which many Australians feel breaches their privacy. In February, a new poll conducted by Essential Media showed that 80 percent of Australians disapproved of the Government being able to access Australians’ phone and Internet records without a warrant.

The Greens Senator’s most recent success in the area has consisted of winning support from Labor for a Senate Committee to review Australia’s telecommunications interception regime. The move has kickstarted a ferocious debate between law enforcement and intelligence agencies on the one side and the nation’s digital rights community on the other, about how much access authorities should have to individual Australia’s telecommunications data.

One key factor in the Western Australian support for Ludlam may have been a landmark speech the Senator gave to the almost empty Senate chamber in early March. Addressed directly to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and dealing with a wide range of issues from technology to the environment and human rights, the speech is widely acknowledged to have struck a chord with the public. It has been viewed 850,000 times on YouTube.

Wow. Simply fantastic news for Australia’s digital rights community that the country’s most tech-savvy politician, and the only politician who has consistently spoken out on data retention, electronic surveillance and Internet censorship rights, looks very likely to have been re-elected. It’s also icing on the cake that Ludlam supports a full-fibre National Broadband Network and copyright reform.

If Ludlam hadn’t been re-elected, I’m sure the Greens would have allocated the Communications portfolio to another of its members. But Ludlam is an absolute natural for the role, given his deep understanding of technology issues and his patience at dragging answers on these topics out of Australia’s law enforcement authorities. He’s one of a kind and irreplacable.

There are other tech-savvy politicians who have supported the majority views of Australia’s broader technology community on occasion. On the Labor side, there’s Kate Lundy, Ed Husic, Stephen Conroy, Michelle Rowland and newcomers such as Tim Watts. The Coalition has a handful of politicians interested in such issues, such as Jamie Briggs and Alex Hawke (who opposed Labor’s Internet filter before the rest of the Coalition got on board), and even the Member for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, pushes the way the community wants at times (such as in his opposition to the Internet filter and some data retention policies), even if most disapprove of his current broadband policy.

However, none of these politicians have supported all of the dominant views of Australia’s technology community all the time. That label belongs only to Ludlam, and it’s why I’ve written so positively about the Greens Senator. He ‘gets it’ when it comes to technology — more so than any other politician — and is free enough in his Greens role to say his piece constantly on these issues.

If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to read this extended feature article I wrote four years ago regarding Ludlam’s early performances in the Senate. Even at that point Ludlam was focused on technology issues, and his vision has remained remarkably consistent since that time — more so than almost all of the other politicians I have dealt with. At that time he had only a very small popular profile; I think it’s safe to say that his fortunes have grown significantly since that time.

I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Ludlam (assuming no problems in the election counting) and add that I look forward to another six years of watching the Senator grill the Attorney-General’s Department in the fraught Senate Estimates process and working with the Greens (as I also work with Labor and the Coalition, and any other parties I can), to get better outcomes for Australia’s technology community. The future of Australians’ telecommunications privacy and the future of the development of Australia’s Internet space is wholly up for grabs right now. It’s good to see the Federal Parliament’s sole steadfast voice on these issues will continue to be able to have his say.

Image credit: David Howe, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence


  1. Couldn’t agree more with the general sentiment. Regardless of the broader policy issues of the Greens, Senator Ludlum has a very informed and grounded knowledge of BB and tech issues.
    Combine this with a measured, calm, and very intelligent approach then Australia’s political landscape is enhanced by his re-election.

    • Yep, and just compare Ludlum with the bilious neanderthal Labor had as number one, the paid employee and invisible nonentity that Palmer roped in as his lapdog, the never heard of dude that the Libs had as number one and the braying Cash woman at number two… oxygen thieves every one of them…

  2. It’s great to see Ludlum being re-elected. Seeing him lose his seat in the recount was pretty tough; he seems to be one of the only politicians that understands technology and certainly the only one who seems to rely on solid information to present his arguments.

  3. Love that Senator Scott Ludlam got up in WA. Quality politician. Leader written all over him.

  4. A well deserved win for Scott Ludlam. If only there were more pollies with the same level of insight.

  5. A trustworthy politician is a rarity and a future leader of the Greens with the same kind of respect that Bob had from all sides imho.

    • I’m going to side with protest vote… because I really can’t see any reason why anyone would vote for him – he’s only in it to further the interests of his mining company.

        • I always thought he was just saying what people wanted to hear.

          What is his policy for the NBN? Would be good for a follow up article, now that he is gaining power.

          • When he’s the most common sense panel member, all is well. He’s actually quite articulate and practical in a lot of areas.

            The problem is when he’s NOT the most common sense panel member. Its like theres a switch or something that makes him the polar opposite. He can really go off the deep end and can come across as being a whackjob.

            Which undermines all the good work he does on other things.

            Very split on whether he’s going to be good or bad in the role. Either way, he’s going to have plenty of sway.

          • You forgot that he’s a bully too! Ask the people who own homes at his Coolum Resort and see what they think about him!

          • Palmer only says what people want to hear. Over here in WA he made a lot of promises, few if any at all, he can actually deliver. Anyone voting for him needs their head examined unless its purely a protest vote.

            It would have been very interesting to see voting pattern if PUP hadn’t been running. Would Labor/Liberal picked up more votes or the Greens?

        • Here’s your “common sense politician”, Renai. This is from an ABC interview last week:

          Absolutely no vision for the future beyond a short-termed, let’s all live the high life now. The future will take care of itself if the market is left to do as it wants and not be bogged down by silly taxes. This exchange says it all:

          – “matter to Mr Garnaut that it happens in 2015, but I’m concerned about 2014….Let’s care about the people that are living on the planet right now”

          • I have to say I was baffled by one of Palmer’s central tax policies at the last election.

            He proposed to change tax rules so that companies paid tax annually instead of quarterly. He claimed that this would free up $70 billion to be used in the economy throughout the year. He stated, when he discussed this policy, that if this $70 billion was spent even once it would result in $7 billion dollars worth of GST.

            Where did this $70 billion figure come from? Is it the tax that isn’t being paid quarterly? If it is, then it can’t really be spent in a way that will result in GST being raised – if it is spent then how will it be used to pay the annual bill?

            I’m happy for this to be explained in a bit more detail, because on the surface I can’t see how he means it to work.

            However, even if someone can explain exactly what Clive means, I am not all that optimistic about it being a good plan. His calculations are not reliable.

            Another component of his taxation policy was a 15% across the board reduction in income tax, which he claimed would be totally recuperated via GST. However, his calculations were taken from a theoretical model which fails in real worls scenarios, often by a factor of 5 or so. In other words, a 15% cut in income tax is much more likely to only get something like 3% back in GST. This also totally ignores the problems of income tax being a federal tax and GST being a state tax.

            I think that the assessment of Palmer being someone who says what people want to hear, no matter how removed from reality, is correct.

          • “He proposed to change tax rules so that companies paid tax annually instead of quarterly.”

            As a business owner this is a fantastic proposal which I would support. I currently pay business tax quarterly, IN ADVANCE of earnings the ATO projects I will make. Fuck that for a joke.

            You’re right in that the benefits Clive is claiming will probably not be as high. However, there will definitely be some benefits, in that business will be free to spend money earlier than they would otherwise be able to.

            “Another component of his taxation policy was a 15% across the board reduction in income tax, which he claimed would be totally recuperated via GST. However, his calculations were taken from a theoretical model which fails in real worls scenarios, often by a factor of 5 or so. In other words, a 15% cut in income tax is much more likely to only get something like 3% back in GST. This also totally ignores the problems of income tax being a federal tax and GST being a state tax.”

            GST is a Federal tax, although much of its revenue goes to the states. And again, you’re right, he has probably exaggerated — but I would still love to see a 15% cut in income tax in Australia. I’d vote for that any time.

          • I can see why businesses would like to pay annually. So why does the ATO make you pay quarterly?

            Is this to reduce risk-taking? Or is it a way to minimise tax-manipulation schemes? I know one of the reasons is definitely to keep a revenue stream flowing into the ATO coffers, and I am not going to say that this is a bad thing for the government to want, but is that all? Is that the only reason?

            Perhaps there should be an exemption for businesses that have less than a $1 million annual turnover (figure pulled from the proverbial) or something like that.

            Also – good point about the GST being federal.
            The relationship between federal tax and state tax, and the way federal funds move to support state responsibilities make the whole thing a bit unclear at times. Like federal assistance for education.
            But just because these federal funds (GST) flow mostly to the states, doesn’t make it a state tax as you rightly say. This may become worth remembering when the issue of increasing the GST comes to the forefront of public discussions in the next couple of years (which it may well do).

          • “I can see why businesses would like to pay annually. So why does the ATO make you pay quarterly?”

            Supposedly it’s to improve forecasting, the argument being that small businesses will not project their annual revenues correctly and won’t have enough money to pay taxes at the end of each year. However, if you are in a relatively well-run small business (as I am), then it just becomes yet another government compliance burden.

            The other reason the ATO does it, of course, is that they get to keep your money longer and make interest off it.

          • There are a couple of reasons, but one is that it’s to reduce bad debt owed to the ATO.

            Too many fly-by-night companies charging GST then going broke and unable to forward receipted collections on to the government. Palmer himself owes them $10m in unpaid taxes!

          • Oh, he is a nutter ;) But that doesnt mean he doesn’t have ideas that I’d vote for, or that many of his policies don’t strongly appeal to the average business owner in Australia (such as me).

            You wouldn’t elect Bob Katter PM either, but he also has some good ideas mixed in with the craziness.

          • True, but it’s amazing how many other nutters will vote for you if you blanket the joint with millions of bucks worth of misleading advertisements…

          • I think it comes down to balancing influences. For example, there are a lot of people who like having the Greens around – not necessarily in charge, but with enough clout to have some input.

            As the only socially progressive party that looks to have any influence whatsoever, it comes down to seeking to have the right influences.

            Palmer may be totally unsuitable for being in charge, but that doesn’t mean he can’t add value as a minor party. Even if he makes people consider the possibility of making big changes instead of being scared of them, then he may have shifted the debate in a good way.

          • “Palmer may be totally unsuitable for being in charge, but that doesn’t mean he can’t add value as a minor party.”

            +1 to this. This is how I feel.

    • It’s sort of a protest vote; it’s the people who don’t like don’t want to vote Labor, don’t like or don’t want to vote Liberal, and wouldn’t ever vote for those “pinko greenies” despite the fact they probably have the best policies to support people who think like that (as if anyone ever bothered to read the actual policies)

      • You don’t need to be informed about something to know it is bad.

        I’m confident that enough people repeating phrases like “The loonie Greens have loonie policies’ is a guarantee that their policies are actually loonie.

        I mean, I did do a bit of a hunt around a few years ago to locate these loonie policies, and I couldn’t actually find anything that was more outrageous than any other party.

        But I am sure they must exist, and I am sure that all of the people who refer to the loonies have done thorough research, and found the loonie policies that I wasn’t able to.

        Otherwise, it would just be a bunch of ignorant people repeating ignorant soundbites and reinforcing their ignorance. That doesn’t seem plausible, does it?

        • Whenever you ask the mob to put up the evidence for these loony polices they’ll often quote you a one liner from some mysterious local QLD or WA rag as evidence from the Greens plan to destroy the country.

          Yet of course when you go to their website for their formal, offical policies there is absolutely nothing loony.

          Its ironic that the danger the Greens are to the main parties has nothing to do with the enviroment and everything to do with the fact the Greens stand for the utter destruction of the lobbiests and corporate/union patronage.

          I personally know of electoral donation corruption and how it is used to purchase senior roles in government departments.

          The Greens would see to end of this system that allows for companies to pollute the country, tip toxic chemicals down drains (like they did next to my house!) and allow for outragoues developments, factories and mines in outrageously sensitive areas.

          the real irony of those who repeat the “greens are loonies” mantra is they themselves are the ones who are the loonies and who are insane.

          Who put profit over the very economy and environment that sustains us.

          • As a non-partisan humanist/rationalist I have looked at their policies to check the claims of them being ‘loonies’.

            I’d have to agree that they have a lot to recommend them. They address many things which we complain about – things like political corruption and anti-science, anti-intellectual policy making.

            I don’t agree with all of their policy, for example, I know Scott Ludlam is very much anti-nuclear. I think it needs to be on the table at least. However, on balance, their policy is no worse, and in many cases quite a bit better than the major parties.

            I understand why the major parties, the murdoch press, and even small minded television presenters like David Koch are quick to use unsubstantiated and lazy ad-hominem.

            I don’t quite understand why people buy into it though. Every time I see someone post something along the lines of “Oh, I would never vote for them loonies, they will destroy Australia!” I have to shake my head in disbelief.
            I guess it boils down to the effectiveness of propoganda at the expense of reason.

  6. <

    Exceptionally good news that Scott Ludlam has been reelected to the Senate.

    The fight against the moron Sir Pository continues.

  7. I hate the greens with a passion. what a useless bunch of utter morons. but id vote for this bloke. im glad hes back

    • ‘I hate the Liberals, the Country Party, Labor, the senate microloonies AND the Greens the greens with a passion. what a useless bunch of utter morons. but I would vote for this bloke. I’m glad hes back’…

      … there, fixed that for you (and your punctuation)…

  8. Fantastic news for Australia. I’d vote for this guy to be PM. He is a true representative of the people and the country’s future and has a balanced view of environmentally sustainable business.

  9. Good job Ludlam, I backed you and as many people as I could get to also.
    Congratulations and keep at ’em!

  10. I won’t vote for the Greens as I don’t agree with their other policies but Ludlam has been great in his support for technology issues. Congratulations Scott – I hope you continue to stand up for us on these issues.

    • Which policies would that be you don’t agree with;
      – Being opposed to mining every square inch of the country, felling every last tree, and polluting our water supplies, or
      – Allowing marriage equality, or
      – Fair treatment of asylum seekers?

      Because they are the only policies that might be considered at odds with the old parties.
      NB: All other policy areas are generally of greater public benefit than either ALP or LNP.

  11. I was depressed at the fact that Palmer managed to pick up a seat (and more than double his share of the primary vote). While it is a clear sign that there is a great degree of dissatisfaction/disillusionment with both Labor and the Liberals, the fact that so many people are throwing their votes at someone I regard as a lunatic is a very troubling sign for the health of our democracy.

    • Welcome to compulsory voting.

      If one must vote, and one can’t vote for a party, then one votes against them by picking a crazy or fringe party that has low risk of actually doing any damage.

      The situation in WA, is that most folks seem to have voted PUP versus the more usual percentage of votes being fractured into multiple minor parties. Frankly, apart from the greens, it’s the only other party that got it’s name out there.

  12. I’ve always got the money for my PAYG!
    What’s Clive’s problem, he’s billionaire.

  13. Senator Ludlam has secured another term?

    Noted. :)

    Regardless of party affiliation, he’s definitely an intelligent politician, and is prepared to actually question policy.

    We don’t often see those two terms used in the same sentence of late. And that is somewhat refreshing.

  14. Very happy to see Scott Ludlam back in the Senate.
    Someone willing to examine what is put before the senate and not just stamp it with the party policy stamp.

  15. I think the biggest problem with the Greens is their party name. I know as a clueless youngster I used to just think they were a bunch of tree-hugging hippies for no other reason than their name.

    As someone who detests Tony Abbott, I can sympathize with those who voted for Palmer, even if he wouldn’t have been my choice.

    Both Mr Abbot and Mr Shorten act like puppets, doing the bidding of others. At least Palmer seems his own man. A vote for Abbott’s party or Shorten’s is a vote for a party lead by ‘faceless men’. Some think him crazy, other’s might see him as a typical Aussie bloke. So I don’t think most people voted Palmer as some kind of ‘protest’ vote, hoping it would go no-where. Many probably voted Palmer as he seems the only ‘real’ person among the lot of them, and actually enthusiastic about taking the fight to Abbott. I’m starting to admire the Greens, but they’re too timid to win against someone like Abbott.

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