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High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1.

The Liberal Party won 3 of the 6 positions in the voided election. Depending on whether the Liberal Party’s support has declined since the election, the third position could be under threat. In contrast, the ALP struggled to win two seats and will be hoping that its low 26.59% primary vote does not decline further. The Greens polled 9.49% and also cannot afford to lose support.

If the ALP and Greens can win three of the six places, they will hold 36 seats in the Senate, two short of a blocking majority. The Abbott government’s position won’t fundamentally change but it will become more reliant on crossbench support. Whatever the outcome, the bloc of three votes controlled by Clive Palmer (Lazarus, Lambie and Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir) will be crucial after July 1.

Statement from Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson.

Western Australia Fresh Senate Election

The Court of Disputed Returns has decided to void last year’s Western Australian Senate election result. It would be inappropriate for me to reflect on the reasons for the Court’s decision.

However, the people of Western Australia, having cast their vote at the last federal election, will rightly be aggrieved that the actions of the Australian Electoral Commission will force them to vote again in a fresh election.

It is incumbent upon the Australian Electoral Commission to ensure that never again will such a failure of process occur, as it did with the 1370 lost votes.

While the Australian Electoral Commission is an independent statutory authority, as the responsible Minister, I expect the Australian Electoral Commission to fulfil its functions and obligations to the Australian community.

Statement from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Court of Disputed Returns voids 2013 WA Senate election result

The AEC acknowledges the order issued today by His Honour Justice Hayne sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns to void the 2013 Western Australian Senate election result.

As advised in the AEC’s previous media statement (18 February), in accordance with the Australian Constitution and the requirements of the Western Australian Election of Senators Act 1903, an election of six senators for Western Australia will occur once a writ has been issued by His Excellency Mr Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, the Governor of Western Australia. A writ outlines all the key timings for the election including the dates for the close of the electoral roll, candidate nominations and for election day.

Once a writ has been issued, the AEC will conduct the Western Australian Senate election in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Editor’s note:

The AEC does not play a role in determining when a writ is issued. The AEC receives the writ once it has been issued by the Governor of Western Australia, and then conducts the election according to the prescribed timetable contained in the Writ. The AEC is therefore unable to comment on any possible poll dates.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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