Election 22 / 10 April 2022

Setting The Scene For Election ’22

An election has been called and it’s game on for the political parties and independent candidates across Australia. And it’s game on for you – the voter – as you seek to make sense of what’s been an extraordinary couple of years and decide who’s best to take the reins of our federal government for the next 3 years. So let’s start at the beginning and get our bearings. And we’ll cover where the candidates are starting from. 

As PM Scott Morrison would say, how good is an election… 
So good… And for the next 6 wondrous weeks, we’ll be here to help Squizers navigate the process. 

Great. So let’s get going with this simple question – what does this election cover?
So this is a standard half-Senate election. All 151 seats in the lower house, the House of Representatives, are up for grabs with the winners scoring a 3 year term. Whoever wins a majority in the House of Reps – or like Julia Gillard did in 2010, if you can cobble together enough support from the crossbenches – wins the election and can form a government. 

You also mentioned the Senate… 
Yes – half the Senate is also up for election – that’s 40 of the 76 seats in the upper house. Those who are successful will get a 6 year term, or a 3 year term if you’re from the territories.

Let’s just pause there – explain why the government is decided in the House of Representatives…
It’s considered to be the people’s house. Each of the 151 seats represent an electorate which are carved up by population – each electorate has about 110-125,000 voters. That formula is applied across each state or territory so each MP represents about the same number of Australians. So when it comes to deciding who should lead the country, the party with the most members gets to form a government – and that’s seen as representative of what most voters across the nation want.

So where does the Senate come in? 
All states are equally represented in the Senate regardless of population. Each state elects 12 senators, and the ACT and NT elect 2 senators each. There are some who believe that’s not fair because Tassie and its almost 400,000 voters gets the same number of senators as NSW and its 5.3 million electors…

So what is their purpose? 
It’s to represent their state – of course, that’s not top of mind with most of our senators also representing a party. But there are some whose purpose is more true to a strict interpretation of the role, and they’re usually independents or from small parties.

OK, Back to the Reps – what’s the state of play? 
To state the obvious, we head into this election with the Coalition looking to hold onto power. That’s made up of the Liberal Party and the Nationals. In Queensland, they’re one party called the Liberal National Party or the LNP, and in the Northern Territory, it’s the Country Liberal Party or the CLP. They’ve long been working together, and their relationship is formalised via an agreement. 

So Scott Morrison’s their leader? 
Yep, he’s PM and also the leader of the Liberals. He’s joined at the top by Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the Nationals. They are hoping to secure a 4th term in government which could put it up there with the Howard Government for longevity.

They’ve gone through a few more leaders though… 
Yeah, 3 of ‘em… 

But Morrison’s survived the term in office? 
And he’s the first PM to do that in more than 14 years. Morrison was the leader of the Coalition at the last election in May 2019, and they won 77 seats in the House of Representatives.

How many did he need to win? 
The number to burn into your brain is 76 – to win a majority the parties need to win 76 seats, so Morrison was able to form a government with a 2 seat majority. 

And Labor? 
Labor, which was led by Bill Shorten in 2019, claimed 68 seats. 

And the other 6 seats? 
One seat each went to the Greens, Centre Alliance from South Australia, and Katter’s Australian Party, that’s Bob Katter from Far North Queensland. And the remaining 3 seats went to independents.

Morrison didn’t have much of a buffer in the last term… 
No, the Coalition also had to stump up the Speaker… And Craig Kelly left the Liberal Party last year after falling out over COVID and vaccination mandates. He holds the seat of Hughes in Sydney’s southwest, and now he’s the leader of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

So Morrison will want to win seats? 
Let’s put it this way – the Coalition cannot afford to lose any seats. And at a minimum, they need to get Hughes back from Craig Kelly.

And Labor? 
Labor starts with 69 seats.

I thought you said they had 68 seats…
So the Electoral Commission undertakes a review of the electorates to ensure they’re as equally distributed as possible. And in a process called redistribution, they can change the boundaries of some electorates or create and abolish seats depending on the change in population. So Labor starts with a notional 69 seats – and that’s because of the creation of the new seat of Hawke in Melbourne.

How does that work?
On the data for how those living there voted last time, it’s a Labor seat. Also in that redistribution process, Western Australia and the Northern Territory lost a seat each. The parliament intervened in the case of the NT so it retains its 2 Reps seats. But WA loses Stirling in Perth, and it’s held by the Liberals. 

So long story short?
There are still 151 seats up for grabs and 76 is still the magic number to claim a majority.

So why didn’t you just say that? 
And miss out on the winding road to get there? No way…

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