The argument to support voting reform in the Senate has been that the crossbenches been dominated by a group of people who were elected unintentionally as result of preference deals done amongst minor parties and who were in parliament with a fraction of a decimal point of the primary votes.
This is quite demonstrably a case but whether it is a bad thing or not is a moot point. Clearly, many people do not know where their preferences are going when they vote for a minor party and their preferences may be allocated to people they would have chosen not to vote for.
Nearly 25% of the electorate votes for minor parties in the Senate. The hope of the Government and the Greens is, that under the reforms, this 25% will be directed by preference to the major parties.
But the Government and the Greens have probably misjudged that 25%. The first important aspect of this is is that that they have chosen not to vote for the three major parties and will probably continue to do so. The second important aspect is they will now be much more careful about the way their preferences are allocated.
There was a move by the cross benchers to form some alliance to save their political skins. This proved to be impossible given the vast ideological and political differences within this group. But it is not unlikely, and indeed quite possible, that like coalitions of minor parties may emerge to capture 25% that will not vote for the major parties.
If this does happen, then such coalitions could exert significant influence on Senate voting patterns.
One thing that can be pretty certain is this: 25% of the Australian electorate will be pretty pissed off at what they will see as the removal of their democratic choices. Malcolm Turnbull should not expect them to swing their behind the Coalition or the Greens.
What he may see is that high profile senators such as Ricky Muir, Jacquie Lamby, Glenn Lazarus and David Leyonhjelm will be elected by a bloc of disgruntled “up-yours” voters.
One of the laws of physics is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I suspect Malcolm Turnbull and the Greens have not accurately estimated what the reaction is going to be.