Misrepresentation Pt 2 — The Senate

I didn’t analyse the Senate results in my last post, because counting had barely begun. While results still haven’t been finalised (and won’t be for a while), enough has been done now that it’s qualitatively useful to examine them. There are 76 seats in the senate, twelve for each state and two for each territory, of which 72 have been provisionally assigned and four are still in doubt. Excluding the latter, the seats are being allocated as follows:

  • Coalition: 30 Seats (45% of assigned seats)
    • 35% of popular vote
  • Labor: 27 Seats (38% of assigned seats)
    • 30% of popular vote
  • The Greens: 7 Seats (10% of assigned seats)
    • 9% of popular vote
  • One Nation: 3 Seats (4% of assigned seats)
    • 4% of popular vote
  • Nick Xenophon Team: 3 Seats (4% of assigned seats)
    • 3% of popular vote
  • Justice Party: 1 Seat (1% of assigned seats)
    • 2% of popular vote
  • Jacqui Lambie Network: 1 Seat (1% of assigned seats)
    • 0.5% popular vote

This gives a total misrepresentation of 33.8% (remembering that 0% is a senate that perfectly represents the popular vote, and 100% is equivalent to seats being assigned at random), with the usual suspects—Coalition and Labor— gaining the most benefit.

Parties gaining a benefit from this misrepresentation are Labor (7.63%), Coalition (6.3%), Greens (1.2%), NXT and JLN (0.9% each). The other parties that won seats lost on misrepresentation, with One Nation ending up 0.1% short, and the Justice Party losing 0.5%.

The biggest losers, however, were the Liberal Democrats, who gained 2.1% of the popular vote (enough for a seat and a half), but didn’t gain any seats, with the Animal Justice Party, Christian Democratic Party, Family First, and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties each missing out on more than 1% of the vote (from 80% of a seat for the AJP to an entire sear for SFF).

These results will gradually change over the coming months, but as a provisional analysis it does offer some qualitatively useful information:

  • The Senate is more representative than the House of Representatives (33.8% vs 46.5% misrepresentation);
  • The system disproportionately favours the two major parties (with a total of 14% misrepresentation, four tenths of all misrepresentation);
  • Minor parties with support from many states lose a significant proportion of their vote’s value: eleven parties had more votes than JLN, but since JLN supporters were almost entirely localised in Tasmania, they managed to get a seat.

As an interesting side note before the end, I decided to see the votes-to-seat ratio of each state (and territory): Tasmanians have the best representation, with only 43 thousand people per seat, while NSW has the worst, with 635 thousand people per seat (meaning a Tasmanian has about fifteen times the voting power in the Senate as a New South Welsh person).

Ultimately, the Senate was designed to serve the interests of the colonies before they became states: it was feared that the population of the large states would leave the smaller states without a voice, and no one wants to completely cede a say in their government. With that, it was decided that all states should have the same number of votes regardless of population, to enable the smaller states to stand up to the populous ones if their interests were not being served, and the Senate was seated according to state.

Of course, this is no longer the case: partisan politics now controls the country, and Senators represent their party rather than state, but this relic of federation still constitutes a significant proportion of the misrepresentation.

The misrepresentation—in both the House of Representatives and the Senate—is deliberately exploited by politicians to maintain the status quo, and since the four largest parties (Labor, Liberal, Nationals, LNP) benefit from it, and control two thirds of the vote, it will never change because it will never be in their interest to change it. Political parties don’t want better democracy, they want more power: the Coalition and Labor aren’t really fighting each other, they’re fighting the minor parties so they can maintain their duopoly in perpetuity.

Misrepresentation Pt 2 — The Senate


Misrepresentation is used in politics as a measure of how well (or badly) a political body represents its constituents.  The simplest form is the difference between the percentage of votes a candidate or party receives, and the total amount of representation they have in parliament e.g. Party A receives 20% of the vote, but only 10 out of 100 seats available in parliament, there is a misrepresentation of 10%. The sum over all candidates/parties is the total misrepresentation.

Total misrepresentation can range from 0% (the parliament exactly matches the popular vote) to 200% (the result is entirely in favour of a party who received zero votes), with 100% being the result you’d expect from assigning seats at random.

In the recent election in Australia, the total misrepresentation for the House of Representatives (which forms the government) was 46.5%; that is to say the total disparity between seats won in parliament and the popular vote is extremely significant. The largest misrepresentation comes from the Coalition (Australia’s conservative party), who won 15.2% more seats than they would have if the votes were proportional. The only other significant winner from this system was the Labor party (ostensibly left, but is doing its best to pursue the Coalition rightwards), with a misrepresentation of 11% in their favour.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates how rigged this system is in favour of the duopoly than the only other party with a large misrepresentation: The Greens. With 9.2% misrepresentation against them, instead of receiving 9.2% of seats (14), they received 0.7% (1).

A misrepresentation of 46.5% indicates that our electoral system is deeply flawed, even if we accept its populist nature. Deep changes need to be made, but there’s no political will to make them, as the winners of this system have no interest of losing their control of the political apparatus, and no one funding them wants to risk competition from grassroots movements.


30 Days of Pride — Week 4

My final post of thirty days of pride! A bit belated, because I got distracted by the Australian election, but here nonetheless.

23: Share a picture of your family or friends.
My Family.
24: Share your greatest achievement.

My greatest achievement would probably be getting into the Ph.D. programme at the University of Queensland. I think I’ll elaborate on this when (if!) I graduate!

25: Take a selfie! You’re beautiful.
2016-06-18 12.18.51.jpg
Photo of me in bad lighting!
26: Who in the queer community (past or present) inspires you?

Julia Serano: her manifesto Whipping Girl had a huge impact on me when I was first exploring queer literature.

Florence Nightingale: a lesbian superhero who saved a huge number of lives; what is there not to love?

27: Treat yourself today, and share a picture of it.

I was actually flying back from a conference in the USA this day, so here’s my delayed treat!

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Muesli, absolutely loaded with fruit and Manuka honey.
28: How are YOU going to change the world?

I’m a scientist who is currently studying quantum mechanical effects in biological systems. I’m hoping to use my research to help create more efficient organic solar cells, organic LEDs, and higher-yield crops.

The future is in renewable energy and I want to help us towards that future.

29: What do you love most about yourself?

To be honest, this one took the longest time to think of an answer to, but I think I would have to say kindness. I love that other people see me as kind, and I love being able to help them.

30: Why are you proud to be queer?

Because I’m part of a community of people who want to make the world better; that want to help the poor and disenfranchised; that respects consent in a way that just doesn’t exist in the monocishet community.

I’m proud because I can be myself, a poly lesbian who’s an active intersectional feminist, and have that identity be respected and even encouraged.

My queerness is tied with my sense of community, with my relationships, and my people: they are something to be proud of.


30 Days of Pride: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

30 Days of Pride — Week 4