SYDNEY: Australia’s election looked set Sunday to bring some quirky candidates to the national parliament, including a billionaire hoping to rebuild the Titanic and a possible senator for motoring enthusiasts.
But early counts left WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange struggling for a place in the Senate, along with former anti-immigration firebrand Pauline Hanson as fresh faces emerged from micro parties.
Prime minister-elect Tony Abbott’s new government will have a clear majority in the House of Representatives, but his Liberal/National coalition will likely have to negotiate with fringe elements and independents in the Senate.
Upper house seats were not expected to be officially determined for three to four weeks, but provisional polling showed strong results for Queensland billionaire Clive Palmer’s populist Palmer United Party.
The flamboyant Palmer, who plans to rebuild the Titanic in a Chinese shipyard, has said he is confident of winning a seat in the lower House of Representatives.
But his party, which wants to reduce taxation and process Australian resources onshore, is also on track to pick up one or even two seats in the Senate.
In Queensland, former footballer Glenn Lazarus was favoured to get across the line for the Palmer United Party, while in Tasmania former soldier Jacqui Lambie was looking promising.
“Undoubtedly he will have representation, by the looks of it, in the Senate… and if I am given the task of leading the government in the Senate, it will be a bit like herding cats trying to get the legislation through,” Liberal Eric Abetz admitted.
Among the other tipped winners are the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in Victoria and the Australian Sports Party in Western Australia.
Greens leader Christine Milne said she expected to share power with a “plethora” of other parties once the Senate changes over next year.
“I had a look at the motoring enthusiasts and say they want unfettered access to the environment. I think that means four-wheel drives and off-road vehicles and so on,” she said. “That gives you a bit of an insight where they’re coming from.
“I also looked at the Sporting Australia Party and they’re all for a healthier Australia and more involvement in physical exercise and sport. We could work with them in making Australia healthier.”
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon admitted the Senate results were “very interesting” and were the result of deals between the parties about where they direct their vote to if they are unsuccessful in reaching the quota for a seat.
“It happens because of the way preference flows work and there are harvesting of preferences,” Xenophon told the ABC.
“For instance, in South Australia, the Greens preferenced the climate sceptics ahead of my running mate who actually believes in climate change and believes that something needs to be done about it in a very constructive way.
“So, all sorts of bizarre preference flows all over the shop. Clive Palmer, a coal miner, preferenced the Greens ahead of my running mate in South Australia. You go figure.”
Not so successful was Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks party, picking up just 57,445 Senate votes or 0.62 percent Australia-wide on latest counts.
“We are the second largest vote count for the new parties after Clive Palmer’s party which had a billion bucks behind it,” said a philosophical Assange, describing it as a “good outcome”.
“The WikiLeaks Party will continue for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Electoral Commission has said that the informal vote — those not counted because they are incorrectly numbered or have not been filled in at all — is set for a record.
Commission spokesman Phil Diak said the informal vote — which can also include ballots which contain slogans, poetry or drawings by the voter — appears to have risen from 5.5 percent in the last election in 2010 to 5.9 percent.