Tasmanian voters just stuck it to Labor's factional bosses in the Senate

Senator Lisa Singh. Source: Facebook

If voters in Tasmania had behaved the way they normally do on July 2, Labor senator Lisa Singh would have been out of a job today.

But instead, voters carefully and very deliberately made history this federal election, ignoring Labor’s factional bosses in the process. Today, Singh became the first senator elected from below-the-line votes in the 32 years since above-the-line voting was introduced in 1984.

Singh was the 10th of 12 Tasmanian senators elected after received a personal vote of more than 20,000 below-the-line first preferences – more than 6% of the total vote and a quarter of the votes the ALP received above-the-line. Her personal support is almost as big as the total Greens vote, which saw two Greens elected – Peter Whish-Wilson and Nick McKim.

Senator Singh looked set to miss out on being re-elected after factional war saw her relegated to the “unwinnable” sixth position on the Labor ticket, behind union boss John Short from the AMWU. Short has missed out on a new job on the red leather in Canberra.

Her win is a triumph for Labor’s rank and file over the party powerbrokers. They ran a grassroots below-the-line campaign for Singh and voters listened.

Her nearest rival was moderate Liberal and former tourism minister Richard Colbeck, who ran a similar campaign after being suddenly dropped to an unwinnable fifth position on the Liberal team. Colbeck received more than 13,000 first preference votes – 5000 more his ultra-conservative rival Eric Abetz, who topped the Coalition ticket – but it wasn’t enough. Instead, newcomer Jonathan Duniam, who received 654 first preferences, was elected.

The next most popular below-the-line vote went to independent Jacqui Lambie who received 11,463 first preference votes.

Senator Singh said on Facebook she was “deeply honoured and inspired by the historic result”.

“This is a victory for thousands of passionate and committed Tasmanian’s who’ve made their voices heard,” she said.

“I won’t be dwelling on this result, but getting straight back to work!”

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