Hinch favourite to take sixth senate spot in Victoria

By Myles Peterson

Last time we looked at the electoral division of Nicholls, all but giving the seat away to incumbent Damian Drum.

With the close of nominations this week revealing few surprises bar the emergence of One Nation candidate Rikkie-Lee Tyrell and Drum winning the top spot on the ballot paper, it is still a fairly safe assumption the seat will stay with the Nationals.

Interestingly, Suzanna Sheed was also randomly delivered top spot on the ballot in last year’s Victorian election.

The position is worth between 3 and 5 per cent of the vote, depending on who you talk to, and can swing a close contest — or in Sheed and Drum’s case, cement the advantage of incumbency to deliver a win.

But there’s another race running for the senate and today we’ll try to predict the likely winners. Listing the likely losers, all 76 of them, would be as time consuming as it is pointless.

The good news is if you care strongly about an issue there is probably a party to represent you.

Climate action, online piracy, legal cannabis, immigration restrictions and small business rights are just some of the special interest groups represented on the Victorian senate ballot paper.

The bad news for their supporters is none stand much of a chance of getting elected, doubly so since the rules were changed for the 2016 election, removing the requirement to number every box when voting below the line.

Unlikely senators of the style of Ricky Muir in 2013 are now much more unlikely.

Muir himself, however, may be in for a comeback.

Based on current polling, the most likely winners in the Victorian senate race will consist of two Labor candidates, two Coalition candidates (Liberals and Nationals run a combined ticket for the upper house) and a Greens candidate. That would elect Labor’s Raff Ciccone and Jess Walsh , the Liberals’ James Paterson and Jane Hume and the Greens’ Janet Rice.

The final position is much less certain and a mathematical nightmare to try and predict, doubly so without knowing the parties’ preferences which are released on Monday. Let’s give it a go anyway.

Making some heroic assumptions and knocking out all the very unlikely candidates leaves us with Justice candidate Derryn Hinch, United Australia’s Catriona Thoolen, One Nation’s James Hallam and the Shooter’s Ricky Muir. Yep, he’s back.

One Nation and United Australia are both quintessentially Queensland-based parties and their policies, especially the nationalism elements, don’t seem to fit too well with the average Victorian voter.

So we’ll scratch them, while acknowledging both will probably put in some form of showing and both are closer to the Shooters than Hinch’s Justice Party.

The Shooters secured only one Victorian upper house seat last year to the Justice Party’s two and Hinch almost earned a full quota at the full federal senate election in 2016. The Shooters were well down the list that year.

But a lot has changed since 2016. The Shooters are increasingly backed by disaffected National party supporters. While not exactly well known, Muir has a public persona and is remembered favourably in some quarters as that accidental Aussie senator.

Victoria’s final senate seat is a ridiculous proposition to predict, but we’ll call it for Hinch, with an outside chance of Muir.

Myles Peterson is a journalist at The News.

Correction: The original version of this article contained incorrect names attributed to Victorian senate candidates for the Liberal, Labor and Green parties. The error was in production.