Early days and the final make up of the successful Senate candidates from Saturday's election may not be actually known for sometime. With between 60% and 70% of the vote counted, however, there is a clear trend away from the dominance of the major parties in some states.
What this means vis-a-vis the Senate chamber's disposition towards or against euthanasia legislation after the half Senate cut off in July 2014 remains anybody's guess. This is for two reasons: firstly, while a number of bills have been tabled in recent years, few Senators have actually spoken or voted. Secondly, in our Election Survey, few Senate candidates from the major parties bothered to respond.
What we can say at this stage is that it looks likely that we have lost two allies - one from NSW and the other from SA; being Senators Stephens and Farrell. On the plus side, in terms of the euthanasia issue, we look likely to gain an ally in Bob Day AO from South Australia. New Senators Bullock (WA) and Ketter (QLD) are also known to be sound on the issue; a number of returning Senators, likewise.
The newly-minted Palmer United Party may well have their first Senate representation in both Queensland and Tasmania, however, they remain unknown quantities on our issue. The same can be said for the other independent hopefuls in WA and Victoria.
Benefiting from apparent name confusion as well as the first position on the ballot paper, the pro-assisted suicide Liberal Democrats seem likely to have secured a Senate spot for New South Wales. While this could be seen as a decided negative, this outcome appears to be at the expense of the Green Senate Candidate, Cate Faerhmann.
Most telling, however, is the result for Philip Nitschke's latest political enterprise.
The Voluntary Euthanasia Party fielded candidates for the Senate in two states and the Australian Capital Territory as well as a lower house candidate for the seat of Solomon in the Northern Territory.
Dr Nitschke was the lead candidate for the VEP in the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT is well known as being progressive on such matters and, no doubt, Nitschke thought that he might harness the polity to his cause. Despite significant favourable media and the launch of his new book during the campaign, he could only garner 1.53% of the vote and attracted no preferences whatsoever.
It was a similar story in New South Wales. Australia’s most populous state returned a miniscule 0.29% of the vote to VEP which was notably less than many other of the single-interest parties contesting.
In the Northern Territory and the seat of Solomon, the VEP could only manage 1% of the vote – a meagre 474 individual votes. Again the Northern Territory is thought to be progressive on this issue.
In South Australia, where the issue of euthanasia is almost constantly in the media with something like 16 bills being raised in the state parliament in just over a decade, one would have expected a higher level of support. Once again the VEP foundered at 0.27% with most single-issue parties registering a higher vote.
Again we see this incongruity between the supposed high support for euthanasia by Australians in opinion polls and the stark reality. At this election voters were clearly far more focused on issues such as the economy, climate change, education and border control among many others. Euthanasia remains a lower level concern that, when polled in the only poll that really matters – an election, is of little or no importance whatsoever.
Note: At the time of writing the count of the Senate votes was about 70% completed. The numbers may change slightly in the final analysis, but the percentages are unlikely to very much from this point.