Election day in Australia is set for July 2. It is the longest campaign since the sixties. The goal is for the conservative Coalition to take advantage of that long campaign to attenuate the rise of Labor in recent polls. Sounds familiar?
The latest poll still suggests a narrow Labor victory after 2nd preference counting (Australia uses compulsary vote and instant runoff voting system for the House, single transferable vote for the Senate).
Coalition (conservative, in power) 41%
Independents and others 12
Two party prefered system (after 2nd preferences)
In other parties you can find
Nick Xenophon Team (Social-Liberal), usually credited with around 20% in South Australia
Palmer United Party (Catch all)
Katter’s Australian Party (Left wing nationalist)
Recently Green Leader Richard Di Natale said he is looking to Justin Trudeau for inspiration.
Interesting that Australia now has TWO parties named for the people who founded them.
Australia debunks the ridiculous idea that ranked ballots would've given the Liberals a bigger false majority last election. (Which is extrapolated by various politicking groups — both pro-PR and anti-electoral-reform oddly enough — to absurdly conclude it would put the Liberals in power for all eternity.)
In all Australian elections, a 50% majority forms the government. Each and every time. Or in other words: ranked ballot voting puts an end to false majorities and minority-party dictatorships. Forever. (Under FPTP, a landslide effect is produced by dozens of leading-party MPs winning on a minority of votes. The ranked ballot ends this by requiring that MPs EARN their seats with a majority of votes.)
Of course, Australia would do better if it had two center-left parties. That way there would be competition for center-left alternative votes. So even if the Green party, for example, can't win seats in direct elections (because voters don't want a Green MP representing them,) they get representation for their alternative votes.
Hmmm. I wonder which country that has two center-left parties could immensely benefit from ranked ballot voting?
Is the Australian Labor Party still rigidly Blairite? Or has there been any glasnost there at all? You'd think the increasing strength of the Greens might have pushed them at least slightly off the Third Way path.
Hard to say. The current Labor Leader is an ex Union Leader, but when you have a quick look at his platform, you see top of the list stuff like responsible fiscal policy, stable monetary policy coming before retirement income and way before affordable housing.
Decent jobs is chapter 5, Education chapter 7 and Health chapter 8… if this can give an idea. Sounds New Labour to me.
Even the Green Leader is trying to tone down some of his candidates that are not as capitalism-friendly as he would like.
The competition on the far left side comes from Katter Australia Party, which seems to be atypical, very nationalist (Australian goods only where possible, nationalisation of all transports and communication, end of foreign worker visas…) social conservative (opposition to gay marriage), and not very green (opposition to carbon tax and emission control).
People in Anglo-Saxon countries live like animals when compared to the developed world. Just watch "Where to Invade Next" and it's pretty hard to come to any other conclusion.
Canada may look good next to the US. But it's still a shit country. Both Canada and Australia (both environmental freeloaders) spend less on public social spending than the US according to the OECD Social Expenditure Database. (Of course, the US spends 50% more than developed countries on healthcare benefits. But still.)
Not sure why the NDP doesn't focus on this kind of message, especially opposing Anglo-Saxon neoliberal economics. Instead they play dumb political games and act as if they never heard of Bernie Sanders.
That's not my issue with ranked ballots. My big issue is that there are always people who don't feel represented by the top two choices, and a ranked ballot which ends up reducing the choices to 2. Even ranked ballots assume that people's votes change and their preferences move along a line, which they don't. There are as many preferences for second choices for votes as there are voters. It is also very hard for minority voices to break through in this context. How often are representatives from smaller parties elected in Australia? How often are minority governments elected in Australia?
First, it should be noted the goal here is not to settle on ranked ballots. It's just to get the ball rolling after a decade of failure. Like in physics, the level of static friction (from a standstill) is often greater than the level of kinetic friction. So just by getting the ball rolling, Canadians will get direct experience with electoral reform. Then they will understand more about the debate (which is suppressed by the establishment news media that favors establishment party dictatorships) and will be more open to a fully proportional system (which now appears radical because of establishment lies.)
In Australia, there are 4 conservative parties. (Originally, about a century ago when they brought in ranked ballots to allow for "three-cornered contests", there were 2.)
Here are the 2013 conservative election results:
So in Canada, there would already be 2 center-left parties (NDP and Liberals.) The Conservative party would break up into 2 parties (if the Cons elect a moderate leader, Wildrose could go federal by 2019.)
If some people didn't think the NDP was left enough, they could form another left-wing party, making 3 center-left parties.
So another way of looking at the 'alternative votes going to the top two parties' is that ranked ballots let voters vote for the minor parties with their #1 vote which actually translates into seats.
Like in the last federal election. Center-left voters had to choose one center-left party to challenge the Cons. They couldn't vote on policy. They had to vote strategically. So with ranked ballots, voters are free to vote — #1 NDP, #2 Liberal — which will change how the center-left vote is distributed.
The end result would've been a Liberal/NDP two-party majority government, which could've been led by either party (given both parties were leading for half the campaign.) There would not have been a false majority, let alone a bigger one. (These simulations assume those who voted Liberal would've voted them #1 on their ranked ballots. A really dumb assumption no mathematician or scientist would ever make.)
Regarding the "minority government" question: democracies don't have 'hung Parliaments.' Coalition governments are the norm. In developed countries, they tend to last the entire election term without drama.
Then there's the question of why the Green party does as bad under ranked ballots as FPTP. There are a number of possibilities. One, they don't have the same caliber of politicians (since all MPs are directly elected.) Two, they are seen as a revolutionary party. So even many left-leaning voters will have conflicts with their platform. But when it comes to degrees of left-leaning parties, it's easier for left-leaning voters to mix it up which translates into a seat distribution that more accurately reflects the vote (as seen with Australian conservative parties.)
So look back to 1993. The NDP was reduced to 6.9% of the vote. Got 9 seats (equivalent of 10 today) or 3.0% of all seats. Given all the AU con parties got better than proportional in an election they won, the NDP probably would've gotten more than 20 seats if we had ranked ballots.
If the NDP were to think solely about partisan self-interest, they would favor ranked ballots over a pure-PR system like MMP. This is because seats that don't go to the Green and Bloc parties are distributed to (mostly) other center-left parties. That means the NDP gets better than proportional.
FPTP clearly serves Liberal partisan self-interest the most. The party hasn't represented the center-left vote in 25 years, but still gets the lion share of the center-left vote in elections. The only fly in the ointment is that there are Con dictatorships the other half of the time. Some Liberals are Ok with this. Some are not. Trudeau appears to be in the "not" category.
The leader comes from the right wing of the ALP in Victoria. There are some more leftist voices, but the ALP is certainly a typical neo-liberal party. For all its weaknesses, [url=http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2016]here's how political compass plots Australian politics.[/url] (Katter's Austrlaian aprty is a natioanlist cult of personaility mroe than a party, though.) I think differences are mainly on personality rather than policies, though the ruling LNP did tack to the centre when Tony Abbott's right-wing monarchism started to look like a vote-loser.
An ALP government would be a big improvement, but the Greens are the only actual slightly left party. Hopefully they will remain a strong force in the elected Senate and retain their one seat in the lower house.
Meanwhile, Australia continues to lecture other countries on political instability, while it's had four PM's in the last 3 years, and both parties have in government deposed a sitting PM. They lecture other countries on human rights, when Australia is one of the few rich countries to retain legislated homophobia (US, UK, Canada, NZ, South Africa, etc, all have equal marriage). Australia continues to lecture about the environment, when it abolished carbon pricing. Australia continues to lecture about economic development, while it "polices" and loots its smaller neighbours for their natural resources, sucking out far more in profits than it pays out in foreign aid.
What do you make of 2010-2011 Belgium, 541 days without responsible government? What do you make of today Spain or Ireland? Austria that needs a grand coalition? Not to mention Italy's recent troubles getting an elected government, so troubled that now they have PR but if a party gets 40% of the votes (and one will because there is a second round if needed), they get 54% of the seats... Looks like our Canadian FPTP doesn't it?
Hung parliaments are possible under PR, if parties don’t want to work together, well they won’t. I’m not sure that our beloved Canadian parties are ready for these situations, that’s why I think they need more maturity before considering PR. But the debate and their education start now, no doubt.
Hung parliament is a possibility for Australia too, a few seats to independants, 2 to Greens, 2 to Xenophon, and Labor and Coalition tied, and that's it. It will be interresting to see how they get out of that.
The significant majority of Parliamentary seats are won by either the Labour or Liberal/National (coalition) parties. having said that, the number of single seat parties/independents is consistently better than in Canada. In the 2010 election, 7 out of 150 Austrlalian MPs were from outside the two main blocs of Parties; in 2013, it was 5 out of 150. (Just to note this, the Australian Green Party is the closest equivalent to Canada's NDP in terms of having a substantial third-party vote -- this turns into Senate seats that are elected on a proprtional-ish ranked ballot system, more than in House seats that used a different ranked ballot.)
In the last federal Australian Election, there was a single rep elected from the Green Party and two parties named after their Leaders, as well as two independents. There is a pattern of these seats being won in constituencies where there has not been a competitive race in a long while and voters decide to elect a candidate other than their "long standing" party choice.
For example, the Green seat was first won in the 2010 election, in Melbourne, a seat that had been rock-solid Labour for decades, that became more "bohemian" and thus more open to electing a Green MP (unlike Canada's Green party, the Australian Green Party unapologetically positions itself to the left of the Labour party). In that election, it is clear from the government web site that reports election results that the Green candidate won because the second preference ballots of Liberal voters went overwhelmingly to the Green Party, when none of the Labour, Liberal, or Green candidates could get elected on first preference ballots. From this side of the ocean, it appears that right-wing Liberal supporters so disliked Labour that they preferred a more left-wing alternative to Labour than Labour, as the Labour candidate stayed marginally ahead of the Green candidate on every redistribution of ballots until the third-place Liberal candidate's ballots were redistributed to their second-preferences.
On the minority government question, they do not happen as often as they do in Canada, but a minority government did happen in the 2010 election. The power of the "independents" hit its peak at this time, of course.
I agree that Australia's ranked system is far superior to Canada's FPTP system.
I didn't realize that this Australian election will be a double dissolution election, in which all 76 seats in the Senate will be up for election as well as all 150 seats in the House. For non-Australians (like me), the simplest important thing to understand about double dissolution is that it halves the threshold that parties have to meet in order to gain a seat in the Senate. Put simply, instead of having to get enough votes to reach a roughly 1 out of 6 votes share in each state, a Party needs to only reach a roughly one out of 12 votes share in those states.
(It's actually one in 7 and one in 13 shares, but that takes too long to explain -- read the Wikipedia link above if you want to try to understand it. In the two Territories, a Party has to reach about 34% support to gain one of two Senate seats -- while this is better than the 50%+ margin in typical Territorial Senate elections, the Territories almost certainly will elect one Labour and one Liberal Senator this time.)
For those interested in how minority party representation works in Australia, this will be an interesting anomalous election for the Senate.
And I note that Labour now leads in polls for Australia's version of an extra-long campaign chosen by the Liberals, much like how Stpehen Harper's plans for an extra long campaign in the end did not help him.
Australian federal election 2016: Worst kind of victory looms for Turnbull
Apparently it is not just in Canada where the Greens contribute to the right-wing winning elections, eh!
What to expect from a hung parliament in Australian federal election
Results appear to be getting better for Labour. Let's see what happens.
Losses in Australia Election Could Threaten Governing Coalition
The Australian Greens are considerably to the left of Labor.
Australian labor is a right-leaning party, through not as mch as the governing Liebral/National Coalition.
The Greens preferenced Labor over the Liberals/Nationals (Australian votes are transferrable).
Labor preferenced the Liberals over the Greens in key battleground seats. This may deliver seats tot he Liberals tht could ahve gone Green (ie. the most left-wing party).
Why should they get real Greens and we don't???
The negative side of the process for allocating seats is that much is not decided on Election Night, as we are used to in Canada. The latest word is that the Australian Electoral Commission estimates that it will take up to a week to determine the election results.
It is likely that minor party candidates (including the vile Pauline Hanson, an early version of Donald Trump to whom I refuse to provide a link) will win more Senate seats than had been in the previous Senate due largely to the different math in a double dissolution, referred to above. But it will be a while before the exact numbers will be known.
Hansen is monstrous, of course. Had it not been for the double dissolution, she probably would not have scraped in to the Senate.
The other minor parties are interesting. The reforming Nick Xenophon Team will go from one Senator (Xenophon) to three, and has also elected a lower house member. This may cost the Liberals their majority, and make Xenophon (with three crossbench Senators and good relations with other independents) the kingmaker - even if the Coalition does get a lower house majority, which is looking unlikely, they will need likely Xenophon and others to pass legislation through the Senate.
Labor appears to have done very well and right now at least are ahead of the combined 4 parties that comprise the coalition by 4 seats
Turnbull arranged for double dissolution because he was tired of dealing with 8 "cross benchers" (i.e. the Australian term for elected officials not affiliated with the major Parties -- and the Greens in the Senate, but not the House, are not seen as cross benchers but as the Left ally of Labor). Counting will still take about a week, but the preliminary numbers make the best guess on a preliminary basis that Labor/Greens will keep their 35 Senate Seats and the cross bench will pick up about 3 seats at the expense of the Liberals.
There could be a second ONP Senator alongside Hanson, again because of the lowered threshold to win a seat. Neither Labor nor Liberals nor Greens would touch ONP in their "vote card" preference recommendations -- thankfully, only a few of of the smaller parties on the ballot (whose votes will be redistributed before Senate seats end up being awarded) did put ONP on their lists. Time will tell.
In the Australian House, a ballot must have every candidate assigned a number in order for the ballot to be valid -- with 4 to 8 candidates on average (sometimes 12), the was not a big problem. Until this election, the vote counting rules on the Senate side were such that Parties could designate how their votes for Senate parties/candidates would be redistributed once that Party was eliminated as the lowest ranked party was eliminated from the ballot. Voters always had the right to choose their own numbering system by voting "below the line" -- but with over 100 Senate candidates and your ballot being invalidated if you wrote 58 twice and skipped 59, the vast majority of voters just put a number 1 "above the line" and let the Parties decide how their vote would be distributed as candidates were eliminated in each round. Even if a voter chose to vote only "above the line" but set their own preference list among the choices, there have been over 30 Parties listed on the Senate ballot in the three biggest states fror years now. The lesser known Parties would have negotiations about where to rank the bigger Partues on their recommended listm for benefits never officially revealed.
Starting with this election, there no longer is a right for the Parties to designate an overall preference on the Senate ballot for the distribution of support once that Party is dropped from the ballot -- this time, each voter had to rank at least 6 Parties "above the line" or at least 12 Senate candidates "below the line" for the vote to be valid. This is likely to make the election of smaller Parties to the Senate less possible, and almost as likely to increase the number of invalid (or "informal" votes, to use the Aussie term) in this Senate election compared to the past.
Looking at whch seats are still to be determined, my guess at this stage is that Labor will win 72 seats, the Liberal/National coalition will win 72 seats, and the lone Green MP will side with Labor (for the reasons I cited above). This leaves 5 MPs to determine who will be government (which is determined in the House of Representatives):
a) 2 Nick Xenophon Team MPs from South Australia, prime targets for anyone promising to crack down on the widespread availabilty of poker/gambling machines, Xenophon's initial reason for setting up his own party
b) the leader of Katter's Australian Party, a rural populist from northern Queensland, that could go to either side
c) a former intelligence officer who ran as a Green the last time he had a party affiliation from Hobart (in Tasmania), who already has said publicly he is hesitant to formally pledge anything because he didn't get what he wanted in the last minority government led by Julia Gillard, and
d) a rural MP from Victoria on the New South Wales border who used to be a Liberal, who already is being talked about as Speaker of the House.
Let the bidding begin!
Regardless of the final outcome, Shorten ran a brilliant campaign - good luck to him!
AEC Tally Room
Labor leader Shorten is calling on pm to resign
This commentator with the ABC (the Aussie equivalent of the CBC) has an interesting take on Labor's campaign. It's hardly entirely complimentary, but not bad overall.
When the Right claims the Left will raise taxes through the roof, the media just reports such takes without commentary. When the Left, in this case, claimed the Right would privatize Medicare if it got re-elected, the media seems to have no problem with repeating the Right's derogatory term of "Mediscare" as if it was an everyday term.
The media is so rightwing I'm surprised they have even mentioned that people are asking for Turnbull to step down, but I suppose it is so newsworthy, and their competitors would reveal the story anyway, so the media has no choice but to report it.
The reality is this is a devastating result for the Turnbull's Coalition.
Australia vote shows Labour needs to seize ground on state housing
Labor leading by one but it will be the horsetrading that will make or break who governs.
I hope Shorten is prepared to give away the store for power.
Does the Australian Labor Party have a store to give away?
The most pronounced expression of the continuing haemorrhaging of support for the political establishment, including the Greens, came in the upper house, the Senate, where a record 26 percent of the valid votes went to other groups, mostly right-wing populists who postured as opponents of the major parties....from wsws.org
....another clear example of the bankruptcy of the global left, their total irrelevance to offer any program to attract the support of an obvious growing discontent, certainly in the western bs democracies...
this reality! needs to be addressed!
Coalition is now ahead of Labor 72 to 70, so they are only 4 seats away from majority government Too bad!
So, it now looks like the Liberal/NP Coalition will take 74 or 75 seats, just short of the 76 needed to form a majority government, and Labor will take 70 or 71. NXT will only get one seat, with Grey (the huge seat in South Australia) barely being retained by the Liberals, leaving only 4 cross-benchers (plus the Green MP).
The first Aboriginal female MP has been elected in Sydney, (just 6 years after the first male Aboriginal MP ever was elected) and the first Muslim female MP seems to have been elected in Perth -- the postal ballots are not in Labor's favor, but they are more than half counted now and Aly looks like she will hold on. Both have been elected as Labor MPs.
The first openly gay MP in Australia (there have been several Senators earlier) was elected in a by-election in 2015, and two more have won in this 2016 general election -- all three are Liberal MPs.
And it is still estimated that Senate results will not be known until August (see the July 7 blog entry).
So, it now looks like the Liberal/NP Coalition will win either 75 or 76 seats, and has the pledged support of at least two independents, if they are needed (I would guess one will become Speaker).
Labour has done better than expected at the start of the campaign, but has fallen short. A record number of women have been elected to the House.
Senate counting still continues. Both major Party Leaders have mused about electronic voting next time, to quicken the process. There is no doubt electronic voting speed counting. There is doubt, in my mind at least, that electronic voting can leave no trail to recount, when that is merited. In just the last election, a statewide Senate vote had to be re-run when ballots were lost, believed to literally have fallen off the back of a truck while being transported. While embarassing to the Electoral Commission in charge at the time, at least there were pieces of paper that allowed a "double check" of the initial process to be conducted.
This is a good time for me to give another link to a serious technical study of internet voting. The key conclusion:
Nothing like buying an election, eh!
This is an excellent example of the difference between real right-wingers and their opponents The right will do anything to win because they realize how important it is to obtain power Either you win or you lose Nothing else matters
So, the last seat in the House seems to have been called, and the Liberal/NP Coalition has ended up with 76 seats, the absolute minimum needed to form a majority government. Australia allows postal votes to be counted if they are recevied within two weeks of election day, so it seems the the Townsville-centred seat of Herbert in northern Queensland was gained by Labour by 9 vote margin and will be subject to an official recount (which therefore undoubtedly will change a bit). Interestingly, Labor has called on the Attorney General to stop taking part in this recount, without actually going as far as to say that he is putting undue pressure on the participants in the count given his role in government.
Senate counting may start in earnest soon. "Quotas" for Senate seats (i.e. the number of votes statewide candidates must get to win a Senate seat) cannot be set until the total number of votes cast has been confirmed. Once that is done, Parties that have at least the number of votes in one quota get a seat, and then the "preference voting" adds numbers to candidates as the least popular candidates get dropped from the ballot and reallocated, continuing until some candidate reaches the quota number or until there are no more votes to reallocate and the only candidates left standing, despite not reaching the quota mark, are declared elected. Until the total number of votes is known, the Electoral Commission lists a "provisional quota" as a guide, with the understanding that the quota is the end will be slightly lower and the number of "quotas" reached will thus go up. At present, there are from 8 to 10 Senators in each state that are known, given the provisional quotas, before any reallocations start.
In the interim, a new cabinet and a new shadow cabinet have all been announced, even though at least 10 Senators overall are unknowable until the Senate vote reallocations are complete.
The Senate count now appears to be complete. Labor gained one Senate seat at the expense of the Greens, but conventional wisdom was that the Greens would end up losing several Senators, not just lose one to their nearest ally there.
The Liberals were hoping to reduce the number of cross-benchers. Instead, the Liberal/National Coalition ended up losing three seats, with the cross-benchers now up to 11 Senate seats. The vile One Nation has elected 4 Senators in total, the Nick Xenophon Team elected three (all from South Australia), and 4 Senators will be representing 4 other parties. It takes 39 Senators to constitute a majority for any vote -- unless the Liberals get Labor or Greens on board, they will require the consent of both the Xenophon and One Nation Senators (plus two of the 4 independents) to get a majority vote.
It's nice to see Liberals get what they really wanted out of the election (of course said sarcastically).
Thanks for these useful updates, Robo. I'm interested in Australian politics, but not enough to do the research you do, so having this thread to read is very helpful.
The distribution of preferences in counting the Senate votes resulted in only one change from what was expected from the first preferences being counted. In South Australia, the Family First Party won a seat that the numbers seemed to indciate would favour Labor. This analysis of the counting shows that the preferences from the Liberal and One Nation voters pushed the FFP candidate past the fourth Labor Senate candidate to get the last available Senate seat for South Australia.
So the first Senators have now been declared. The two Senate seats for the Northern Territory have elected one Labor and one Liberal. This is no surprise -- it was determined on the first round of counting as each party got at least one third of the first preference votes cast. (The two Territories have only two Senators each, elected with every Senate election. The six States have twleve Senators each, usually with six elected in every other election. This was a "double dissolution" election, so all twelve were up for election, lowering the quota. See post #13 in this thread.)
In Tasmania, Labor has won 5 Senate seats, Liberals won 4, Greens won 2, and Jacquie Lambie won 1. The frightening thing about this was that the last Senate seat, after 355 rounds of vote redistributions, went to the second Green candidate with 21,247 votes just past the One Nation candidate who had 21,106 votes. Since One Nation started the first round of counting with just 33.35% of a quota, I had guessed that there would not be near enough ballots that included One Nation as a ranked option to get them close enough to a Senate seat.
[Until this election, voters could just put a number "1" in one Party's box "above the line" for the Senate choice, and the Party would be allowed to redistribute those votes according to a published pre-election preference list; voters had the option to vote "below the line" if they wanted to set their own preferences, but voting below the line required every box to be numbered in order with no errors by duplication. Few did this, because the single number next to a party choice was so much easier. As of this election, there no longer are central party determinations for the distribution of the preferences of those who just mark one choice to leave it up to the party's decision-makers to declare the subsequent preferences. Now, voters have a choice between (a) marking at least six parties in ranked order "above the line" and (b) marking at least twelve individual candidates "below the line" -- either way, I had presumed few would actually put a number next to One Nation or any of their individual candidates. I was wrong to so presume.]
If this is an indication of what will happen generally, it may well turn out that One Nation will get a Senate seat in New South Wales, and maybe Western Australia and/or South Australia, in addition to the one Senate Seat guaranteed for Pauline Hanson in Queensland. Ick (to put it mildly).
Here is a link for an Australia/New Zealand study on internet voting.
Was this designed to be the most complicated electoral system on purpose?
Apologies for double entry.
I don't think so, it's a by-product of several factors.
The Senate voting system changed in some details, and some of the training only took place after the election.
The Austalians have a system of postal ballots which can take a long time to come in (it's a big sparsely-populated country), so after the first choices the count takes a break for a while.
The district magnitude (number of seats per (statewide) constituency is high for PR-STV with the double dissolution (usually only half the 12 Senators in a state are up for re-election at each general election).
The Australians had a rule that every voter had to rank every candidate (somewhat mitigated this year) but the system has a lot of momentum.
To compensate for that they invented a wrinkle that allowed voters to vote for a party only ("above-the-line voting") which then had complete control over the voter's rankings after the party choice.
Which led to an empowerment/proliferation of small single-issue parties which did log-rolling deals with the big parties.
PR-STV vote counts in other jurisdictions (Ireland, Malta, Tasmanian lower house etc.) are usually complete after two days, three at the outside.
How the newly modified Australian Senate voting system worked:
Regarding One Nation and small nasty parties, I ran across a line from an American political scientist which I like:
"Democracy is like a raft that never sinks, but then your feet are always in the water."
For most voters, it is not a complicated election procedure:
(A) For the "lower house" (House of Representatives), vote for at least six candidates, in your order of preference; and
(B) For the "upper house" (Senate), vote for at least six Parties above the line -- if you want to vote for individual Senate candidates, vote for at least 12 of them below the line (see Post #22 above for more on this recent change to voting procedures).
The counting is more complex, but not that hard to follow once you start. It could be made quicker if Australia got rid of their postal balloting. Until you know how many votes have been cast, you cannot absolutely determine how many votes are needed to gain a "quota" for your first Senate seat. Things get delayed waiting for the whole of the ballots to come in.
Once you know that Party X has reached the bottom of the list of candidates ranked in order, it is not complicated to "recount" those particular ballots by their next highest preference still on the ballot. But only "first counts" are done at polling stations -- subsequent counts are done be staff at the local returning office.
Just to note this, Canadian federal elections require their "mail in" ballots to be received at the local Returning Office no later than election day. If Canada allowed mail in ballots to be counted if received a week or two later, we would have most seats declared on Election Night, but close races would not be known until that period ended.