Greens Senator Scott Ludlam appears to have retained his seat in the re-run West Australian Senate election, with early results showing a big swing to the party.
Yesterday, when 70.88 per cent of polling places had counted first preferences, there was a 5.91 per cent swing against the Liberals and a 5.33 per cent swing against Labor, while the Greens had put on 6.69 per cent.
At the same time, there was a 7.51 per cent swing towards the Palmer United Party.
Labor's member for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan, said it appeared some of her party's traditional voters had backed the Greens.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said there was "a long way to go" with the counting, but she had been expecting a swing against the government.
Minister for Employment Eric Abetz said it was "an absolute shame" someone of the calibre of the Liberal's third candidate, Linda Reynolds, was "in the fight of her life".
The third seat is pivotal for the government because without it the coalition will have to gain more support from backbenchers to pass legislation.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said it appeared from comments made to her at polling booths that the party had gained votes from both of the majors.
She said one woman told her: "I've been a Liberal voter but we need to keep a check on Tony Abbott."
"This is the strongest vote (for the Greens) I've seen," Senator Siewert said.
She said the voting results so far showed West Australians were saying the federal government's agenda was "a harsh agenda".
Former Labor workplace relations and tertiary education minister Chris Evans said the results were "concerning" for the major parties" and that the Greens and PUP were "clearly the big winners".
Mr Evans also said Labor's controversies last week with lead candidate Joe Bullock – who was revealed as describing his running mate Louise Pratt as a "poster child" for "leftie" values such as marriage equality – had proved "detrimental" to the party's vote.
"There's no doubt the Labor party has a serious problem with pre-selection processes," he said.
Both major parties had low-profile lead candidates, he said, but the Greens had promoted a lead candidate – Mr Ludlam – who made the others look dull.
And the party was creative in its campaign, he said.
Voters were able to "shop around" with the re-run election because a government wasn't at stake, he said.
"It looks like Scott's home and hosed," Labor Senator Sam Dastyari said.
"Palmer's home, the Greens are home, there's two Libs home and there's one Labor home, and it's really going to come down to that one spot," he said.
"It will be interesting to see where the Greens end up – how much over a quota they'll get."