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McKew makes Lateline entry

LABOR giant slayer and 2007 election darling Maxine McKew will  make an appearance in the national media tonight after a relatively quiet campaign.

Greens set to grab balance of power

BOB Brown's Greens look set to be big winners in the Senate race, gaining the balance of power after the coming campaign.

This will give the Greens a seat at the table on issues such as climate change and the mining tax.

Greens sources have told The Australian they are confident of winning a Senate seat in Queensland where the party's candidate, Larissa Waters, is likely to win at the expense of the Liberals' Russell Trood, who holds the fourth position on the joint Liberal National Party ticket.

The Greens are also confident of winning in Victoria at the expense of Family First's Stephen Fielding, who won in 2004 with the benefit of an elaborate preference deal that saw him elected despite his party gaining just under 2 per cent of the primary vote.

Unlike in the House of Representatives, senators are elected through a proportional representation system, requiring them to gain a quota of 14.3 per cent of the vote for election in the states and 33.3 per cent in the territories.

Senators are elected for six-year terms -- but the new senators will not take their seats until July 1 next year. The exception is the territory senators, whose seats are up for grabs at every election and who take their spots immediately.

Gains in Queensland and Victoria for the Greens would see the party's numbers in the Senate rise to seven, forcing Julia Gillard to the negotiating table with them for the passage of contentious legislation opposed by the opposition.

In the current Senate, the government has had to negotiate with the Greens, Senator Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon.

With published polls showing the Coalition's primary vote above 40 per cent, the combined Liberal and Nationals representation is likely to fall only one seat to 36 in the new Senate with the loss of a position in Queensland. Labor is likely to remain on 32 seats in the 76 seat upper house.

The Nationals are also expected to increase their Senate numbers with their Victorian candidate, Bridget McKenzie, holding the safe No 2 spot on the joint Liberal-Nationals Senate ticket.

This would see the Nationals' representation return to six in the upper house and allow them to replace Julian McGauran who left the Nationals for the Liberals in 2006. He holds the third spot on the joint ticket and is expected to be returned for the Liberals.

Greens sources concede NSW will be difficult for the party despite NSW upper house MP Lee Rhiannon being its candidate. The Nationals are also confident that their candidate, sitting senator Fiona Nash, will be returned.

In South Australia, the question will be where the 15 per cent of the vote gained by Senator Xenophon will be distributed this election, with the popular anti-gambling senator yet to endorse a fellow independent in the coming poll.

The Greens have preselected lawyer Penny Wright as their Senate candidate but former Liberal turned Family First member Bob Day, a wealthy South Australian businessman, is also running for the Senate and could attract enough votes to be a contender.

Mr Day resigned from the Liberals after failing to win preselection for the safe seat of Mayo after the resignation of Alexander Downer and ran in the 2008 by-election for Family First, attracting about 11 per cent of the vote in a poll not contested by Labor.

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