Victorian election: dubious preference deals?

Issue 

As the deadline passed on November 17 for the registration of how-to-vote cards for the November 25 Victorian state election, it was revealed that the Greens are issuing how-to-votes in nine Labor-held seats in the lower house that contain two options: putting Liberal ahead of Labor and vice versa. The Liberals are preferencing the Greens ahead of Labor in four Labor-held inner-city seats that the Greens hope to win.

ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham described it as a "grubby deal", while Greens spokesperson Greg Barber denied there was any deal with the Liberals. By contrast, the Socialist Alliance is preferencing Greens ahead of Labor and Labor ahead of the Liberals in all seats it is contesting (see article on page 7).

Meanwhile, both Labor and the Liberals have preferenced People Power ahead of the Greens in all of Victoria's eight multi-member upper house electorates. The policies of PP, which is a new party, are not totally clear, but it appears to be basically right-wing.

It talks of cutting 20,000 "bureaucrats and consultants" from the state public service by 2008 (20,000 job cuts would inevitably mean that many ordinary public service workers would be sacked), and while its website does not include an industrial relations policy, the few references to unions are hostile. It claims that Labor will field "an army of union officials" in the election and states that unions should be banned from giving money to political parties.

As well, PP opposes a harm-minimisation approach to drugs, advocating instead "mandatory rehabilitation for all users of illicit drugs". A prominent figure in PP is Steven Mayne, a former staff member of Liberal ex-premier Jeff Kennett.

Although the ALP has put the Greens ahead of Family First this time, Labor's preferences to PP could have a similar result. Since PP will receive preferences from both Liberal and Labor, it may win seats at the expense of the Greens, even if it receives fewer primary votes, just as Family First did in the 2004 Senate election.

The ALP is also preferencing the Country Alliance, which claims that "the timber industry needs stronger laws to protect it from well resourced protesters", ahead of the Greens.