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05 July 2016
By Matt Hrkac

The Contest of Melbourne Ports

A battle between the Greens, Liberal Party and Labor is playing out in the seat of Melbourne Ports, with the Greens only a couple of percent behind the sitting Labor MP, who are both well behind the Coalition candidate. This seat will be a repeat of the state seat of Prahran in the 2014 Victorian State Election, whereby preferences from minor party and independent candidates allowed the Greens candidate to leapfrog from third into second place ahead of Labor, allowing the Greens to take the seat on the back of Labor preferences.

Similarities between Melbourne Ports and Prahran

As it currently stands, the three major party candidates primary vote percentages in Melbourne Ports is as follows: Liberal - 40.9%, Labor - 27.1%, Greens - 25.1%. The others, including the Animal Justice Party, Marriage Equality Party, Drug Law Reform, and two independents, sit at a combined total of 6.8%. It is to be mentioned that both the Animal Justice Party, and Marriage Equality Party, recommended their voters preference the Greens ahead of the ALP. Drug Law Reform didn't recommend preferences, while one of the independents indicated on his website that he'd prefer to see Michael Danby re-elected.

In the state seat of Prahran, the primary vote percentages at the 2014 Victorian State Election were as follows: Liberal - 44.8%, Labor - 25.9%, Greens - 24.8%, with combined others including Family First (favouring the Liberals), Animal Justice Party (favouring the Greens) and three independents with 4.6% of the vote.

As can be seen, the Greens in Prahran were able to win the seat from further behind, then they currently are in Melbourne Ports. The Greens in Melbourne Ports also have the advantage of having a larger base of progressive minor party and independent preferences that could push them above Labor, but at the same time, the Greens in Melbourne Ports start slightly further behind Labor then they were in Prahran, a difference of nearly 1%.

Preferencing Dilemmas

In the state seat of Prahran, Labor preferences flowed at 80% to the Greens candidate, allowing them to win the seat. The key decider in Melbourne Ports could be how Michael Danby's preferencing decision by handing out his own how-to-vote cards, with the Liberal Party ahead of the Greens, will affect the flow of preferences to the Greens over the Liberal Party - and how many such how-to-vote cards he actually handed out to voters before he was caught out for it, and whether he actually continued to hand out such how-to-vote cards after he was caught out.

As a consequence, the flow of preferences going from the Labor Party to the Greens could very well be diminished. The Greens need more than 2/3 of preferences when Labor is eliminated to win the seat on a two party preferred basis, which doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, in fact - the flow rate could very well be higher then that. In a similar vein, preferences to the Liberal Party can not flow at more than 1/3 from the Labor Party. Virtually all preferences that leaked from the minor parties and independents to Labor will undoubtedly favour the Greens ahead of the Liberal candidate.

Order of Elimination

Knowing this, here's how the order of elimination plays out based on current numbers:

The independent John B Myers is first eliminated. His 286 votes will likely distribute fairly evenly, but favouring the smaller parties ahead of the major parties.

The Marriage Equality Party is next eliminated. They recommended their voters direct their preferences to the Greens ahead of the other parties, but given that they are a small party, and a new party, one can expect there to be some leakage. With that being said, it shouldn't be too difficult to imagine that at least 50% of preferences (and probably more) will flow to the Greens candidate, with most of the rest going to the Labor Party.

This also brings the Animal Justice Party down into fifth place, but that is insignificant at this stage as the Animal Justice Party won't get elected into this seat.

Drug Law Reform is next in line for elimination. They ran an open ticket, but one would have to expect most of that to flow to the Greens and the remaining independent candidate.

Animal Justice Party are next eliminated. The Animal Justice Party recommended their voters preference the Greens ahead of any other candidates, and being a more established minor party, will have likely manned key polling places in the electorate. Therefore, one can expect in the vicinity of up to 80% of AJP preferences to flow directly to the Greens. This is also enough to push the Greens into second place.

Now, here's the real wildcard, the remaining independent candidate. On his website, he states that he recommends his voters give their second preference to Michael Danby, while singing praises of both the Greens and the Liberal Party. Without the likely resources to man polling places, there is likely to be significant leakage, and preferences may even slightly favour the Greens given the previous candidates eliminated are also included in the mix. This still keeps the Greens in front of Labor.

As a result, Michael Danby is the last to be eliminated and have his preferences distributed. As mentioned earlier, most of the first preference votes for minor parties will flow to the Greens ahead of the Liberal Party. One can expect, despite Michael Danby handing out alternate how-to-vote cards for a period of time, most of his first preferences to flow more strongly to the Greens over the Liberal Party, thus resulting in the Greens candidate being elected, albeit very narrowly.

It's a very narrow path to election. Indeed, it is possible that preferences from the two independent candidates (particularly the last independent to be eliminated) could flow more strongly to the Greens and not as strongly to the Liberal Party. It is also very possible that preferences from the Marriage Equality Party and Drug Law Reform could flow more strongly to the Greens, while it is a bit of a stretch to see the Liberal Party receiving stronger flows of preferences from the Animal Justice Party.

It is also possible that Michael Danby handing out alternate how-to-vote cards could have also had an impact, resulting in stronger flows to the Liberal Party over the Greens, thus allowing the Liberal Party to get over the line instead of the Greens.

There are also a considerable number of votes yet to be counted that could have an impact the final result.

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and photographer based in Geelong. He has particular interests in politics, elections, social movements and the trade union movement.

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