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16 November 2018
By Matt Hrkac

Friends don't let friends vote above the line

The Victorian Legislative Council has produced a remarkably consistent list of candidates between each region. This consistency, with pretty much every party contesting every region, is no doubt the work of Glen Druery - the 'preference whisperer' who orchestrated a series of complex preference deals that got Ricky Muir elected to the Senate at the 2013 Federal Election on just 0.51% of the primary vote.

These same complex preference negotiations got two Shooters and Fishers Party MPs, a Democratic Labour Party MP, Fiona Patten of the Sex Party as well as James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs elected on a minuscule percentage of the primary vote in their respective regions,

Druery, now a staffer for Federal Senator Derryn Hinch, has struck again. Reports are that Druery charges a fee of $5000 for each minor party to be involved in his alliance. He then charges a stipend of $50,000 if a candidate he engaged is successfully elected.

The system of Group Voting Tickets, whereby parties can dictate where their preferences go to if they are eliminated from the count, has been thoroughly discredited and has become nothing more than a farce - especially if it can become a nice little money-kicker and business model for preference whisperers such as Druery.

This was the system used for the Federal Senate prior to the 2016 Federal Election, until it was rightly reformed to allow above or below the the line semi-optional preferential voting. Group voting tickets are still in use in Victorian State Elections for the upper house.

The conservative parties have kept their preferences largely as a block. However, the progressive parties have not been so disciplined. In a number of regions, the Labor Party have directed preferences to a combination of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party and the Aussie Battler Party ahead of the Greens.

On the contrary, despite their bellyaching on social media, the Greens have directed preferences to a combination of Sustainable Australia, Health Australia Party, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party and the Aussie Battler Party ahead of the Labor Party in most regions.

The Transport Matters Party as well as Hudson for NV also appear higher than the Labor Party on the Greens group tickets for some regions; likewise, they appear higher than the Greens on the Labor Party's group tickets for some regions.

The Reason Party have also directed their above the line preferences to Derryn Hinch's Justice Party, Transport Matters, Sustainable Australia and hard-core libertarian Liberal Democratic Party ahead of both Labor and The Greens.

The Animal Justice Party are also directing preferences to the above mentioned Right-wing minor parties ahead of both Labor and the Greens.

All of this means that a 1 above the line vote for any of these parties risks parties of the Right getting elected, thus helping Druery to make his living, rather than a progressive of one stripe or another getting elected.

Would a voter of the Greens be pleased to know that vote would potentially be contributing to the election of nationalists into the state parliament? Would a voter of the Reason Party be pleased to know that their vote could potentially deliver a seat to the tough-on-law and order and right-wing reactionary populists Derryn Hinch's Justice Party?

Would a voter of the Labor Party be pleased to know that their vote could contribute to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidates getting elected?

No, neither groups of voters would. They would infect be mortified if they were to find out that the party they are voting for could deliver a seat to someone of the complete ideological opposite.

None of these parties can take the moral high-ground here. As they have all done deals with parties of their ideological opposite.

In fact, the only party that can rightly and legitimately take the moral high-ground is the Victorian Socialists - who have directed preferences in an order, in every region, that their voters would likely go with anyway. They have directed preferences to The Greens, followed by Reason and Animal Justice Party, followed by Labor in most regions.

However, there is a way to completely break the back of Druery's business model. That is by voting below the line.

In Victorian State Elections, you only need to number in sequence from 1 to at least 5 below the line to cast a valid vote. However, it is recommended you go beyond that, numbering as many boxes in sequence as you can.

This means you can vote for Labor, or the Greens, Reason and Animal Justice Party and ensure you preference other progressive parties, without unwillingly directing your preferences to right-wing parties - you can leave them unnumbered completely.

If you intend to vote for any of the Right-wing parties, voting below the line is helpful for you too. 

The point being, regardless of which party you vote for in the upper house, in this state election; voting below the line takes control of your preferences away from the preference whisperers and gives it to you, the voter.

However, it probably isn't the readers of this blog who have to be convinced. Most people who avidly follow politics are already well informed and educated as to how voting and preferencing works. At the last state election, 93.8% of Victorian voters placed faith in their party of choice to direct preferences by just voting 1 above the line. It is these people that need to be convinced and informed.

So get the message out there. Tell your friends, your neighbours, your coworkers and your family: in the upcoming Victorian State Election - vote below the line and explain to them how easy it is. This is the way, and only way, we can bust the business model of Druery and ensure an upper house that is representative of the voting population.

With group ticket voting, it has become clear that voters can no longer trust parties to direct their preferences in good faith. Take the power, and your vote, back.

About the author:

Matt Hrkac is a writer and activist based in Geelong who regularly contributes to Green Left Weekly. He has particular interests in politics, elections and the trade union movement and has had extensive involvement in a number of local campaigns. He is a former member of the Greens.

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