As someone who lost their job in the Victorian Senate election, I write
to correct the misleading statements made by Mr David Risstrom, the
unsuccessful Greens candidate.

The gist of the ALP’s Victorian Senate strategy is
not a dark mystery. In fact, it can be discerned from the published
group voting tickets. The ALP assumed that the Greens would win a seat
in their own right, and tried to win the sixth and final seat from the
Coalition. To this end, the ALP cut preference deals with Liberals for
Forests, Family First and the DLP. It was an ambitious strategy, but
had the Coalition vote not jumped as it did (from 39.6% to 44.1%), it
may well have succeeded. Political commentators would have
congratulated the ALP for winning a third Senate spot on the back of
preferences from not only moral conservatives but a group ostensibly
called ‘Liberals for Forests’.

The merits of the Senate ticket
system are hotly debated, but a vote for the ALP has always been a vote
for the combination of preferences most likely to elect an ALP member.
It is extremely hard to argue that democracy is better served by the
ALP preferencing in a way LESS likely to elect ALP members. Mr Risstrom
omits this aspect in his letter. He says:

Well before the election, Family First repeatedly stated
its intention to preference the Greens last, so presumably the ALP
didn’t need to do anything to receive Family First preferences ahead of
the Greens. Therefore, Labor made a decision to preference Family First
ahead of the Greens when it didn’t need to do so.

This is a classic example of political spin. Mr
Risstrom knows full well why the ALP preferenced Family First ahead of
the Greens. If anything, the Greens were a victim of their own
pre-election hype, which had many commentators predicting they would
pick up not only seats in the Senate but also in the House. However, Mr
Risstrom uses the word “presumably” to selectively present the
situation, and thus misleadingly imply that the ALP preferenced Family
First for ideological reasons. Moreover, he tries to imply that that
ALP sought to “handball power to a conservative coalition”, when the
ALP sought to do the complete reverse.

Not surprisingly, Mr Risstrom’s take on the issue is one that is
likely to win Greens support among Crikey readers. Your article title,
“Labor’s Dodgy Deal”, suggests he had at least some success. All
parties are guilty of this sort of thing, but it’s particularly
unfortunate when it comes from the Greens, who so hypocritically market
themselves as the “No spin zone”.

Peter Fray

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