There is almost no doubt that the Greens will win at least two seats
and possibly as many as eight in the reconstituted Victorian upper
house at the November 25 state election given the new proportional
representation voting system. So, after years of coming so close in
Templestowe Province at the 1999 election, Melbourne in 2002 and the
2004 Senate contest, how is the party preselecting its candidates? This
little summary fell off the back of a solar-powered bicycle outside the
old Crikey bunker yesterday:

1. An applicant must be nominated by four financial Greens
party members. Each nominator provides a two-part statement, firstly
listing their own party history and secondly explaining why they are
nominating the applicant.

2. Each applicant provides a comprehensive statement in support of their application.

3. A series of “meet-the-candidates meetings” are held around the eight
upper house Region, which each includes 11 lower house seats. This is
an opportunity for party members to meet the applicants, ask questions
of them and – perhaps most importantly – observe how they perform
relevant tasks such as prepared speeches, impromptu speeches, simulated
press conferences, radio interviews and the like.

4. Applicants undergo in-depth probing from a panel. The panels
comprise representatives from the local branches of the party located
in the Region as well as two representatives of the party’s State
Council who are not residents of the Region. Panel members also attend
and observe the meet-the-candidates meetings. Each individual panel
member must then write a brief assessment of each applicant.

5. The final decision is determined by a postal ballot of Greens party
members residing in the Region. It’s an optional preferential voting
system and a majority is required to be successful. Information
provided in the postal ballot pack includes for each applicant:

* the applicant’s statement
* the applicant’s 4 nominators’ statements
* each individual panel member’s assessment of the applicant

That’s pretty democratic and comprehensive, although it would be open
to the corrosion of branch stacking. It would be interesting to know if
the party has seen an increase in membership since winning seats became
a serious prospect.

Still, sometimes member-based preselections don’t produce the most
strategic candidate. Greg Barber certainly looks the goods in their
best prospect of Northern Metropolitan but why would you put former
union official Sue Pennicuik
in their next best seat of Southern Metropolitan when this is relying
on all those wealthy doctors’ wives in the leafy suburbs of Kew,
Hawthorn and Brighton?

The Liberal Party has generally preselected better candidates in the
upper house because of the sheer size of each Region (407,000 voters
on average) weakens the relative power of local stackers and factional
warlords in the preselection.

It will be interesting to see what Labor produces later in the year
when 25 incumbent Legislative Councillors will have to be preselected
into 18 winnable spots across the state. Standby by for an almighty
bunfight in a state that is already riven by factional warfare.