This morning’s Agereports
that former independent federal MP Phil Cleary is “considering an
approach” to run for the Victorian Legislative Council under the banner
of People Power. Indeed, he is already listed as a speaker at People
Power’s initial campaign function on 15 June.

is an interesting prospect for Cleary, who in the past has been
associated with causes on the far left of the political spectrum.
People Power, on the other hand, is basically a free market-liberal
outfit – several of its leading lights are former Liberal Party
members. In a state where the Liberals are moribund and the Labor right
entrenched in government, they share a common interest in shaking up
things up, but they might find it hard to agree on much in policy terms.

also not obvious where Cleary would stand. The Age reports that “People
Power is keen for Mr Cleary to run for an upper house region
representing Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs”, but the only region
fitting that description – Northern Metropolitan – is the one where People Power already has a candidate, former Socceroo Jack Reilly.

other problem with Northern Metropolitan is that on 2002 figures it’s
very clear how its five seats would fall: three ALP, one Liberal and
one Green. It would need a large shift in support for any of those to
miss out, and so far the opinion polls show this looking very much like
a status quo election.

Cleary is right to say that the new
system of proportional representation for Victoria’s upper house “could
be ‘a godsend’ for the political system.” But, like many others, he
could be overestimating the assistance that it will give to minor
parties and independents. A quota for election will still be one-sixth
of the vote, which has to be achieved across large regions with more
than 400,000 voters. In Western Australia, which operates a similar
system, no independents have ever managed to win election.

smart money still says that only the four established parties – Labor,
Liberals, Greens and Nationals – will win seats in the new upper house.
Cleary may be better off with his alternative plan of running as an
independent for a Lower House seat.

Peter Fray

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