The Greens’ worst fear in Victoria is out in the open this morning, with a report in The Age that the ALP is considering a preference deal with the Assemblies of God party, Family First.

The Greens have been paranoid on this subject ever since the 2004 Senate election, when Labor preferences delivered a Senate seat to Family First’s Steve Fielding at their expense, even though they outvoted Fielding more than four to one.

The 2004 deal made a limited amount of sense for Labor, as an attempt to elect their third candidate, but the outcome was a disaster: electing Fielding horrified many of their supporters, alienated the Greens, and gave John Howard an extra shot in his locker for Senate control – one that he used to good effect this month on media reform.

With the Victorian Legislative Council, however, the dynamic will be the other way around. Labor will be in the position Howard is now, on the verge of control in its own right and wanting extra options to get its legislation through. Having one or two Family Firsters there as well as the Greens would be tactically advantageous, at least in the short term.

It seems the chance of actually achieving that is remote. It would take an unusual combination of circumstances for Family First to benefit from Labor preferences. But in Eastern Victoria region (Family First’s big target), it’s just possible that they could stay in long enough to get ahead of the Greens, and then Green preferences would decide the last seat between them and the Nationals.

The big risk of this strategy is that (apart from the amount of internal angst it would create) it could end up just infuriating the Greens without achieving its aim, and a hostile Greens-Liberal majority in the upper house could then make life very difficult for the Bracks government.

What matters most for the Greens is that the two major parties, whatever else they do, should still preference them ahead of each other.

There’s no doubt about that as regards Labor, but it’s still possible the Liberals will do a deal to try to lock out the Greens. If they do, Steve Bracks can count himself a lucky man indeed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey