The fate of the Bracks government’s majority is not the only point of interest in tomorrow’s election. Almost as much attention has been focused on the internal conflicts within left and right: Labor versus Greens, and Liberals versus Nationals.

The Greens are challenging Labor in four inner-city seats: in ascending order of safety for Labor they are Melbourne (1.9%), Richmond (3.1%), Northcote (7.9%) and Brunswick (9.3%). (The last two are Antony Green’s figures; I don’t know where he gets them, since I can’t find them on the VEC website).

The Greens are again getting Liberal preferences, and they comfortably outvoted the Liberals in all four last time, so any general improvement in the Liberal vote should benefit the Greens. The ALP has been working itself into a frenzy over these preferences, and is still at it in this morning’s Age: Michael Bachelard reports that internal critics are attacking the “failure to secure Greens preferences in marginal Labor seats … which they say could cost the party crucial seats in the eastern suburbs” — an absurd suggestion.

But there’s no doubt Labor is fighting back hard against the Greens, which is probably just what the Liberals were trying to achieve. As Bachelard quotes a Labor source, “After the preference deals came out on Sunday, there was a feeling of a funeral. The amount of resources now into anti-Greens stuff … we’re better off doing that against the Libs.”

Despite Labor’s efforts, recent polls show the Greens vote strengthening; I now think they will pick up Melbourne. Richmond will be more difficult but still possible, and they’re an outside chance in Northcote — where Labor’s blanket coverage may have something to do with the fact that state secretary Stephen Newnham is the candidate’s husband.

Turning to the Liberal/National contests, the picture is murkier. The Nationals are a serious threat in one Liberal seat, Benambra, where veteran MLC Bill Baxter is trying to move to the lower house. It’s a toss-up, but my guess is he’ll just fall short.

The fate of the Nationals’ sitting members could depend on Labor preferences, which are still in doubt. Labor has registered two sets of how-to-vote cards; as of this morning, its website is still showing the one that preferences the Liberals, but news reports have suggested they will switch to favouring the Nationals tomorrow.

If they do, then Nationals’ sitting members should all hold on, but in Rodney, where Noel Maughan is retiring, the Liberals would still be a chance. Also worth watching will be Benalla, where Labor preferences are unlikely to matter but where the Liberal came within 300 votes of the Nationals last time.

If Labor tires of keeping the Nationals alive and preferences the Liberals, then the Nationals could be reduced to just three or four seats. That would, of course, roughly correspond to their share of the total vote, a target that for the Greens still seems an impossible dream.

Disclosure: I’ll be handing out how-to-vote cards tomorrow for two personal friends, Robert Clark (Liberal) in Box Hill and Alex Bhathal (Greens) in Northcote: both very fine candidates.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW