The Victorian ALP repeatedly offered the Greens an across-the-board second preference deal in every upper and lower house state seat in exchange for support in the 25 most marginal lower house seats, Crikey can reveal.

But after the negotiations foundered, the pared-back deal finally struck between the two parties — in which the Greens will deliver preferences to Labor in just 13 marginals — meant that Labor hatched a side-plan to partner with the right-wing Country Alliance in two upper house regions in an echo of the 2004 Federal tie-up that saw Steve Fielding elected to the Senate.

ALP sources told Crikey this morning that the deal with Country Alliance in Northern Victoria will mean the ALP’s Kaye Darveniza will snag the fifth upper house spot instead of Greens candidate and former Bendigo mayor David Jones.

“Country Alliance preferences to the ALP means that Kaye Darveniza will probably win the last spot instead of the Green…Labor was only in a position to talk to Country Alliance because the Greens kept refusing our proposed arrangements,” the source said.

The source suggested that the Greens had held off directly favouring Labor in other marginal seats, because of a theoretical deal with the Liberals to deliver it the preferences it needed to win the inner Melbourne seats of Melbourne, Richmond, Brunswick and Northcote. According to the source, the collapse of that arrangement yesterday left the party with egg on its face and the Greens’ Jones out of a seat.

However, incredulous psephological informants poured cold water on the ALP’s interpretation of the situation in Northern Victoria. “If Labor is ahead of the Greens in the first place then it has no effect — the Greens preferences will go to Labor, and Labor wins the two seats. If the Greens were ahead of Labor it might go to Country Alliance instead.”

Indeed, the ALP’s decision to side with the Country Alliance only appears to matter if, in determining the last spot, the rural party is ahead of the third Coalition candidate and the Greens are ahead of Labor. In that instance, Labor preferences would presumably tip the Country Alliance over the line.

The Greens’ Jones, who has been doing the regional radio rounds this morning, told Crikey that Labor was “treating their voters with contempt…this is really about keeping the Greens out.

“You’re going to have a Steve Fielding coming to a town near you,” he said, adding that “Kaye Darveniza will be crying into her Weet Bix this morning.”

ABC Elections analyst Antony Green agreed, but rated the ascension of Alliance candidate Steve Threlfall only an outside chance: “Labor’s decision to direct preferences ahead of the Greens raises the outside chance of Labor delivering the last spot to the Country Alliance. However, if the Country Alliance poll that well, I would expect the Coalition to fall short of a third quota, which would cut off the flow of DLP and Family First preferences.”

Green said that it would be Greens preferences that would elect Darveniza, rather than the Country Alliance’s, as claimed by Labor:

“The most likely outcome is a status quo result, as Labor would have to poll extremely badly for the Country Alliance to win the last spot. I think it more likely the Greens would be excluded and elect Labor to the final spot.”

In the other region where Labor has put Country Alliance ahead of the Greens, Eastern Victoria, the move would have no effect because the Labor vote is likely to hold up very close to two quotas.

Which begs the question as to why Labor had decided to deal with Country Alliance in the first place. Labor could benefit from a boost to its vote in Northern Metropolitan in the closely fought fifth place likely to be decided between the ALP’s Nathan Murphy, Crikey founder Stephen Mayne, the S-x Party and second Greens candidate Alex Bhathal.

But the other theory doing the rounds this morning centred on the ALP’s notorious “save Jacinta Allan project” in her marginal seat of Bendigo East, in which the Country Alliance is the beneficiary of the donkey vote. In a close-fought race an extra 1 or 2% could help shore up Allan’s position on the front bench in a re-elected Brumby government, especially given the Greens’ decision to deny the minister its support.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12