Eyebrows continue to be raised over Greens preference deals in the lead-up to Saturday’s Victorian state election, none more so than in the seat of Essendon where candidate Rose Iser is listing an anti-abortion advocate who was last year embroiled in a racist email controversy as the second pick on her how-to-vote card.

Former Moonee Valley mayor Paul Giuliano, who on his campaign website slams the idea of a carbon tax as “not the solution” to climate change, stitched up the deal with the Greens hierarchy last week to exchange second preferences with Iser. Before the Greens preference negotiations with the Liberals foundered last week, his expected 6-8% of the vote could have shunted her the seat in a tight contest.

Giuliano and Iser are listed number 2 on each other’s cards, lodged with the Victorian Electoral Commission on Friday.

His website contains a prominent link to a Right to Life website, featuring pictures of a newborn baby with the words “kill her now it’s murder, kill her before birth it’s ‘abortion'” at the top of the page. Her website contains a slate of official Greens policies that badly chafe with Giuliano’s stance.

Following Crikey‘s queries this morning, Iser called Giuliano, who told her he would remove the Right to Life link at the earliest opportunity so as not to alienate Greens voters who are overwhelmingly pro-choice.

The Greens have also decided to preference St Kilda triangle activist Serge Thomann in Albert Park, which could cause Greens supporters concern owing to his equivocal views on action to tackle climate change.

Essendon is expected to be won by planning minister Justin Madden, despite being shielded from the spotlight by Labor during the campaign following the Windsor Hotel planning debacle. Labor holds the seat by 11.7%, however Iser, who lost a pre-selection contest with the party’s Melbourne candidate Brian Walters, was rated a chance in some circles with the assistance of preferences.

Last year, Giuliano, in his former role as Moonee Valley mayor, hit the national headlines after he forwarded an email to his entire address book imploring Muslims to “speak English”. He later explained away the controversy by saying the email was only meant for his fellow councillors. On council, observers say Giuliano usually took an orthodox pro-business position and was generally regarded as a Liberal Party stalking horse.

Controversy continues to surround the Greens’ preference strategy, which led to Labor preferencing the Country Alliance in two upper house regions and the Liberal Party deciding to put the Greens last everywhere, cutting off an inner-city lifeline that could have seen the party snag up to five seats.

Iser defended the decision to preference Giuliano when contacted by Crikey this morning: “Paul and I have been on council so we have worked together over that time, our policies always don’t always align but we have very good working relationship … if Paul happened to be successful in Essendon I would be able to take ideas and concerns to him. I know he would be far more welcoming of those of Mr Madden or the Liberal candidate.

“I also think that [due to] Mr Madden’s performance in planning that it’s very difficult for the Greens to give him our second preference in the seat of Essendon.”

Iser admitted to Crikey it may have been wiser for the party to run an open ticket, in which no preferences are allocated: “As late as last Monday, we were considering running an open ticket. But I’m supporting Paul because he has the best interests of Essendon at heart.”

She said Greens voters who were repelled by Giuliano’s links could make their own mind up at the ballot box, in the style favoured by party leader Bob Brown: “The Greens position on preferences is that individuals have control over how their preferences go.

“I am pro-choice and support the decriminalisation of abortion and voters should put the candidates in the order they like to see them.”