In terms of own goals, the Labor Right war machine has reached new levels of productivity over the past week.

There was Tony Abbott stumbling through a terrible performance with Barrie Cassidy on Insiders last Sunday when well-paid News Limited commentators Graham Richardson and Paul Howes decided it was time to roll out their baby-faced backroom boy Sam Dastyari for an illogical attack on the Greens. The Australian has been lapping it up ever since, despite the obvious damage being done to Labor’s educated Left base which continues to defect en masse to the Greens.

When combined with a stunningly incompetent campaign by the ALP, Julia Gillard is headed towards her Waterloo after the Greens win the Melbourne state byelection on Saturday week.

Of all the Labor blunders in Melbourne, nothing quite compares with the attack it launched yesterday against popular African refugee and former Victorian of the Year, Dr Berhan Ahmed. Ahmed told me on Tuesday that he was unhappy with both the Greens and the ALP, but in a 16-horse field he had decided to preference the two major parties towards the bottom of his ticket, with Labor higher.

This was a blow to the Greens, especially considering that Ahmed is a former Greens candidate who drew the top spot on the ballot paper and has a strong following in the large public housing estates in Carlton, North Melbourne and Flemington. Alas, the incompetent Labor campaign team didn’t bother to check with Ahmed and provided The Age with a so-called “dossier” naming him as one of four “Green stooges” in the field.

The story was headlined “ALP accuses Greens of ‘grubby deals'”. More accurately it should have said: “Labor falsely attacks supporter as a Green stooge”. What started out as a small story turned into a page six lead when all four of us independents were outraged at the slur.

It also played right into Bob Brown’s hands as he garnered large coverage supporting the Green campaign in Melbourne yesterday and produced this powerful lead opinion piece for The Age exposing some private conversations with faceless man Paul Howes.

The real story of the 16-horse field in Melbourne is that Labor is drawing preference support from a majority of the minor players, including the candidates representing religious right parties such as Family First. No wonder Labor is preferencing the DLP and Family First ahead of the Greens, although this too has blown up in Labor’s face given Melbourne is arguably the most progressive seat in Victoria.

Amidst all the misguided attack strategies, it is Labor’s own preference deal with adult industry lobbyist Fiona Patten that is most deserving of attention. At candidate forums in both Carlton and Docklands this week, Patten told residents the adult industry was motivated to form their astutely named Australian S-x Party after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pursued his proposed internet filter.

This was “the last straw” for an exasperated industry and Patten huffed that it was still Labor policy, even though the Greens helped foil it in the Senate.

Given that the pro-censorship Conroy is a key factional powerbroker involved in the Melbourne byelection campaign, how on earth has he secured a favourable preference deal with the Australian S-x Party? Has Patten sidelined the Greens in exchange for a nod and a wink that Labor will support her Senate tilt next year?

If Labor wants to talk about “grubby deals”, more light should be shone on arrangements between the p-rn party and Labor, the so-called “pokies party” which operates more than 1000 poker machines in the ACT and NSW.

I’m still in dialogue with the Australian S-x Party as all candidates have until tomorrow to register their how to vote cards.

The same applies with former Melbourne City Councillor David Nolte, a popular pharmacist in North Carlton, who is also distributing how-to-vote cards at early voting centres favouring Labor over the Greens.

Nolte, Patten and myself are likely to poll best after Labor and the Greens so it would make sense for the three of us to preference each other to maximise the combined tiny prospect of an outsider stealing it. I won’t be supporting either of they push ahead with preferencing Labor ahead of the Greens.

I’m determined to send Labor the strongest possible message over its slippery dudding of the Andrew Wilkie pokies commitment. There’s also a strong motivation flowing from Labor’s distribution of a dirt sheet, as is explained here.

The pitch to Nolte and Patten is that the tide is clearly going out for Labor and these candidates should put themselves on the right side of history by getting behind the impressive Greens candidate Cathy Oke, who strongly supports implementing $1 maximum bets as recommended by the Productivity Commission. Anyone who watched that incredibly moving story on 7.30 last night about poker machine addiction would understand why it stirs such passion in so many people.

As Andrew Crook pointed out in Crikey yesterday, the sanctioned leaks from the NSW Right blaming Gillard for Labor’s poor polling in Melbourne suggest the coming disaster could well bring matters to a head regarding a return to Kevin Rudd. That’s an interesting prospect for the 28% of voters who voted Liberal in Melbourne at the 2010 Victorian election.

If enough of them get behind the Greens to trigger an historic win and a 10% two-party preferred swing against Labor, they may very well precipitate the downfall of the Labor prime minister they so despise.

*Stephen Mayne is standing as an independent candidate in the Melbourne byelection on a poker machine platform and was not paid for this item. He denies Labor claims of being a “Green stooge”.

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