Julian Assange

Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks Party will have to borrow from the preference playbook of Crikey founder Stephen Mayne if it is to stand any chance of ascending to the Senate in Victoria on September 7.

Senate group voting tickets are due to be released on Saturday in Victoria, and with an bulging slate of parties likely to appear on the ballot, frenzied mobile calls are being made to lock in preference deals that will decide whether a minor party can trump the majors and keep the bastards honest.

Although WikiLeaks erected an impressive promotional stand at the recent Splendour in the Grass music festival in Byron Bay, it is unlikely to be able to maintain an overwhelming presence on the ground in the garden state on polling day, meaning backroom deals are crucial.

In 2010 in Victoria (see the progressive preference count on the AEC website), the DLP’s John Madigan managed to snag a seat on the red leather with just 2.3% of the primary vote, with the two other “Right” seats going to the Coalition, two to the ALP and one to the Greens. But that occurred against a historic low point for the major party vote, and a significant rebound is expected this time around. Crucially, the recovery in the Labor vote under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd could push some disillusioned Left voters back towards the ALP.

And as Charles Richardson noted on Monday, it is likely a recovery in the Coalition vote would manage to deny the DLP another foothold, largely the result of voters confusing the party’s initials with Labor’s. By far the most likely scenario is for Victoria to return two ALP senators (Gavin Marshall and Jacinta Collins), one Green (Janet Rice) and three from the Coalition (Mitch Fifield, Scott Ryan and Helen Kroger).

WikiLeaks campaign director Greg Barns told Crikey he had been embroiled in a “very positive national discussion with parties on the centre-Left and parties on the Right”.

“We’ve been approached by parties on both sides of the spectrum … We’re not a party of the Left or the Right, we tend towards libertarianism. We’re not a traditional Left or Right party. We’ll be taking on the mantle of keeping the bastards honest,” he said.

Barns stayed mum on any looming deal with the Greens, despite Crikey‘s threats to hack his emails and upload the redacted results to the global transparency portal.

For Assange to take up his seat (or his 2IC, academic Leslie Cannold, in the event he is unable to escape to confines of the Ecuadorian embassy), he needs to jump through at least three flaming hoops. He would firstly need a huge deal of luck and a sufficient primary vote, probably about 3%, to stay in the count for long enough. In 2010, Mayne had a good preference flow but a pitiful primary.

The party would then have to corral preferences from the centre-Left grouping that usually distribute among themselves, notably the Greens, the S-x Party and the Australian Democrats, ahead of the ALP, a feat achieved by Mayne.

Then, in a significantly trickier manoeuvre, it would would need to call on one or more of the broad micro Right, including the Christian Democrats, Family First and the DLP ahead of the other members of that group, especially the one that matters when preferences are distributed. Crucially, Mayne managed to snare Family First preferences ahead of the Coalition — an achievement unlikely to be repeated by Barns and co. This would unpick the classic NSW 1999 Legislative Council ‘Glenn Druery method’ of grouping micro right parties together or, alternatively, it could be viewed as getting in on the action itself.

Family First Victorian Senate candidate Ashley Fenn told Crikey this morning he had just left a message with WikiLeaks but was wary about a deal considering the two parties appeared to be at polar opposites politically.

Without an “in” with the Right, WikiLeaks faces a supremely difficult task. In 2010, the broad Right commanded close to 90% of a quota from the beginning of the count for the last vacancy with the Coalition, the DLP, Family First, Shooters & Fishers and the Christian Democrats all exchanging preferences in a sordid merry-go-round. The combined circle jerk continued until the final stages until a face-off against the ALP when the DLP secured a top-up from the likes of Mayne, One Nation and the Liberal Democrats. Blacksmith Madigan then vaulted over Antony Thow with well over a quota.

But this time around, WikiLeaks will have to contend with an expected major party rebound — any swing back to Labor or the Coalition would render victory nigh on impossible.