Micro-parties looking to squeak into Victorian Parliament using a complex matrix of preference deals can do so unmolested as no legislation has been pitched to stop the practice — which famously resulted in Ricky Muir and Bob Day elected to the Senate on minuscule primary votes during the 2013 federal election.

Micro-party People Power Victoria: No Smart Meters is wheeling and dealing for preferences, despite expecting a minuscule primary vote. The party’s methods have gained the approval of “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery, who said of PPV head Marc Florio: “He’s a newcomer, but he’s smart. He’s got a better understanding than others [of preference deals].”

He told Crikey that it would take lot more than preference deals to get one of Florio’s seven candidates elected, but he was on the right path.

Florio told internet radio show “Fairdinkum” (which recently ran a story claiming that Ebola is a hoax) he started to get headaches after his neighbours installed a smart meter. He decided to form a party and run four candidates for the state upper house and three in the lower house — including serial candidate Steve Raskovy, a Hungarian former wrestler.

Florio says People Power Victoria: No Smart Meters has more than 700 members. “A lot of our members have been apolitical up until now,” he said. That’s not many, compared with the tens of thousands in the Liberal and Labor parties. But Florio told Crikey he was engaging with other parties to discuss deals for their preferences. “I’m not interested in some bismarckian alliance across the board, I’m just dealing with individual parties,” he said.

Micro-party preference deals have been front and centre of electoral reform debates since the 2013 federal election, when a complicated network of preferences elected Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir and Bob Day of Family First.

The Federal Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has recommended group voting tickets be abolished, but no legislation has been constructed to stop micro-parties using group voting tickets to manipulate the electoral system in Victoria.

Under the optional preferential voting system in place for the November state election, an above-the-line vote in the Legislative Council ballot — which in 2010 accounted for more than 95% of votes — will be fed out from unsuccessful candidates according to the party’s group voting ticket.

A strategist working closely with candidates in the Victorian election told Crikey a Victorian version of the micro-party alliance was unlikely.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has tabled a bill in the Senate that would aim to stop parties being able to channel their preferences to other parties. Xenophon says the “complex” preference deals left voters unsure of where their vote ended up and once the results came in: “Voters, already confused and disheartened, lost further faith in the system.”

“Candidates and parties should have to campaign to win votes, not count on a confusing and labyrinthine preferencing system to win a seat,” he told the Senate. He says group voting tickets struck in “cosy backroom deals” should be scrapped in all jurisdictions.

“These are murky deals, they don’t reflect the will of the voters.”

Peter Fray

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