It looks like new leader of the government in the Senate George Brandis is taking a much more friendly approach to the crossbench than Mal Brough did last week, with Brandis telling Barrie Cassidy on Insiders yesterday that the government had made no decision on Senate voting reform to make it more difficult for minor parties to get elected. “These people all played by the rules,” he said. “I mean, all eight of the Senate crossbenchers were elected fair and square under the existing rules. And it’s not as if it’s only minor parties and independents who try to calculate where their advantages — best advantage lies when it comes to Senate preferences.”

Crossbench Senator David Leyonhjelm has said that the government will suffer if it moves to change the rules, and we hear that the suffering could also be felt at the ballot box for both the Liberal Party and the Greens, which have also voiced support for changes. Preference whisperer Glenn Druery says a deal between the majors to lock micro-parties out would “wake a sleeping ‘combined minor party’ giant”. Micro-parties on both the left and right of politics could direct their preferences away from the Liberals and Greens in order to make their displeasure felt. Minor parties on the right could even run lower house candidates in up to 10 marginal seats, including Boothby, Hasluck, Petrie, Deakin and Brisbane in order to push preferences away from the Liberals and towards the ALP, which is opposed to reforms.

The Greens and independent Senator Nick Xenophon could also be targeted for their support for changes, with minor parties preferencing Labor before the Greens in Senate seats and a “special effort” made in Adam Bandt’s lower house seat of Melbourne to direct preferences away from the Greens.

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Peter Fray

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