Outspoken Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby has proudly announced he’ll be preferencing the Liberals, not the Greens, in his seat — but the party says, in fact, Victorian Labor, not individual candidates, will be making preference decisions, thank you very much.

Last week Danby told Sky News that he would be preferencing the Liberals over the Greens in the upcoming election:

I, as in the last election, have determined that in my seat that I will be preferencing the Liberals ahead of the Green party [sic].”

As Crikey reported last week, the Greens need a 5.85% swing in the seat in order to pick it up, and they are targeting it — along with Melbourne, Higgins, Batman and Wills — in the upcoming election. In 2013 Danby relied on preferences from the Greens to win the seat, with the Liberal candidate beating Danby on first-preference votes.

But Victorian Labor assistant state secretary Kosmos Samaras told Crikey the party, not individual candidates, would make a decision on preferences, and no decision had been made yet. It would be made “closer to the election”, he said.

“Obviously negotiations take place. Negotiations have taken place in the past between the Labor Party and the Greens, and other minor parties, but we have not commenced discussions yet,” Samaras said. “It’s part of a national approach the Labor Party takes, which is to discuss preference arrangements with other political parties. At this stage we have made no such decision.”

In a statement provided to Crikey, Danby said Melbourne Ports Labor would have its input in determining preferences for Melbourne Ports, but said the Labor preferences would be purely symbolic, because historically he has always run first or second in the seat against the Liberal candidate:

“This is unlike the Liberals in Wills or Batman where they are running dead and will run third. Moreover, if Michael Kroger’s plan is OK’d by Malcolm Turnbull the Liberals will allocate their preferences to the Green Party. As part of the Liberal-Green Party deal, the Green Party will then run open tickets in Chisholm, Bruce and Melbourne Ports. Unlike the Melbourne Ports ‘symbolic’ allocation, this could have a real effect assisting the Liberals. This may explain Green Party boss Richard Di Natale telling GQ magazine he would ‘never say never’ to a coalition with the Liberals.”

Samaras warned that if the Greens continued down the path of handing out open preference tickets — in which they advise voters at the ballot box to vote No. 1 Greens and then determine their own preferences for the remaining candidates — in Labor-held or Labor-contested seats, then Labor could potentially do the same in seats with a strong Greens candidate, such as Kelly O’Dwyer’s electorate of Higgins, where she is facing competition from Greens candidate Jason Ball and Labor candidate Carl Katter.

“We could do the same in Higgins, if that’s what they like … If the Greens continue with their approach to run open tickets in critical marginal seats which Labor contests, we’ll find ways to make their contests difficult,” Samaras told Crikey.

He said the Greens ran an open ticket in the 2014 state election in the marginal seats that mattered to Labor, and Labor could not continue to allow this to happen.

“The Labor Party cannot sit here and continuously, election after election, allow the Greens to hand out open tickets in contests where we are trying to take seats off the Liberal Party.”

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