Two days into an election campaign and all the parties could fight about was who was preferencing whom, and what deals were being made.

Yesterday’s Herald Sun front page was splashed with claims that the Liberals and Greens had almost done a deal to ensure Greens would get Liberal preferences in Batman, Wills and Melbourne. The issue first surfaced in the months leading up to the election, with several Labor MPs, including Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek and Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese, at risk of losing their inner-city progressive seats to the Greens. Plibersek insisted to the ABC yesterday a deal had been done:

“Certainly in Victoria we are hearing all the time from our negotiators that the Victorian seats are off the table. So Melbourne, Batman, Wills there is a deal done. And you have to ask yourself, why Michael Kroger would want the Greens to pick up those seats. He wants the Greens to pick up those seats because it makes another Liberal government more likely.”

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The issue has dragged into day three, despite federal director of the Liberal Party Tony Nutt releasing a statement yesterday afternoon saying that no preference deal had been done:

“Preferences are allocated consistent with the electoral interests of the party, our values, principles and priorities, and the best interests of the Australian people in having an effective national government. Decisions are made by the party organisation on a collaborative basis, coordinated Australia-wide by the National Campaign Director.”

The statement is a push back against Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger, who told Sky News last night that the Liberal Party needed to re-think its position on preferencing Labor above the Greens because “Labor have gone to the left” in recent years and there wasn’t much of a difference.

Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt also said yesterday there was no deal in place:

“Labor is desperately pleading for Liberal preferences to hang on to their inner-city seats. The most likely deal is one between Labor and Liberal, just like at the last election, where they joined up to try and stop the Greens from winning Melbourne.”

While stories of a Liberal-Greens preference deal float around, Liberal MPs are also warning of a Labor-Greens coalition government, similar to the Greens alliance struck by former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2010. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen this morning said that Labor “governs alone” or not at all.

The Sex Party made headlines yesterday for confirming it would preference Labor ahead of the Greens in key seats. Crikey understands that Sex Party candidates will likely only run in 10 or 12 lower house seats, and it was only in seats like Melbourne that the Sex Party had decided to preference Labor ahead of the Greens in response to the Greens supporting the Coalition in passing Senate voting changes. These changes, of course, will make it harder for a smaller party like the Sex Party to get elected to the Senate.

The decision to preference Labor seems unusual for a party that rose to prominence during the last Labor government in opposition to that government’s policy of mandatory internet filtering. Although it is now a policy that Labor no longer supports, for the Sex Party, the switch from Greens to Labor is more about pragmatism than policy. Crikey understands that the Sex Party is of the view that Greens are unlikely to form government, and, as has been seen in Victorian state Parliament over abortion law, the Sex Party believes it can negotiate with Labor. The Greens will be far from the last spot on the Sex Party’s how-to-vote cards, in any case, with groups like Family First further down in preferences.

While there appears to be much disagreement over whether there are any agreements in place over preferences, we won’t be left wondering about any Greens preferencing deal with the Liberal Democrats. The party yesterday put out a short statement confirming a deal:

“The Liberal Democrats have today announced a preference deal with the Greens. We will put them last in every state, and they can go get stuffed.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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